How Kristen Stewart Turned Her Career Around After Twilight

‘Twilight’ was a genuine, bona fide cinematic phenomenon: it ushered in a new era of Young Adult movie franchises ('Twilight’ begat 'The Hunger Games’ begat 'Divergent’), made vampires sexy and made movie producers realise that teenage girls were just as big a market slice as teenage boys.

The other thing about 'Twilight’? It was not well received, with critics slating it’s flat plotting, stale screenplay and sterile performances. How, then, did star Kristen Stewart – herself the focal point of many bad 'Twilight’ reviews - not only escape from the franchise unscathed but become an A-list actor with serious indie credentials?

The simple answer is the most obvious: she’s actually a great actress. You wouldn’t have spotted that in the 'Twilight’ movies, because no one could deliver lines like “I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him” without biting their lip in discomfort; the character of Bella is often passive and dull thanks to author Stephenie Meyer and her one-dimensional heroine who is told by all manner of supernatural hunks that she’s incredible and worth dying for despite showing minimal signs of life.

Stewart cleverly leaned into the awkwardness of that character, so when she eventually left Bella and the Twilight saga behind after five movies, she could finally emerge from her YA chrysalis and display her true colours. Notably, every single movie Kristen Stewart has made since 'Twilight’ in 2008 has been an improvement on the last.

It’s quite the list of movies, too. She was sardonic and sassy in Greg Mottola’s wistful comedy 'Adventureland’ (above) in 2009; she played a wayward runaway in James Gandolfini drama 'Welcome To The Rileys’ in 2010; she starred as one of the actual Runaways, legendary leather queen Joan Jett, in the 2010 rock biopic; she kicked asphalt in the underrated adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s hipster bible 'On The Road’ in 2012; she starred opposite Julianne Moore on Oscar-winning form in prestige picture 'Still Alice’ in 2014.

Only 2012’s epic fantasy 'Snow White And The Huntsman’ – her only return to blockbuster movies post-'Twilight’ – was a critical misfire, but it still made $400 million worldwide, thanks mostly to Brand K-Stew. Wisely, she decided not to return for bizarre pre-sequel flop 'The Huntsman: Winter’s War’, claiming simply: “I read a few scripts. None of them were good.” The movie made only a fraction of what its predecessor did. “Now I’m like, 'Thank God!'” said Stewart in an interview – she clearly has an eye for when a franchise is due to turn sour.

Stewart starred in a lifetime’s supply of marquee movies with the 'Twilight’ franchise and suffered the hardships of obsessive fandom and press intrusion that came with it. Clearly she is an actress uncomfortable with her personal life and professional life being considered one and the same thing; she claimed the press blow-up that followed her affair with married 'Snow White’ director Rupert Sanders was mortifying and that it changed her perception on life.

“Speaking very candidly, it was a really traumatic period in my early 20s that kick-started something in me that was a bit more feral,” she said in a 2015 interview. “I lit my universe on fire and I watched it burn.” Tellingly, since her relationship with co-star Robert Pattinson hit the skids, Kristen Stewart has dated very much off-radar. It has been reported that she has been in several bisexual relationships, but without the fervour approaching the coverage she received when with her 'Twilight’ beau.

And the only way to avoid more tabloid hooha is? Star in small, interesting, scintillating films that don’t feature vampires or werewolves or ice queens. Films like utopian romance 'Equals’ from 'Like Crazy’ director Drake Doremus; like Guantanamo Bay drama 'Camp X-Ray’; like Tim Blake Nelson’s low-budget thriller 'Anesthesia’ – all esteemed movies you’ve probably never seen.

She might not get as many column inches as she used to (which is obviously no bad thing), but she’s working her way towards a long-lasting and substantial career in Hollywood – and awards season recognition is surely not far away.
Just look at the directors who have clamoured to work with her. Woody Allen said of his 'Café Society’ star: “She’s very young, very beautiful and talented… She should have an incredible career.”

'Clouds Of Sils Maria’ director Oliver Assayas praised Stewart’s attitude: “She’s taking risks, trying things, and when she spends two months in Europe with a bunch of weird French filmmakers, she’s completely cut off from her world. You know, we’re shooting in Leipzig, it’s not like you can just go home for the weekend.” Since becoming the first American actress to ever win a César Award for her part in the movie, she has since worked with the director again in 'Personal Shopper’, a hit at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Oh, and Ang Lee jumped at the chance to cast her in his Iraq war drama, 'Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk’.

Crucially, Stewart is fully aware of the path she has taken – from child star to global celebrity to in-demand actress – and how it has molded her. Speaking about the influence that 'Twilight’ had on her life, she revealed: “It’s opened a lot of doors… I’ve become who I am because of that. It was five years of my life."

Now effusive and entertaining in interviews, the cold, placid Bella we knew from 'Twilight’ is dead: we have finally found a Kristen Stewart who appears to love what she does. She recently gave Daisy Ridley some advice on coping with 'Star Wars’ fame (“It’s about focusing on what makes you happy”) and still speaks fondly of her 'Twilight’ years (“there’s something there that I’m endlessly, and to this day, f***ing proud of”). Ultimately, Kristen herself summed up her new-found appeal perfectly: “I’m just a kid making movies.”

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