Career Curve: Kristen Stewart

Sure, she has the cultural phenomenon known as "Twilight" under her belt, but what kind of career has Stewart actually had?

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SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - JUNE 19: Kristen Stewart arrives at the Snow White & The Huntsman Australian Premiere at Event Cinemas Bondi Junction on June 19, 2012 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Marianna Massey/Getty Images)
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It would be easy to dismiss Kristen Stewart's fame as a product of "Twilight," and yes, she probably does <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EE0Bn4fQ1lE&feature=related"target="_blank">bite and lick her lips a little too often</a>, but the fact is she's been working opposite A-list actors and/or with A-list directors since she was 11.
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Her first speaking role came in 2001's "The Safety of Objects," playing the tomboy daughter of Patricia Clarkson who gets kidnapped for three days by Timothy Olyphant, who mistakes her for someone else. The film failed to make even $90,000, but it was a start.
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Next up was director David Fincher, who cast her to play Jodie Foster's diabetic daughter in "Panic Room," a thriller in which a home invasion finds mother and daughter trapped in a steel chamber, with the <i>New York Times</I> saying she was "good enough to help you overlook just what a stock character the smart-alecky, sensitive-underneath-it-all Sarah really is."
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After a couple of years working for acclaimed directors like Mike Figgis ("Cold Creek Manor") and David Gordon Green ("Undertow") doing less than their best work, she landed in 2005's "Fierce People," which was widely panned, but featured two other future stars, Anton Yelchin and Chris Evans, all three of them sporting some epic 'dos--seriously, <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuUFkNVmE_Y"target="_blank">check out the trailer</a>.
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It was in 2007 that Stewart made her big push, with four features. She returned to her "girl in peril" roots with "The Messengers," a standard haunted house horror story, which critics hated, but it took in more than triple it's $16 million budget, good enough to spawn a sequel that Stewart was smart enough to avoid.
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She got another outrageously bad haircut for "The Cake Eaters," directed by Mary Stuart Masterson. Stewart starred as a teen with a degenerative muscular disorder, with Roger Ebert calling her performance "remarkable." The rest of the film, presumably, was not.
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But Stewart's breakthrough role of 2007 was opposite Adam Brody in "In the Land of Women," as a teenager who hates her dying mother, smokes cigarettes and develops a crush on the older guy. It was a bit treacly and overwrought, but Brody is always likable, and <i>Salon</i> said, "Stewart knows how to shepherd a character through growth and change."
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Photo Credit: Peter Sorel, SMPSP
And then came "Twilight." Her work as Bella Swan, a girl torn between the love of a vampire (Robert Pattinson) and a werewolf (Taylor Lautner) was beside the point, as the film had a baked-in audience that was going in to make it a hit no matter what. Still, <i>New York</i> magazine said, "she’s better at conveying physical longing than any of the actors playing vampires."
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Even hardcore movie snobs will give Stewart props for her part in "Adventureland," Greg Mottola's coming-of-age dra-medy which found her in a love triangle with Jesse Eisenberg and Ryan Reynolds. Audience stayed away, but critics loved it, with the <i>New York Post</I> calling Stewart " heartbreakingly good."
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After heading back into the "Twilight," Stewart went to the 2010 Sundance Film Festival with a pair of movies she hoped would help her from a career defined by the vampire-werewolf love fest. In "The Runaways," she played punk great Joan Jett in the film based on her first band's rise to fame, giving what <i>Total Film</i> called "a ballsy performance."
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Her other film was "Welcome to the Rileys'," in which she played a runaway (again!) teen working as a stripper and prostitute in New Orleans, where she strikes up an unusual friendship with a middle-aged man, played by James Gandolfini. The film's reviews were mixed, but the <i>New York Times</i> called her "an exceptionally appealing screen presence."
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She next starred in "The Yellow Handkerchief," opposite Eddie Redmayne and William Hurt, in a road-trip about three misfits who find solace in each other. Sounds dreadful, but the <i>Boston Globe</i> hailed Stewart as a "colt of an actress who can toggle between natural grace and utter haplessness, finds her groove here."
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This week it's back to the vampires for "The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1," the second-to-last film in the series, and the early reviews have been decidedly negative. We have to believe there's a small part of Stewart that eagerly awaits the end, especially when you consider what lays ahead for her.
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First up is the lead role in "Snow White and the Huntsman," opposite Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron, which finds her in the fantasy world yet again, but with a much darker tone and feel. We were skeptical about this when it was announced, but <a href="http://www.nbcnewyork.com/blogs/popcornbiz/Snow-White-and-the-Huntsman--Banner--133529983.html"target="_blank">the trailer's great</a>.
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Stewart will then make a complete break with fairy tales and fantasy with her role in Walter Salles' upcoming adaptation of Jack Kerouac's "On the Road," starring Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kirsten Dunst and Viggo Mortenson.
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Stewart's 22, she's got more money than she should ever need and she's managed to stay busy playing roles beyond "Twilight" that have her in position for a far better future than R-Patz or Lautner. We have a hunch she's got a good chance to put this franchise behind her.
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