It’s been five years since Kristen Stewart was plucked from supporting player/indie-film obscurity and thrust into the spotlight as the female face of the “Twilight” franchise. Five years, and as of this month, five films will have passed, as Stewart grew from someone the New York Times labeled “a sylph with a watchful, sometimes wary gaze” into the 22 year old Forbes named “the highest paid actress in Hollywood.”
“Those are pretty formative years,” the “Twilight” muse muses. “It is a little strange, if you think about it, growing up on camera like this. But I don’t think about it.
“Every single day on the set should help you become a better actor. If nothing else, I should have gotten better at picking up and putting down a lot of my inhibitions. It’s all about being impulsive and doing things that move you. I think I dropped a lot of fears over the course of these films. But I picked a few up, too. Maybe. And those new fears could be interesting to watch down the road. Or not interesting at all.”
She is guarded, as someone who has gathered the shrieks of teen-fan approval, and the condemnations of teen fans upset when she was caught cheating on her “Twilight” co-star and off-camera beau, Robert Pattinson, with the director of her first post-”Twilight” blockbuster (“Snow White and the Huntsman”) would be. The “characteristic hesitancy” that New York Daily News critic Elizabeth Weitzman noted in her acting is her off-camera persona as well.
But Stewart, who apologized to fans, and who is apparently re-united with Pattinson, is letting it all roll off her back — the fan sniping, the critical spanking the “Twilight” movies have endured, being the first actress of her generation to be widely impersonated in horror spoofs on TV and in movies.
Her goal, she says, is to avoid becoming a self-conscious actress, to keep the spontaneity in her work.
“Everyone deals with it differently,” she says. “I find that as soon as you start considering the fame thing, overthinking the career and all, you’re putting yourself outside of yourself and you start to worry about how you’re perceived. You worry about how some part you play or how something you say is going to land, and how that will affect other people.. I can’t do my job if I do that. But I definitely see other actors who love being famous so much that they do whatever it takes to stay famous…They’re able to turn on the charisma, the likability, when they have a movie coming up. I can’t. You’re going to be so disjointed if you start living through how other people perceive you.”
It pays to remember how young she is, that she grew up in the movies, making a mark as a child actress in “Panic Room” with Jodie Foster when she was 12. Like many a child actress, school was by correspondance course and college hasn’t figured in the equation. There’s acting to be done, and if she stumbles for words — confusing “tactfully” and “tactile” for “tactically” when talking about planning her career — there’s always time for college if and when she cools off.
Which won’t be any time soon. Ben Affleck just cast her as his novice con-artist sidekick in “Focus.” Filmmakers tried for over 50 years to turn Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” into a movie. When Stewart signed on in a supporting role, director Walter Salles had his movie.
Stewart says she’s been in love with the idea of being an actress for hire, “of fighting for a part, convincing something that you’ve got something they need.” But now, being rich and famous with proven box office clout, she’s having to give some of that freedom up — taking control.
“It’s strange to have the roles reversed, where I can be in control of what I get to make. One thing that I love about the job is having NO control.” But expect her to initiate her own pet projects in the very near future.
She says she didn’t realize the extent that “Twilight” would shake up her life, not even after landing the role of Bella.
“There was no expectation that would even get to finish the whole series when we did the first ‘Twilight.’ On the set, it felt like we were making another independent movie.” She and the rest of the cast had decided to be “religiously faithful to the novels,” not knowing how that might look and sound on the screen.
Then the cast made its famous pre-release appearance at San Diego’s ComicCon fan convention, “and we were hit by this wave of energy, that was really BAFFLING…It was a totally contagious experience, feeding on itself. That hall, jammed with 6,000 people, reacting that way, made me think ‘This is NOT normal.’”
Stewart says she’s “relieved” that the five film series is finally over. “If I say I’m excited the experience is complete, it’s only because I don’t have that responsibility weighing on me any more. A typical movie, you’ve got a five week or even five month commitment. This was five years. I’m going to miss that ‘I wonder how the wedding will look,’ or ‘I wonder what I’ll have to do in the birth scene.’ Hopefully, I will find that feeling in other projects.”
Part of that feeling, she says, is the “Twilight” “tone, the vibe.” The films changed directors and changed locations, but even just gathering for interviews with the press in a hotel “gives it this ‘Twilight’ vibe — surreal.”
But what will she not miss?
“Oh God, I will not miss having to be so…perfect. I mean, these vampires are just so…perfect. I won’t miss the contacts, and I don’t think anybody in the cast would disagree with me there. And the face paint! To look like marble, we just cake this stuff on. I’m not sure that panned out, and I am more than happy to leave that behind.”