For millions of swooning fans, the movie of 2008 was "Twilight." For star Kristen Stewart, it was a new and surprising dawn. The daughter of a TV producer and a writer, she'd been acting since she was a child, doing the kind of parts that Evan Rachel Wood had grown out of, and Dakota Fanning hadn't yet grown into.
Then came the goose-pimpled fable. And suddenly Stewart had to deal with "Twilight" mania (a tiny bit scary), David Letterman interviews (a little uncomfortable) and a hot career (surprising, but very nice).
It was daunting at first, but Stewart -- who turns 19 next week -- has learned to take it and to take time out for herself. And for us, recently, to talk about her new movie, Greg Mottola's comic romance "Adventureland."
Q: There are a lot of movies about unhappy suburban teens, but "Adventureland" feels like the way 18-year-olds really think.
A: Well, it's sort of Greg's story, so it's written from a very real, personal standpoint ... It deals with some things that have been touched on before, but nothing starts out cliche, or ends up glorified. It's not cheesy.
Q: Are there a lot of cheesy scripts out there about people your age?
A: There's a lot of material floating around that's sort of empty. And I can't really work on something like that. I can only be a part of something that feels like, if I don't bring this character to life she's going to die right there on the page.
Q: Even with all the drama the characters in "Adventureland" are going through, there's a lot of humor, too, most of it coming from their crummy summer jobs. Could you relate to that?
A: Well, I've had sort of different versions of crummy summer jobs. The thing is, I could never quit my crummy summer jobs. I was sort of stuck there (on the set), thinking, "Why am I here?''
Q: Your first big job was "Panic Room." So you walk on and it's a David Fincher movie, and there's Jodie Foster. Were you intimidated? Or were you too young to be intimidated?
A: I was an overly confident 10-year-old, I guess. I was aware enough to note how important the people I was working with were, but I was also kind of aware that I was just a kid and people don't expect anything from kids -- you know, just know your lines and stay in focus. So if I did anything remotely good, people would be really surprised and appreciative. That was kind of cool. But I like it so much better now. I like expectations.
Q: You were very young then, but you seemed different than the other child actors. You had really short hair and this kind of edgy, skater grrrl vibe. Was that something you were consciously trying to do?
A: I was never trying to present myself in a certain way, but there was definitely this side that people picked up on. I was so rejected from anything that was comic or light or frivolous. You know, it wasn't like, "No, I'm not going to do a Nickelodeon series, I'm going to do cool things!" It was more like, Nickelodeon was totally uninterested ... Which ended up being fine. The people who are really good at that stuff are entertainers. I am so not that.
Q: You grew up with parents who worked in the business. Was there this sort of "Aha!" moment when you knew this was something you were going to pursue, too?
A: I have the "Aha" moments progressively -- they're like milestones and they hit you. I think my first "Aha!" moment was when I did this (TV) movie called "Speak." I was just rolling with it, and ended up kind of really losing myself in it, so that I felt like I was a different person at the end. That was a big moment.
Q: Was seeing the script for "Twilight" another "Aha"?
A: It all happened very fast. I hadn't heard of the books and I read the script and loved it and auditioned for it, so it was very conventional in the way I got the part. But knowing Catherine (Hardwicke) was directing was definitely a draw, because I knew it would be a collaborative process -- not forced, but found.
Q: What did you two find in Bella?
A: She's a very strong character. And a lot of people disagree with that, because she gives up some control. But I think it takes a lot of courage to give up that control. That's what Catherine and I talked about, a lot, that Bella was strong enough to do that ... It's a really striking story, because it's just so fundamental. What do we live for? And unless you're a total nihilist you have to say, "For someone else, for companionship." And the story is about what you sacrifice for that.
Q: How prepared were you for what happened after? Because you strike me as a fairly interior person, and suddenly you're doing mall appearances.
A: It's not easy for me, to be honest. But the cool aspect of it is, you love something and you put your guts into it and you have other people throwing their guts on the ground for you, it's fire for fire. That's great. No other movie I've ever done has had such a devoted audience. So I'm down on going on this journey. We're doing the second film now and that's going to be really interesting, because in a way it almost completely undermines the first. It's very, very different.
Q: And you're very, very busy with a lot of other things. You have an indie film, "The Cake Eaters," in theaters. And you're preparing to play Joan Jett in "The Runaways."
A: Yeah, "The Cake Eaters" -- there are certain movies that you would do for nothing, just the experience of doing it. "Runaways," I'm immersing myself in now. I got to hang out with Joan Jett for awhile, and I think that's the coolest thing I've ever done ... Which is great. I really need to lose myself in a role. I really need to become someone else. 'Cause believe me, no one wants to see me play Kristen Stewart.