Kristen Stewart: Still indie at heart
Kristen Stewart can still remember the moment when she finally realized how big a bite Twilight was going to take out of her life.
During the filming of the vampire saga, which has gone on to suck up nearly $500 million (U.S.) at the box office, the actress focused on the work at hand, not allowing herself to think about the fans that've turned the Twilight novels by Stephenie Meyer into global bestsellers.
"I had tunnel vision and I wasn't paying attention," she says.
Then Stewart showed up for a book signing in Rome and was given a reception that literally left her rocking and reeling, the crowds were so big and intense.
"While we were exiting the building, I couldn't get to the car," she recalls. "I was dragged by security. I wasn't even on my own feet. I was thrown into a van because if they hadn't done it, I would've gotten ... I don't know what.
"So I was literally picked up and thrown into a van and then the doors shut and the van started shaking ... It was a really surreal experience."
Never mind that Stewart, who turns 19 on Thursday, has been working in movies for more than a decade. Twilight eclipsed the rest of her work. Yet with offers rolling in – and Twilight sequels to be shot – Stewart is staying true to her indie-movie roots.
Despite what she calls a year that's been "really insane and absolutely psychotic," the actress is making the promotional rounds on behalf of a pair of no-budget indies she shot immediately before entering the Twilight zone.
Mary Stuart Masterson's The Cake Eaters, which was given a limited theatrical run before being released on DVD, features one of Stewart's finest performances as a high schooler suffering from a fatal nerve disorder.
The slightly more upbeat Adventureland, which opened yesterday and is directed by Superbad helmer Greg Mottola, stars Stewart as Em, a Pittsburgh twentysomething who is trying to shore up her finances by working at a run-down amusement park.
Em's personal life is complicated by a relationship with a married man (Ryan Reynolds) and an attraction to a brainy but neurotic co-worker (Jesse Eisenberg).
"I think that my character in Adventureland has no concept of what she really wants out of life," says Stewart. "She puts on an act that she's very secure and self-sufficient but she's so not. She realizes too late that she should get over her hang-ups and be good to herself."
Quirky characters are something of a Stewart specialty. She's contributed understated yet vivid turns as a hippie singer in Into the Wild, a lonely teenager in In the Land of Women, and an alienated upper-cruster in Fierce People.
Despite staking a claim on the mainstream with Twilight, Stewart says she'll always have a place in her heart for offbeat fare.
"I just finished up a movie (Welcome to the Rileys) where I play a homeless kid, a really damaged, really broken little kid, and she looks or acts nothing like my Twilight character," notes Stewart. "In fact, she's a stripper. So I'm not worried about (typecasting). I never really was."
With Welcome to the Rileys in the can awaiting release, Stewart is already back into the world of neckbiters and werewolves.
New Moon, the second instalment of the Twilight series, began shooting for a Nov. 20 release. In contrast to the first movie, which tracked the romance between Bella and fanged boyfriend Edward (Robert Pattinson), New Moon finds Bella drawing closer to wolfman Jacob Black (Taylor Lautner).
"Taylor is still playing Jacob and that's the coolest thing," says Stewart. "After Edward leaves, Bella is like a zombie and Jacob is like the light.
"It's like, `He is who I should be with but I'm totally in love with this guy that I shouldn't be with.' That's girls."
Stewart says she's looking forward to having the chance to grow up with Bella.
"New Moon is a much more painful story than the first one. It's actually quite devastating. Bella is entirely depressed, but she matures."
Stewart's grew up largely on movie sets. The Los Angeles native is the daughter of John Stewart, a TV producer, and Jules Mann-Stewart, an Australian-born screenwriter.
At age 8, she landed a role in a Disney Channel TV production, The Thirteenth Year. At age 11, she played Jodie Foster's mopey daughter in Panic Room.
Stewart has since amassed credits in movies ranging from horror (The Messengers) to family-friendly adventures (Catch That Kid; Zathura).
Stewart has a slate of diverse movies on her to-do list. She'll reprise Bella once again in Eclipse, due in theatres on June 30, 2010. She's also hoping to co-star in K-11, a movie her mother scripted and will direct about a special dorm at the L.A. County Jail.
"The wing is specifically for people that can't be put into general population, people who need to be protected because they would be subject to a lot of danger," says Stewart. "They're an eclectic bunch of people. They're famous people, gay people, cross-dressers, transsexuals."
After she shoots New Moon, Stewart will rip it up as rocker Joan Jett in The Runaways, a biopic about the all-girl punk-rock band. Stewart will play Jett and Dakota Fanning has been tapped to play singer Cheri Currie.
"It's a big job," says Stewart. "I've never played a real person before. That period with the Runaways was so important ... I'm nervous and intimidated. But that's the best way to feel before you do a movie."