Hollywood's new generation is tearing up the rulebook to mix mainstream movie appearances with deeper, more challenging indie fare.
Up-and-coming stars have long gravitated in the direction of doing small-scale movies.
According to one independent film producer, speaking on condition of anonymity, landing a teen celebrity suits both parties. "With a teen star attached we can secure the funding to get the movie made and they get a shot at being taken seriously," he says.
"For them it's liberating to be in a film where they experience creative freedom and not have a studio breathing down their neck."
Take the stars of the Twilight saga. Away from their vampire and virginity antics that do such a roaring trade in the multiplexes, Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart eschew more lucrative offers to act in smaller films. Greg Mottola, who directed Stewart in last year's quirky coming-of-age comedy Adventureland, thinks by doing so they can escape being casualties of the 21st-century fame freakshow. "They want to cut their teeth, and it's impressive to me that they're confident enough to do that and not be worried that they'll risk cutting into their fans," he says. "I think they are savvy enough to see that people who don't tap into that burn out, become tabloid fodder and are deemed irrelevant so quickly. They used to be famous and within a year or two they've become yesterday's news."
Stewart, Mottola says, "is a very serious person. She came on the set every day totally prepared like a supreme Method actor ready to do whatever it takes." Yet Twilight devotees don't seem to have been all that interested in seeing any of her other work. Welcome to the Rileys, directed by Ridley Scott's son Jake, in which Stewart plays a stripper opposite James Gandolfini, will finally be released in America in the autumn almost two years since it finished filming. Despite rave reviews at the Sundance Film Festival, The Runaways, a musical biopic featuring Stewart as Joan Jett, didn't take flight upon its American release in February, though. Indeed, disputes over the The Runaways's distribution led to the resignation of Bob Berney, the head of Apparition, the independent movie studio that released it.
Robert Pattinson, Stewart's Twilight co-star and reported love interest, is also blazing the indie trail. At a pre-release London premiere last year of Little Ashes, in which he portrayed Salvador Dali, Twilight fans snapped up tickets to the advance screening in such numbers that Little Ashes's director, writer or producers couldn't get in to watch their film. But even though Pattinson appeared naked in Little Ashes, "Twi-hards" found the notion of a Euro arthouse film depicting the relationship between Dali and Federico Garcia Lorca to be of limited appeal; Little Ashes still never expanded beyond 16 screens.