Why Kristen Stewart was born to play Princess Diana in ‘Spencer’

NEON

NEON

Dan Buffa, Special to the Jewish Light

People underestimated Kristen Stewart the same way they did Robert Pattinson. Back when the pair starred in “Twilight,” which simultaneously stole the hearts of teens everywhere, film critics and audiences pigeon-holed them as Hollywood lovers for life. In other words, they set the ceiling for their talent very low.

Thirteen years later, it’s safe to say that the actors have proven audiences wrong. Pattinson has starred in several critically acclaimed dramas that didn’t have a formulaic shred of teenage romanticism attached, while Stewart has thrived in her own eclectic playground of role-playing. The actress, whose mother is half-Ashkenazi Jewish, is set to make her biggest mark in the movie business with the upcoming “Spencer,” which will see her play the late Princess Diana. Check out the poster, which was just released last week.

When Neon is attached, you know it’s Oscar bait, especially with a director like Pablo Larrain (who directed Natalie Portman as “Jackie” Kennedy) at the helm. But the truth is, Stewart has been preparing for this kind of role ever since her early years in Hollywood. What people don’t know is that “Twilight” was merely a launching pad for her talent to be seen by a wider range of moviegoers. Before that game-changing role, she put up credible performances in indie dramas such as “Into the Wild,” “Undertow,” “Fierce People,” and “In the Land of Women.”

Stewart proved her big-budget mettle with roles in “Snow White and the Huntsman,” even if her true heart sat in stories like “The Runaways,” where the actress played Joan Jett. But 2014’s “Clouds of Sils Maria” was the real game-changer, dramatically at least. She held her own with Juliette Binoche, playing Valentine, the assistant to the French actress’ lead role as a fading star who returns to the play that launched her career. It was there where Stewart found her sweet spot, trading lines with Academy Award winners and mixing into an ensemble.

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Later that year, Stewart shared a few incredible scenes with Julianne Moore in “Still Alice,” playing the daughter of a mother who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. In 2016, she reunited with her “Clouds” director, Olivier Assayas for “Personal Shopper,” which is arguably her best role yet. Playing a personal assistant who won’t leave Paris without connecting with young brother, who passed away tragically but may have left something behind for her to find.

Playing a young fashion lover trying to make her way up the ladder in a ruthless business while trying to reconnect with her lost brother one more time, Stewart gave everything to the role, proving that early box office success shouldn’t determine how a career will turn out. When a bright young talent bursts onto the scene in show business, fans and critics quickly attach a value or projected worth to that performer. In a world where comparisons and predictions still overrun the roost every year, Stewart has defied all of those safe plays 13 years ago when “Twilight” came out.

“Spencer” could bring Stewart to the Oscars for the first time as a contender. The film focuses on the moment while on Christmas vacation with the royal family at the Sandringham estate when Diana decided to leave her marriage to Prince Charles. The poster is a beautiful rendering of her elongated white dress sprawled over the floor, as if she was trying to hide from the public agony and media reaction. A woman running to stand still in that very moment, it sets up a great showcase for Stewart. Co-starring Sean Harris (who just played King Arthur in “The Green Knight”) and Sally Hawkins, “Spencer” arrives in November in theaters. Here’s a teaser trailer:

After all, the acting business was ingrained in Stewart’s blood early on. Both her parents, John and Jules, were involved in film and television. The 31-year-old actress starred in her first credited film role at 11 years of age, knowing full well what she wanted to do with her life. What the masses had no idea about at the time was how far the young girl would go on to travel.

While her “Twilight” pal is busy playing “The Batman” next year, Stewart may be finding a new spot in her home for a few more trophies, including an Oscar perhaps. If you ask me, she was born to play Princess Diana; Pablo and Neon agree. Like Diana, Stewart was a square peg being jammed into a circle slot, finding her own needs and dreams being shaved off by the day. Like “Jackie,” there’s tragedy even in rebirth.

In the meantime, go watch some of her more challenging and bold work. She’s come a long way since Bella Swan.