The success of a mega-franchise can be bittersweet for those involved. When a series goes full on phenomenon, it catapults the talent into the stratosphere—and breaking free of the role becomes increasingly difficult.
Twilight helped Kristen Stewart break out as Hollywood’s next leading lady, an in-demand talent that everyone in the biz is dying to work with, but for audiences, her emergence as a star evokes a spectrum of reactions. There are Twi-hards who thinks she’s perfect, Twi-hards who vehemently think she’s not and those disconnected from the franchise entirely who won’t give her the time of day.
Now, the Twilight saga is coming to a close with part two of Breaking Dawn and the next stage of Stewart’s career is taking shape. Thanks to glimpses of her upcoming projects, there’s no doubt that her rabid fans and her skeptical naysayers should prepare to reform their opinions tof he starlet. Kirsten Stewart isn’t waiting for the Twilight cool down—in 2012, she’s preparing to breakout a second time.
Stewart’s Snow White and the Huntsman is the first real fantasy epic we’ve had since 2003’s Lord of the Rings. Sounds impossible, but no film since Peter Jackson’s Academy Award-winning trilogy’s nailed the balance of action, scope and character. What makes SWATH look on par with that massive cinematic undertaking are the actors involved—and Stewart is front and center in the recently released trailer. In the gritty reimagining of the classic fairy tale, the titular hero is decked out in knight armor, battling monsters, soldiers and everything in-between with a broad sword. A far cry from her Twilight days. There aren’t many bonafide women action stars working in Hollywood, but Stewart has all the physicality and dramatic girth to deliver. Nailing a role like this puts her on the same path as queen of the blockbuster, Angelina Jolie.
Stewart follows Snow White with a drama on the other end of the spectrum, but with an equally legendary name. On the Road is an adaptation of the classic Jack Kerouac novel, a text regarded as defining the “beat generation.” Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola has been working for decades to bring the book to screen, and once he found his director, Walter Salles (Motorcycle Diaries), and core trio, including Stewart, Garrett Hedlund and Sam Riley, it was finally time to move into production. That’s a lot of faith to invest in an actress and even more weight to put on her shoulders. But Stewart looks up to the challenge; the moody trailer for the film showcases a raw power we haven’t seen in any of her past work, a naturalism long abandoned in the Twilight series. We’ll know if Stewart is Oscar-worthy soon—On the Road is rumored to premiere at this year’s Cannes Film Festival in May 2012.
Unlike true child actors, Stewart’s Twilight role, the lovelorn Bella Swan, helped the actress segue quickly into mature roles. The fanbase may have been mainly comprised of swooning tweens, but the franchise’s adult themes—the last film, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1 tackled marriage, pregnancy and some ghastly supernatural elements—helped the masses perceive Stewart as all grown up. But this year’s breakout isn’t about defining age, but rather showcasing range. For four films (and a 5th on the way in November), we’ve shoehorned Stewart into her Bella persona, an airy romantic proxy without much spark. Snow White and the Huntsman and On the Road are game-changing roles, risks that should dispel any idea that Stewart is only capable of one note. Now we just have to see them.