The New Regime: Kristen Stewart

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A passionate lover of literature, Kristen Stewart’s version of High School Musical would find her in AP English parsing John Steinbeck and Kurt Vonnegut. Between takes, she reads Charles Bukowski. How else might a quiet teenager, who calls herself “a typical Valley Girl,” pull up to the table headed by Sean Penn? The director cast her as a kind of trailer park Cat Power in last year’s Into the Wild after she auditioned by singing the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” accompanying herself on guitar. The girl’s got guts.

In this month’s vampire romance, Twilight, Stewart’s portrayal of Bella Swan in the big-screen adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s cult novel series looks poised to separate the willowy beauty from her Valley Girl status. And then there is the looming specter of the “F” word: franchise. This not only means structure, but ordinal numbers—enough to make a free spirit go on the lam. But Stewart is no gypsy. “I feel a responsibility not to let things die on the page,” she says of the scripts that call to her. “I commit to projects that do something to my stomach. It’s all about what it does to your stomach when you read it.” She rails against cynical big studio fare, explaining, “You can see the frame and you can see the dollar sign right in the middle.” If a desire to do powerful work is a sign of her age, then let her never grow out of it.

Photo: Pieter Henket