ORLANDO, Fla. -- 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 named by Forbes as "the highest-paid actress in Hollywood" -- earning some $34. 5 million, according to estimates.
"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." She can't put her finger on how she's changed as an actress, either.
"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. 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. The "characteristic hesitancy" that New York Daily News critic Elizabeth Weitzman noted in her acting is her off-camera persona as well.
‘The fame thing'
But Stewart, who apologized to fans over her indiscretion and has apparently reunited with Pattinson, is letting it all roll off her back -- the fan sniping, the critical spanking the "Twilight" movies have endured, being the most widely impersonated actress of her generation, in horror spoofs on TV and in movies. Her goal, Stewart says, is to avoid becoming a self-conscious actress, to keep the spontaneity in her work.
"I find that as soon as you start considering ‘the fame thing,' over-thinking 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 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 correspondence 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, like her role model, Jodie Foster, if and when the acting career cools off.
Which won't be any time soon. Ben Affleck just cast Stewart as his novice con-artist sidekick in "Focus." Filmmakers tried for more than 50 years to turn Jack Kerouac's "On the Road" into a movie. When Stewart signed on in a supporting role, director Walter Salles got it done.
Reversal of roles
Stewart says she loves being an actress for hire, "of fighting for a part, convincing someone that you've got something they need." But now, being rich and famous with proven box office clout, she's having to give up some of that freedom by 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."
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 we would even get to finish the whole series when we did the first ‘Twilight,'" she says. "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 2008 appearance at San Diego's Comic-Con 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.' "
Five years later, it still isn't.
Relieved it's finished
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 anymore. 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."