It's been five years since Kristen Stewart was plucked from supporting-player/indie-film obscurity and thrust into the spotlight as the female face of the "Twilight" franchise. Five years -- and as of this month, five films will have passed, as Stewart grew from someone The New York Times labeled "a sylph with a watchful, sometimes wary gaze" into the 22-year-old named by Forbes as "the highest-paid actress in Hollywood" -- earning some $34.5 million, according to estimates.
"Those are pretty formative years," she says. "It is a little strange, if you think about it, growing up on camera like this. But I don't think about it." She can't put her finger on how she's changed as an actress, either.
"If nothing else, I should have gotten better at picking up and putting down a lot of my inhibitions. It's all about being impulsive and doing things that move you. I think I dropped a lot of fears over the course of these films. But I picked a few up, too. And those new fears could be interesting to watch down the road. Or not interesting at all."
She is guarded, as someone who has gathered the shrieks of teen-fan approval, and the condemnations of teen fans upset when she was caught cheating on her "Twilight" co-star and off-camera beau, Robert Pattinson.
But Stewart, who apologized to fans over her indiscretion and has apparently reunited with Pattinson, is letting it all roll off her back -- the fan sniping, the critical spanking the "Twilight" movies have endured, being the most widely impersonated actress of her generation, in horror spoofs on TV and in movies. Her goal, Stewart says, is to avoid becoming a self-conscious actress, to keep the spontaneity in her work.
She says she didn't realize the extent that "Twilight" would shake up her life, not even after landing the role of Bella.
"There was no expectation that we would even get to finish the whole series when we did the first 'Twilight,' " she says. "On the set, it felt like we were making another independent movie." She and the rest of the cast had decided to be "religiously faithful to the novels," not knowing how that might look and sound on the screen.
Then the cast made its famous pre-release 2008 appearance at San Diego's Comic-Con fan convention, "and we were hit by this wave of energy, that was really baffling. . . . It was a totally contagious experience, feeding on itself. That hall, jammed with 6,000 people, reacting that way, made me think 'This is NOT normal.'"
Stewart says she's "relieved" that the five-film series is finally over. "If I say I'm excited the experience is complete, it's only because I don't have that responsibility weighing on me anymore. A typical movie, you've got a five-week or even five-month commitment. This was five years. I'm going to miss that 'I wonder how the wedding will look,' or 'I wonder what I'll have to do in the birth scene.' Hopefully, I will find that feeling in other projects."
Part of that feeling, she says, is the "tone, the vibe" of "Twilight." "The films changed directors and changed locations, but even just gathering for interviews with the press in a hotel "gives it this 'Twilight' vibe -- surreal." But what will she not miss? "Oh, God, I will not miss having to be so . . . perfect. I mean, these vampires are just so . . . perfect. I won't miss the contact lenses, and I don't think anybody in the cast would disagree with me there. And the face paint! To look like marble, we just cake this stuff on. I'm not sure that panned out, and I am more than happy to leave that behind."