The best thing for Kristen Stewart

August 1, 2012

I was recently asked what I thought of the Kristen Stewart situation.

To which I responded, quite honestly, that I didn’t. Ever. Not even for a second.

Sure, I’d seen the headlines, which told me everything I needed to know: that she’d been caught having an affair with a married man. None of my business, really. And certainly not something that will have an impact, one way or the other, on my thoughts about her as an actress.

But, apparently, there is a wave of misplaced concern about what will happen to her standing with that massive tween/teen fan-base from her “Twilight” films (the final one hits theaters in November) and this year’s “Snow White and the Huntsman.” What will happen to her career? And what about Robert Pattinson’s career?

As for the latter, never fear – he’s a talentless pretty-boy who lucked into the kind of fame that only a series of franchise films can produce. He’s fine doing his James Dean impression as Edward; step outside of it and he flops. Give him points for trying adventurous fare like “Little Ashes,” “Bel Ami” and the upcoming “Cosmopolis” (which I have yet to see) – but for my money, the guy is an empty suit, a pair of bedroom eyes attached to a crash-test dummy with about that much expressiveness.

Stewart, on the other hand, is a real actress, capable of a wide range of roles, as she showed before she got sucked into the “Twilight” vortex. If, in fact, her personal life somehow hurts her standing with her young fans (who, apparently, are confusing her with her “Twilight” character, the steadfast Bella) – if the fans can no longer look up to her as a role model because she’s a 22-year-old who got tired of one man and was tempted by another – well, I’d say it’s the best thing that could happen to her.

Let me state, first off, that I’ve never met Stewart or interviewed her or even read an interview with her. So this is all conjecture, but here goes:

Based on her early choices as an actress – and the choices she’s made since the “Twilight” phenomenon swept her up four years ago – my impression is that Stewart didn’t start acting to become a star, or at least not the kind of star known more for her off-screen antics than her talent. I get the sense that Stewart takes her acting seriously and wants roles that challenge her as much as possible.

But actors tend to turn their careers over to agents and managers, who may respect the actor’s wishes but who are also on the look-out for the main chance: that role in a hit movie that will raise the actor’s fee into the tens of millions. The more money the actor makes, the more her handlers make as well, in commissions.

So to create an iconic role in something like the “Twilight” franchise – or something that has franchise potential, such as “Snow White and the Huntsman” – is like putting a nickel into a slot machine and winning a million bucks. It happens that rarely. When it does, you want to keep that particular slot machine paying.

At this point, I’m guessing that Stewart has made enough money on the “Twilight” movies alone to last her the rest of her life, by normal standards. That’s assuming she doesn’t go Nicolas Cage-crazy and start buying castles around the world – or that she doesn’t do a Lindsay Lohan and go so far off the rails that she has to spend all her money to keep herself out of jail. With a little sound financial advice, Stewart should be set for life.

Which gives her the freedom to do what she wants from this point on. If Stewart has really alienated her teeny-bop fan base, well, so what? Though she’s done a handful of big-budget studio films, she’s made even more independent films, though only a comparatively few people saw them. If you tracked them down – whether it’s “The Cake Eaters” or “Welcome to the Rileys,” “The Yellow Handkerchief” or “The Runaways” – no matter what you thought of the films themselves, you’d find an actress committed to exploring different characters, someone taking chances and stretching herself.

And you’ll notice that her upcoming slate includes Walter Salles’ film of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” and a film by Nick Cassavetes.

So let the Twi-hards abandon her. Stewart will continue to work – and will make her real mark in independent film. She’s probably better off moving in that direction. She doesn’t need the money; she does need the challenge. And, at this point, she brings with her the built-in interest of media (and those fans who won’t abandon her) to small films that might otherwise not get wider attention.

To imagine that her personal life will somehow impact her professional life in any meaningful way is to succumb to the same kind of ADD celebrity-news mania that dominates so much of all media today. The Twi-hards are camp followers, front runners, sycophants – they’ll eventually find another false idol to worship once they’ve used up this one.

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