We all make mistakes. Sometimes, we make large bets on the Tampa Bay Buccaneers making it to the playoffs. Other times, we decide to go see The Twilight Saga: Eclipse instead of Toy Story 3 so we can look "cool" in front of our older female cousins. We ALL do this. ALL OF US.
If you had asked me back in 2010 if Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson were destined to become wildly talented performers, I would've attempted to laugh in your face before the rubber bands attached to my braces stopped me in my tracks. Turns out, this would've been a mistake, too. While neither of these actors have donned any superhero capes or gone on to steal cars with Vin Diesel, they haven't faded to mediocre TV bits and straight-to-Redbox films, either. Instead, both K-Stew and R-Pat have carved out impressive indie careers with surprisingly powerful performances.
Now, I only saw the first three films in the Twilight Saga, but they aren't exactly telling in regards to acting chops. Back when memes were young and 4chan was almost not toxic, our leading duo were lambasted on the internet for their performances. Pattinson was somehow constantly quivering with either sexual energy or a bad flu. It was wildly uncomfortable for me, although it did seem to hook both preteen girls and women over 40 with spousal issues. Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart had a stare and resting mouth hang that could make a corpse look like the life of the party. That, and her line delivery was reminiscent of a wannabe emo kid half-responding to a concerned parent through a bedroom door caked in My Chemical Romance posters. Unless this somehow changed radically in parts one and two of Breaking Dawn, it's fairly objective to say these weren't stars in the making.
Off-screen drama didn't exactly reinforce an image of seasoned actors. Tabloids aren't helpful in drafting an appearance of talent and flexibility on-screen, no matter who you are. When you find yourself starring in lukewarm, melodramatic Harry Potter fan-fiction, it's even worse. They then had the misfortune of liking each other, and these Teenage Dreams were seen as celebrity gossip, not professionals. Throw in an affair with photos to match, and both Robert and Kristen were stuck in career ruts. Ask any Disney Channel star or YA film actor not named Jennifer Lawrence, and you'll see that the balance of celebrity and artist is tricky. And yet, from the ashes of a staked vampire, Stewart and Pattinson rose up to have some of the most interesting careers of anyone acting today.
Robert abandoned the limelight quickly, after catching the limelight cheating on him with the director of Snow White and the Huntsman. Okay, it didn't quite go down like his romance with Stewart, but Pattinson faded from the mainstream rather quickly. He began picking up smaller films with more intriguing roles than "Pasty Glitter Fang Boy". He found himself in The Rover, a small sci-fi film that ended up at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival. He'd find himself reappearing on the festival circuit for numerous other films, and racked up a great deal of acclaim. For my personal preference, his turns in The Lost City of Z and Good Time are fascinating, deep, and revelatory. It's shocking just how removed these performances are from his dour turn as Edward in Twilight. Where once he could best just stare at you like a tasty blood bag, now he's a quiet force in better fare. Still pretty dreamy, too.
Kristen didn't break away from the pulpy mainstream so easily. The media made the transition from elicit affair to focusing a great deal on her sexuality. While culture's growing acceptance of the LGBT community has been a welcome change in the past decade, its fixation on celebrity outings can take away from their myriad of other qualities and accomplishments. Stewart might be more known to a general audience as "the vampire girl who dates guys AND girls now", but not enough attention has been drawn to her recent string of invigorating performances. Films like Camp X-Ray and Still Alice prove that the actress has real acting chops, and her miraculous turn in Clouds of Sils Maria earned her a Cesar Award, the French equivalent to an Oscar. While her revitalization hasn't gripped me quite the way Pattinson's has, she has proven herself a gifted and versatile performer.
I realize that these transitions haven't been earth-shaking. Most of the films I've mentioned between these two are small in comparison to the blockbusters of today. They are also quiet examples of talent, rarely elevating their stars past nice compliments from self-important bloggers who think "Joe's Take" is an acceptable name for a web page. Still, these careers were impossibly fathomed in 2012, when we said goodbye to the bloodsucking couple. Their success deserves more attention than I can draw to it, but if nothing else, you should check out one of their recent films. And whatever you do, DO NOT look at Taylor Lautner's post-Twilight career. It ain't pretty.
Joe Brueggemeyer hosts and edits The Marquee podcast with Logan, and has an unhealthy obsession with baking.