On a balmy morning last summer, thousands of eager fans camped outside of a downtown San Diego convention center in anticipation of catching a glimpse of the exalted teen stars of the Twilight film franchise.
After sleeping on concrete all night, 14-year-old Bianca Valle finally made it inside Hall H, the largest auditorium at the annual Comic-Con Convention.
Once inside, she waited until four of the actors from the upcoming film, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, slowly emerged on stage. They were welcomed by nearly unanimous deafening screams and proclamations of undying love.
But Kristen Stewart, the 19-year-old who plays the lead role of Bella Swan in the Twilight films, looked miserable, Valle recalled. Her hair—shiny and long in Twilight—had been dyed black and hacked into a choppy, disheveled style for a role as Joan Jett in an upcoming film. As the cast fielded questions from the audience, Stewart held her head in her hands and frowned.
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“She just didn’t seem like she cared,” said Valle, who said she was disappointed by Stewart’s behavior. “She was whispering to the other people on stage and wasn’t being intimate with the crowd. I felt really excluded.”
It’s no secret that Stewart, whose biggest roles before Twilight were parts in Panic Room and Into the Wild, isn’t herself a huge fan of the Twilight phenomenon.
This has made her relationship with the public complex. In an age when celebrities have begun to share the minutiae of their everyday lives with their fans on social networking sites like Twitter, Stewart rarely gives even the slightest glimpse of her personal life to inquiring minds.
“I just remember that she was extremely awkward, and I think that when you enter into acting, there are repercussions,” 21-year-old fan Cara Watters said of Stewart. “You should know how to hold yourself during appearances. She can’t say anything without twitching or stuttering.”
In an interview with The New York Times published over the weekend, Stewart said she's bothered by the public's expectation that she should open up simply because she's an actress.
“What really kills me—it really rips me up—is when people think I’m abrasive, inconsiderate or ungrateful because I don’t go outside in a bikini and wave to the paparazzi. Come on!”
Chris Weitz, the director of New Moon, told The Times that Stewart cops an attitude to "cope." “If she didn’t, every teenage girl would see her as their best friend,” he said. “They would tear her completely apart.”
• The Daily Beast’s Kim Masters reports from the New Moon premiere.• Check out more stories, galleries, clips of New Moon. But even Stewart's front hasn't protected her from often scathing criticism from the Twilight fan base. Of course, some fans embrace her devil-may-care attitude, championing the actress for staying true to herself. But the majority of Twi-hards find her perceived resentment toward fame and the film franchise that has catapulted her into the limelight enraging.
If this is so, why haven’t the naysayers abandoned Twilight? Despite her bad attitude, why do fans still like Kristen Stewart?
“I don’t really think they do,” said Perez Hilton, who frequently blogs about why he hates Stewart . “I don’t think [fans] like her as much as the other actors in Twilight, and what’s really interesting is to see the fans’ blossoming relationship with Taylor Lautner, because he’s very happy and outgoing and thankful to be a part of the film.”
Indeed, Lautner—who plays Stewart’s eager suitor in New Moon—has quite a different public persona than Stewart. He embraces his fanbase and has endured an endless stream of questions from reporters about his bulked up physique without copping an attitude.
That kind of openness and unremitting cheeriness is something audiences have come to expect from today’s stars. So it’s disconcerting to fans when Stewart flips off the paparazzi, or refuses to comment on the endless rumors about her supposed relationship with co-star Robert Pattinson.
Many, like Bianca Valle, like that Stewart “speaks her mind” but wish the actress could muster up some more enthusiasm for Twilight.
“I don’t like when she looks like she is taking things as a joke,” she said. “She’s just not into it. It’s weird.”
Stewart is the first to acknowledge that she’s uncomfortable giving interviews and doesn’t like talking about her part in the film.
“You get a slew of all these bullshit questions like, ‘What’s it like to kiss a vampire?’ and ‘How much do you love Robert?’” she told Nylon magazine in March.
Even her own father has said Stewart doesn’t like Twilight.
When asked why his daughter hadn’t presented alongside Pattinson at the Academy Awards earlier this year, John Stewart told Access Hollywood’s Billy Bush: “When it’s a great movie, not just one that makes a lot of money.”
Cara Watters, a 21-year-old senior at George Mason University was so “disgusted” after watching an interview with Stewart on an entertainment news program that she decided to launch a Facebook group called “I hate Kristen Stewart.”
“I just remember that she was extremely awkward, and I think that when you enter into acting, there are repercussions,” she said in a phone interview. “You should know how to hold yourself during appearances. She can’t say anything without twitching or stuttering.”
Stewart, meanwhile, feels that she deserves a level of privacy despite being an actress.
“I know that people are really funny about ‘Well, you chose to be an actor, why don’t you just f—ing give your whole life away?! Can I have your firstborn child?” she told Entertainment Weekly this month.
Despite Watters’ hatred for Stewart, she said she’s still planning on seeing New Moon.
“I hate her so much, but I’ll still watch it—and I know that sounds weird,” she said. “I’m not watching it for her, but I still think I’ll be sitting there extremely angry. I feel like she’s not happy with the role she’s playing—she’s not excited about the movie.”
For Stewart’s part, there seems to have been a recent epiphany that her negativity might harm her relationship with Twilight fans.
“I’ve gotten a lot more comfortable about talking about myself and knowing that what you say, people are really going to take into consideration,” Stewart said at a press junket for New Moon at the Four Seasons earlier this month. “That always intimidated me so much.”
Amy Kaufman is an assistant editor at The Daily Beast. A former reporter for The Wrap, she has also written for The Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.