At 19 Ms. Stewart is considered one of the most promising actresses of her generation, with Oscar winners like Sean Penn and Jodie Foster lining up to offer praise.
“I do wish that people would focus more on the work, and I can’t say that I don’t take it personally,” said Ms. Stewart, who reprises her role as Bella Swan, an ordinary high school girl who falls in love with a sensitive vampire, in the forthcoming film “The Twilight Saga: New Moon.”
“But I understand it because what you do as an actor is so tied up in who you are as a person,” she continued with a deep sigh. “What really kills me — it really rips me up — is when people think I’m abrasive, inconsiderate or ungrateful because I don’t go outside in a bikini and wave to the paparazzi. Come on!”
Life as a teen idol has never been easy. But navigating the obsessive attention of young fans amid today’s media landscape — all Twitter, all YouTube, all TMZ, all the time — can be particularly harrowing. And Ms. Stewart in some ways has it even harder. Because of the grip the “Twilight” franchise has on young girls — the first movie raked in $384 million at the global box office and the books, by Stephenie Meyer, have sold over 70 million copies — she is not just an actress playing a popular role. Instead “Twi-hards” have come to project their version of romantic love on her; Ms. Stewart’s shyness and hints of awkwardness make her accessible to fans in a way Megan Fox is not.
Ms. Stewart has coped with the suffocating attention by giving off an air of inapproachability, a tough exterior that Chris Weitz, the director of “New Moon,” said she has methodically adopted. “If she didn’t, every teenage girl would see her as their best friend,” he said. “They would tear her completely apart.”
In contrast, Mr. Pattinson, who plays the too-tender-to-suck-blood Edward Cullen, acts sheepish and “tries to implode in on himself and turn into a human mumble,” Mr. Weitz said.
The actors of Ms. Stewart’s generation — Zac Efron, Chris Pine, Selena Gomez, Shia LaBeouf — have witnessed the carnage that fully embracing the limelight in the digital era can bring: Britney, Paris, Lindsay. As such, they have tried to reclaim some of element of mystery, something that results in a lot of foot stomping from a nonstop celebrity news machine.
“The key is not to become a reality show,” said Ms. Foster, who co-starred with Ms. Stewart in David Fincher’s “Panic Room” and was herself a teenage star. “That kind of attention might seem fun right now, but it won’t in 10 years.”
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