I am not proud of this but I used to deride Kristen Stewart. I failed to see anything extraordinary about her acting skills when I first learned of her existence in 2008, and worse in those days she represented Twilight to me. I never watched that movie but I am still Eli Sanza the Entertainment Junkie so I always followed pop culture and Hollywood news closely and was very sick of how everyone was constantly going on about this vampire movie aimed at teens that I had no interest in watching (I don’t know if you remember the Twilight phenomenon but it was gigantic). As for Stewart herself, I used to make fun of her for being so famous and yet looking so sullen and uncomfortable on camera. I wouldn’t do that today because I have matured and I don’t pretend to understand why celebrities behave the way they do because I don’t know them. Although I did come around on her for a few reasons. First she started appearing in movies I was actually interested in watching and I discovered how great an actor she is; she came out as bisexual, being pressured by people to both label her sexuality and to hide her sexuality because it might hurt her career if people find out she isn’t straight after being in a relationship with Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson for four years, which honestly made me empathize with her; then she hosted Saturday Night Live and I realized she had a sense of humor. Opinion officially changed. I now loved this person (laughter is pretty much the key to my heart).
Kristen Stewart grew up surrounded by show business. Her American father is a stage manager and TV producer who worked for FOX and Comedy Central and her Australian mother is a script supervisor and film director. Stewart was born in 1990 and raised in Los Angeles, California and with a mother and father who both worked in the entertainment industry, Stewart originally thought she would follow in their footsteps and work on films behind the scenes. She used to have no desire to act and certainly no desire to be a movie star, but when she did act, such as in school plays, she was good. So much so that when a talent agent spotted her in a Christmas play when she was eight years old, she was quickly on the path to Hollywood.
She started out with small roles in mainstream films like Disney Channel Original Movie The Thirteenth Year (1999) and The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas (2000) as well as independent drama The Safety of Objects (2001) where she played the tomboyish daughter of Patricia Clarkson, but she first received attention for her acting skills when she played Jodie Foster’s daughter in David Fincher’s thriller Panic Room (2002), which told the story of a mother and daughter whose new home in a four-story brownstone in NYC is being invaded by burglars. It received nice praise with some comparing it to a Hitchcock film, and Stewart showed a lot of people what a skilled performer she is for the first time.
After her first lead role in action comedy Catch that Kid (2004), Stewart starred in Speak (2004) as a high schooler who nearly stops speaking after she is raped, with Stewart’s performance receiving acclaim from major publications like The New York Times in a film many called touching, Stewart’s acting being the highlight.
Jumping back and forth from Hollywood film to indie film throughout the 2000s, frequently receiving positive reviews for her acting, she hit it big in mainstream entertainment with the romantic fantasy film Twilight (2008) based on the novel by Stephenie Meyer and starring Stewart as seventeen-year-old Bella Swan who moves to a small town in Washington and falls in love with a vampire (Robert Pattinson).
Twilight was a monster hit at the box office making over ten times its budget back and appealing heavily to young adults around the world who got entangled in the saga of Bella and Edward to the point of devotion. It was officially a pop culture phenomenon that thrust Stewart into the spotlight like never before, and she would also star in the four equally popular sequels The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009), The Twilight Saga: Eclipse (2010), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 (2011) and The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012).
With new success came new opportunities. Her biggest blockbuster aside from Twilight was Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) where she played the role of Snow White opposite Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman and Charlize Theron’s Evil Queen. The modern adaptation of the Grimm fairy tale was a commercial hit but received mixed reviews. However she received praise for her role in Greg Mottola’s Adventureland (2009) opposite Jesse Eisenberg. Plus she did a good job playing Joan Jett in The Runaways (2010) opposite Dakota Fanning as Cherie Curie in a story based on Curie’s memoir, and playing a soldier stationed at a detention camp in Guantanamo Bay in Peter Sattler’s Camp X-Ray (2014).
But the most praise she ever got to date was in the film Clouds of Sils Maria (2014) which was directed by Olivier Assayas and followed a middle-aged actress played by Juliette Binoche whose character in the film is cast as the older lover in a relationship with a young actress played by Chloë Grace Moretz in a lesbian drama, with Stewart playing Binoche’s assistant. Stewart sometimes got grief from critics for lacking emotion when she acts, including in some of her most popular films, but in Clouds of Sils Maria her subtlety was praised in what was seen as her best role at the time. Binoche and Moretz received praise too, but Stewart, whose performance was seen as one of the best things about the movie, was one of the few Americans to win a César Award for Best Actress because of the film.
Following Clouds of Sils Maria, Stewart did a wide varirty of good work in such films as Still Alice (2015), Kelly Reichardt’s Certain Women (2016) and Woody Allen’s Café Society (2016) before she reunited with Clouds of Sils Maria director Olivier Assayas for his supernatural psychological thriller Personal Shopper (2016) about a woman who works in Paris as the personal shopper of a celebrity and tries to communicate with her deceased twin brother. Stewart received positive attention for this film but was equally good in Lizzie (2018), in which she played Lizzie Borden’s housemaid and lover opposite Chloë Sevigny, and in political thriller Seberg (2019) in which she played actress Jean Seberg.
After starring in back-to-back Hollywood blockbusters Charlie’s Angels (2019) and Underwater (2020), she starred in the popular holiday romance film Happiest Season (2020) about a lesbian (Stewart) pretending to be straight for her girlfriend (Mackenzie Davis) who hasn’t come out to her parents yet. The film was originally supposed to be released in theaters but after the pandemic it was released instead on Hulu and subsequently became Hulu’s most popular film debut.
Stewart’s next film Spencer, in which she plays Princess Diana of Wales, is a truth-based drama that chronicles Princess Diana’s decision to divorce Prince Charles (Jack Farthing). Even though Diana was a living person and Stewart had worked with a dialect coach and studied Diana intently, Stewart revealed it was one of her most freeing roles, and if film festival audience reactions and early reviews from critics are any indication, it may also be her best role. Not surprising that Stewart is so good at channeling a woman who is reluctant to be in the spotlight.
As for Stewart’s future, she is currently planning to star in another truth-based drama playing Beat Generation player Joan Vollmer as well as a sci-fi film from David Cronenberg, plus she will direct her first feature film (she has directing experience with the 2017 short film Come Swim which premiered at Sundance) so it looks like she will continue to navigate show business in a variety of roles just like she always does. No matter what that ends up being, she is a talent to keep an eye on.