Many of Twilight‘s central cast went on to become stars, but who were the future names who lost out on being part of the saga? Released in 2008, Twilight was a huge hit with audiences despite its comparatively muted reception from critics. Based on the paranormal romance saga by author Stephenie Meyer, Twilight was the sort of earnest teen-targeted melodrama that was always likely to garner eye rolls from reviewers upon release.
However, the first Twilight movie was better reviewed than the subsequent sequel New Moon thanks to its diverting murder mystery subplot, and by the third movie, some reviewers were starting to warm to Twilight’s goofy charms. Regardless of its critical reception, the saga was a bonafide pop culture phenomenon and a massively profitable franchise. The series also made stars of both Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart, allowing both actors to explore more ambitiously offbeat projects as their careers continued.
However, Pattinson and Stewart were not always attached to the roles that would make them famous. Numerous other actors were considered for the part of Bella including Emily Browning, while Pattinson’s Twilight co-star Jackson Rathbone was one of the author’s preferred choices for Edward. Of course, with competition intensifying as the success of the series grew, these were not the only actors who had a shot at major roles in the franchise. Many actors who were unknown at the time and have since gone on to become major names were considered for parts both major and minor in the Twilight movies, and some would have been perfect—while others were lucky to have missed out on what could have been a bad case of miscasting.
Soon to become the star of Pretty Little Liars in 2010, Lucy Hale was better known as an occasional How I Met Your Mother guest star when she auditioned for the role of Jane in 2009’s New Moon. She lost out to Dakota Fanning, but given how badly the Twilight series wasted Jane, Hale may have been lucky not to play the villainous Volturi. Since Pretty Little Liars, the actor has become something of a big screen scream queen, going on to star in Truth Or Dare and Fantasy Island.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer supporting star Michelle Trachtenberg was set to play Bella when Paramount was in talks to adapt the series, but this was back in 2005 when she was still taking on teen roles and the project had a distinctly more MTV-friendly tone. By 2008, Trachtenberg’s casting as a teen would have slightly stitched credulity, leading the director to choose another option. This was likely for the best, as the movies received plenty of criticism for taking themselves too seriously, and casting a Buffy alumnus in the Twilight saga could easily have provoked unintentional laughter.
Easy Virtue star Ben Barnes was passed up for Michael Sheen’s role as Aro despite campaigning to play the villainous Volturi—and this was after he was already rejected for the role of Edward. To be fair to Barnes, he never really expected to win the Edward part as he (like another notable star listed here) was considered too old. Per Barnes himself, it would have “looked a bit sad” to have the actor attempting to woo a teenager, which made the choice to cast an actual teen far as Edward Cullen far more understandable.
Future Justice League star Henry Cavill was a favorite for Twilight’s Edward Cullen, but the actor was eventually declared too old despite one very important figure giving his casting the go-ahead. The option of casting Cavill was well-received by author Stephanie Meyer, who eventually accepted he was too long in the tooth by the time pre-production began but she voiced her disappointment on numerous occasions. Meyer was so attached to casting Cavill, in fact, she later campaigned for the actor to be cast in the role of Cullen family patriarch Carlisle after learning he wasn’t going to be playing Edward—only to be told he was too old for that role. Eventually, Peter Facinelli earned the role of Twilight’s Carlisle Cullen while Cavill was never involved in the series, although not for lack of trying on the author’s part.
Before she was Emily In Paris, the future star/subject of the Phil Collins’ hit “You’ll Be in My Heart” Lily Collins auditioned for the role of Bella. In a later interview, Collins was agreeably zen about losing out, saying: “Yeah, one of my first auditions actually was for Twilight which is really funny now thinking about it. … I think every young actor or actress in Hollywood starts to read some of the same material but I think everything happens for a reason and everyone who gets the roles they get were meant to.” Despite this, Collins did go on to co-star with Twilight’s Taylor Lautner in Abduction and the largely forgotten The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones, another young adult franchise compared to Twilight by critics. Since then, Collins has found much more success with the aforementioned Emily In Paris as well as roles in Inheritance and Mank.
While many actors were considered for the role of Edward by both director Catherine Hardwicke and Stephenie Meyer, Dave Franco is not a name many fans would associate with the teen romance series. Nevertheless, the 21 Jump Street star did audition for Edward according to a later interview, although it is clear he was under no illusion about the likelihood (or lack thereof) of him getting the part. Franco was refreshingly blunt looking back on the experience, saying his odds of securing the part were minimal as said he may have been “one of hundreds” considered. Nevertheless, in the years since the saga wrapped up with Breaking Dawn: Part 2, Franco’s career as both an actor and a director has gone from strength to strength, and he has appeared in everything from the Now You See Me franchise to the ribald Neighbors series. In 2020, he graduated to directing with the horror The Rental, proving once and for all that losing out on Twilight was no loss for the actor.