An exceptionally poised young actress with a knack for playing sullen teens, Kristen Stewart earned her big break as Jodie Foster’s daughter in David Fincher’s hot-wired thriller, “Panic Room” (2002). Though none of her subsequent films scored as well at the box office as that picture, Stewart consistently impressed audiences and critics alike, both with her performances and with her choice of projects – which frequently strayed far from the kid-oriented material offered to actors in her age group.
Born April 9, 1990 in Los Angeles, CA, Stewart’s family relocated briefly to Colorado before returning to L.A., where her father worked as a stage manager, producer, and director on numerous Fox television shows. Her performance in a grade school Christmas play caught the eye of an agent in the audience, who contacted her parents to gauge Stewart’s interest in becoming an actress. Both were initially opposed to the idea, but Stewart’s curiosity won them over, and at the age of eight, she began auditioning for film and television roles. Her first screen appearance came a year later in the Disney Channel TV production, “The Thirteenth Year” (1999), in which she played a bit role. A more substantial part came two years later with Rose Troche’s challenging independent drama, “The Safety of Objects” (2001), in which she played the boyish daughter of troubled single mom Patricia Clarkson.
Stewart found herself at the center of a major Hollywood production in 2002 when she replaced Hayden Panettiere as the juvenile lead in David Fincher’s “Panic Room.” Despite the presence of such veteran actors as Foster (to whom Stewart bore a remarkable physical resemblance), Forest Whitaker, and Patrick Bachau, Stewart held her own and delivered an assured performance that led some critics to compare her to the film’s lead during her child actor days.
Following “Panic Room,” Stewart signed on to play the daughter of Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone in another suspenseful project, Mike Figgis’ “Cold Creek Manor” (2003). However, it fared poorly with audiences. Her next role was her first as a leading actress – “Catch That Kid” (2004) was a breezy, teen-friendly caper, with Stewart as a young mountain-climbing aficionado who orchestrates a high-tech bank robbery to pay for an operation for her gravely ill father. A minor hit with younger audiences, it allowed Stewart a chance to show a lighter side of her acting talents than her previous efforts. Stewart’s other film from 2004 was the psychological drama “Undertow,” which despite an acclaimed director, David Gordon Green, Terrence Malick as producer and a cast led by Jamie Bell, Josh Lucas, and Dermot Mulroney, it received almost no theatrical screentime.
Stewart’s next film, “Speak” (2005), which was based on the best-selling novel by Laurie Halse Anderson, gave her the opportunity to play both the dark and the light in the same project. She played Melinda, a high school freshman who stops almost all verbal communication after being raped by an upperclassman, but retains a vivid and often sardonic running commentary in her head. Stewart handled the complexities of the character with her customary skill. Unfortunately, the film did not receive a theatrical release and instead aired on Showtime and Lifetime, in an edited form.
Stewart then segued into Jon Favreau’s underrated space fantasy “Zathura” (2005), which, despite requiring her to remain in a state of suspended animation for part of the film, gave her another showcase for her comic skills, as the perpetually exasperated older sister of Josh Hutcherson and Jonah Bobo. Even though critics found much to love about “Zathura,” it too was an underperformer in terms of ticket sales.
In 2006, Stewart starred in the Canadian feature “Fierce People,” a drama by actor-director Griffin Dunne, about a troubled masseuse (Diane Lane) who arranges for a better life for her teenage son and herself, but with unfortunate results. The picture received a limited release in the United States. She followed this with another starring role in “The Messengers” (2007), a supernatural film from noted Thai genre filmmakers and brothers Danny and Oxide Pang. Despite the directors’ reputation with horror audiences, it was critically panned and largely ignored by moviegoers.
After “The Messengers,” in 2007, Stewart starred in Sean Penn's critically acclaimed adaptation film "Into the Wild". After which she had a cameo appearance in "Jumper". Stewart worked on no less than six pictures including “In the Land of Women” (2007), with Meg Ryan and Adam Brody. Stewart also found time for smaller projects like Mary Stuart Masterson’s directorial debut “The Cake Eaters” (2007), in which she played a young woman with a debilitating disease. Following “What Just Happened?” (2008), a Hollywood drama based on the book by producer Art Linson, starring Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis, and Sean Penn. In November 2007, it was announced that Stewart would play Isabella 'Bella‘ Swan in the movie "Twilight", based on Stephenie Meyer's bestselling vampire romance novel. Stewart was on the set of "Adventureland", in which she plays lead character Em Lewin, when director Catherine Hardwicke visited her for an informal screen test which "captivated" the director. After the release of "Twilight", Kristen Stewart was awarded the MTV Movie Award for Best Female Performance for her portrayal as Bella Swan. Stewart reappeared as Bella in the sequel, "New Moon", and reprised this role in Eclipse, and is singed up for the two parts of Breaking Dawn.