ROME (Reuters) - The vampires of "New Moon," the sequel to the popular teen movie "Twilight," hit the blood-red carpet at the Rome film festival on Thursday, with fans getting a 20-minute preview of the picture before next month's release.
Three young actors playing the mean blood suckers of the Volturi coven and the film's screenwriter were in Rome to promote the saga, part of a successful franchise which is drawing comparisons with the Harry Potter phenomenon.
In "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," teenager Bella Swan and her vampire love Edward Cullen, played by Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, separate because he fears he is putting her in danger.
While she befriends a werewolf, Edward retreats to Italy, where he meets the Volturi -- the powerful law enforcers of the vampire world.
Screenwriter Melissa Rosenberg said the fascination of young people -- particularly teenage girls -- with the Twilight films, based on the best-selling romance novels by Stephenie Meyer, came from the fact that they "speak to universal themes and experiences of heartbreak and first love.
"Everyone has gone through it or is going through it ... I think also this very chaste sexuality, it is very passionate but safe. So it's very tantalizing," she told Reuters in an interview.
"I think Harry Potter is much more fantastical. The Twilight series has its fantastic elements very grounded in reality, it's set in reality, so they are very different."
The first Twilight movie was a smash hit that grossed $383 million worldwide. "New Moon" is more emotional, has more action and gives greater space to the more violent, dark side of the vampire world -- like the Volturi clan.
"There is this scene where this dude gets his face torn off and it was pretty fun to sit and watch that happen, to be evil and smile at it. That's my favorite scene," said Jamie Campbell Bower, who plays one of the Volturi leaders.
Among teenagers, 20-year-old Campbell Bower is already a rising star in his own right -- he is also set to appear in the "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows" films.
But like the other actors who flew to Rome, he said he felt the pressure of millions of fans of the Twilight stories, and the media circus that goes with it.
Lead actors Pattinson and Stewart, who were not in Rome, became instant celebrities after the first film.
Tickets for the preview of "New Moon" were sold out in just a few hours and hundreds of screaming teenagers braved the rain to greet the three Volturi on the red carpet.
"Going in to do a film like Twilight, when they've already done the first one, is a daunting experience, let alone without the fan base," Campbell Bower told Reuters.
"So when you throw the fan base in there, there is a definite pressure. I hope that I have done as much as I can to make the fans happy. I did the best I could and if you hate it, I'm really sorry."
The film's U.S. release is scheduled for November 20.
Editing by Paul Casciato