The final “Twilight” movie, “Breaking Dawn Part 2,” was slated to hit theaters that fall, when tabloid photos appeared of Stewart in Sanders’ arms on a lonely bluff overlooking Los Angeles.
When the cheating scandal broke in 2012, she was still dating boyfriend of almost four years, Robert Pattinson, her on-screen lover, Edward Cullen, in the “Twilight” movies.
Sanders was deep into his marriage with British model Liberty Ross, the mother of their two children, whom he’d met and court when she was just 18.
When they began shooting “Snow White and the Huntsman,” Stewart was just 22; Sanders was 20 years her senior.
Their affair, like so many in Hollywood, began as a “locationship” while they were filming the picture in Great Britain.
That it continued after they both returned to Los Angeles would come as a shock. On the day they were photographed together, Stewart had told Pattinson she was going to a “business meeting.”
For the couple’s diehard Twilight fans, the news was worse then terrible; it was unbelievable.
Even after Stewart and Pattinson called it quits several months later in 2013, they refused to accept that they’d broken up. Low-flying tabloids continued to milk the couple for fake stories years afterward.
Perhaps, not surprisingly, Sanders brushes off the incident in a new interview as a “momentary lapse.” Contrary to reports at the time, he says his career was unaffected.
“If you took people off the table for a momentary lapse,” he replies, “there would be no one making art,” he told the UK’s Metro newspaper.
In other words, everyone (at least in Hollywood) does it.
“You never know what’s coming in life,” Sanders, now 46, elaborates.
“Around every corner there’s something unexpected, and that’s life. You just have to brush yourself off and continue moving forward the best you can. Everyone makes mistakes. I am bound to make more mistakes and I wouldn’t expect my life to be exciting if I didn’t,” he adds.
Of course, Sanders’ career was shattered. Before “Snow White,” he was best known as a director of television commercials. “Snow White and the Huntsman” was his first big feature film.
By all accounts, it was a blockbuster, even if critics panned it. The film, with Stewart and Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron in lead roles, raking in more than $400 million worldwide.
Sanders should have been in demand in Hollywood. But it took him four years to land another film. He directed this year’s “Ghost in a Shell,” starring Scarlett Johansson.
Oddly, Steven Spielberg, who asked him to direct, resurrected his career.
“I wanted to make a cine-anime,’ he tells Metro. “We used a specific palette and framed everything in a graphic way wherever possible to give it a very anime feel.”
The film has pretty much been panned by critics. It scored a 45 rating on rottentomatoes, which tracks reviews.
Most of the critics blamed his direction, which may be indicative of lingering bad karma from the affair.
Ross had her say about the affair in an Oct. 2013 Vanity Fair interview.
She was devastated; Rupert only told her about it 48 hours before the story and photos broke in UsWeekly magazine.
“It was horrible,” she told VF. “It was really the worst, really the worst.”
“I have no words to describe what we went through,” Ross explained. “But I think, for me, something always has to completely die for there to be a rebirth. And, for me, I feel like I’m going through a rebirth.”
She divorced Sanders and recently was remarried to Interscope music mogul Jimmy Iovine.
Stewart gave her take in a 2015 interview in Marie Claire magazine.
“I lit my universe on fire, and I watched it burn,” she said.
But more than her relationship went up in smoke. For countless “Twilight” fans, their belief in eternal love went up in flames, too.