Kristen Stewart was ready for her royal coronation.
Following the world premiere of Spencer – her film about Princess Diana – at the Venice Film Festival last September, 31-year-old Stewart was immediately heralded as the front-runner for the Best Actress Oscar.
“Venice audiences hooted and cheered,” says a promising Variety account of the world premiere, “and showered Stewart with a three-minute standing ovation.”
The excitement was a well-deserved performance from a genuine talent, adored by critics but yet often underappreciated by the industry. After all, the sun seemed to have set on their “Twilight” years, and Stewart would be sailing to the Dolby Theater stage on a wave of goodwill.
It didn’t turn out that way. In the six months since that euphoric premiere, Stewart hasn’t picked up any major awards outside of esoteric critic groups and is now a long way down for Best Actress.
She lost the Golden Globe Award (sure the ceremony was marred, but to lose is to lose) for Best Actress in a Drama to Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball in Being the Ricardos. Then Stewart didn’t even make the BAFTA or SAG awards list, the latter won by current favorite Jessica Chastain as the title character in The Eyes of Tammy Faye.
When the Oscar nominations were announced in February, Stewart and her crew probably breathed a sigh of relief that she was there at all. She has gone from being the top dog to being an outsider.
If Stewart emerges victorious on Sunday night (8pm on ABC), it will be a miracle thanks to voters’ divided affections.
How did an achievement of your life take a nosedive at so many awards shows? Emma Corrin recently won a Golden Globe for the same role in “The Crown” – an internationally loved tragic figure.
One problem is that not many people really like “Spencer”. The early raves were misleading to some. In-person film festivals last year were smaller and often had more reviewers in the audience than producers, directors and actors. Much of the praise came from overbearing, snooty critics like me. (I love “Spencer” without apologies. Now excuse me while I flip through Proust.)
Directed by Pablo Larraín, the film is an eccentric fever dream that is as similar to The Crown as Alice in Wonderland. It’s not a known biopic; it takes place over a single weekend, and the characters don’t talk much – they just stare. Eventually, Princess Di’s pearls fall into her soup and she starts chewing on them. Many viewers found this shtick too strange. And Stewart doesn’t even come to the showboat like Meryl Streep did in the gritty Iron Lady.
The actress also doesn’t seem interested in playing the Hollywood game, in which the leading contenders are old pros. In addition to starring in “Tammy Faye,” Chastain produced and aggressively stalked for her film since the Toronto International Film Festival last fall. In fact, she was one of the few celebs to attend the celebration in person — she posed on glamorous red carpets while Toronto takeaways still had the rest of us using hand sanitizer to pick up our kung pao chicken.
In November, I watched Kidman speak to SAG Award voters after a New York screening of “Being the Ricardos,” and her charm watch face was set to “ANNIHILATE.” During the Q&A, one voter exclaimed, “You did it!” as if Kidman were a 3-year-old who figured out a tricycle rather than a very wealthy, veteran Oscar winner.
Stewart, meanwhile, does a few interviews — though you’ll sometimes find them on Howard Stern, unlike most red carpet denizens — and doesn’t gush or overdo it with self-patting. This is an admirable quality in a person, but not in an activist.
Then there is her resume. There’s a quartet of actors who are constantly running away from their soap opera roles in the movies ‘Twilight’ and ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’: Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan. They’re all sensational, but the fangs, whips, and chains follow them like Lestat in New Orleans. Neither Johnson nor Dornan managed to pick up an Oscar this year for their acclaimed roles in “The Lost Daughter” and “Belfast,” and Pattinson hasn’t picked up one yet. Stewart was at least nominated, but she just can’t shake Bella Swan.
Outside of the vampire verse, she’s also often the best role in bad movies like Charlie’s Angels or Snow White and the Huntsman. And her fabulous, boundary-breaking roles like Clouds of Sils Maria, a psychological drama in which she plays Juliette Binoche’s assistant, are ignored by Hollywood and overshadowed by the Schlock.
Rest assured that Stewart will win an Oscar throughout his long and fruitful career. But the events leading up to Sunday night’s ceremony all boil down to disappointment.