WATCHING KRISTEN Stewart play Bella Swan, the tortured teen trapped in a deep depression after her vampire boyfriend abandons her in New Moon, it’s easy to forget that the 19-year-old California native—”I’m a total Valley girl,” she’s declared—really can crack a smile. Admittedly, “when I have to laugh and be happy in a scene, it kind of freaks me out,” Stewart confessed. “If I have to have a breakdown or get all emotional, that’s easy.”
But then there’s the other Kristen. The one who, while filming New Moon on a sweltering 100º day in Italy, couldn’t help but goof off while she and costar Ashley Greene chilled out in a bright yellow Porsche. “We started singing ‘Afternoon Delight’ for some odd reason and just went off on crazy rants,” recalls Greene. “We acted like we were 12! So many people look at her like, ‘Oh, that Kristen girl, she’s never smiling.’ But she’s not this über-serious, crazy person. She’s a cool girl who definitely giggles.”
And although she plays a lot of flawed females onscreen—in addition to dating a bloodsucking demon, she’s also been a carny sleeping with a married man in Adventureland and an aspiring singer who has a crush on a self-destructive adventurer in Into the Wild. “She’s not a pushover,” says her Wild costar Emile Hirsch. “She’s really strong and fun to hang out with.”
Stewart’s big break came “sort of by chance,” she says. “I must have been like eight years old. I was at a Christmas performance at my school. There was an agent in the audience and I sang ‘The Dreidel Song.’ ” When the agent approached her parents to discuss Stewart’s potential, “I don’t even remember saying, ‘Yeah, I’ll go and audition.’ But I did,” says Stewart. After all, show business is in her blood: Stewart grew up in Woodland Hills, Calif., looking up to her dad, John, a stage manager, and her mom, Jules, a script supervisor. “I was really comfortable on movie sets. I would go on location with my mom sometimes,” says Stewart. But outside of chowing down at the craft service table, Stewart says the experience is similar to “watching paint dry if you’re not involved.”
Soon she was. By the time she was 16, she landed roles in Panic Room opposite Jodie Foster, In the Land of Women with Meg Ryan and Wild, directed by Sean Penn. Despite her early success, Stewart—who went the homeschooling route starting in seventh grade—credits her parents and older brothers for keeping her grounded. “I have a really concrete family life,” says Stewart. “My brothers are my best friends. We watch movies and play guitar.” Plus, she says, fame “is not something I thrive on.”
Still, Stewart went from indie darling to international superstar when she was cast as Bella. “Early on, before Twilight was even cast, Catherine Hardwicke [the movie’s director] called me and was like, ‘What do you think of Kristen Stewart?’ ” says Hirsch. “I was gushing, ‘Kristen is perfect for the role.’ ” Her costars agree. “She puts a lot of herself in that,” says Kellan Lutz (aka Emmett). “She makes Bella not a weak character but a loner.”
Off-camera, Stewart spends time with her close circle of friends (including costar Nikki Reed), but “I’m such a homebody,” she admits. “I don’t like large groups of people. I can’t deal.” Stewart, however, has slowly embraced her place in the pop culture pantheon—and the attention that comes with it. “At first I was just kind of freaked out,” she says of her Twilight fame. But “it’s all proven to be fine. My life hasn’t really changed a whole lot.” Now that’s something she can smile about.
I REALLY LOVE MY BAND TEES!
She was definitely born in the wrong decade: Stewart’s closet is an ode to ’70s Brit rock (with a dash of American punk)—and the knots are a nod to the ’80s.
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