BEVERLY HILLS, California — Ever since she broke through playing Jodie Foster's tough, imperiled daughter in the 2002 hit film "Panic Room," moviegoers and critics alike have been quick to praise [movieperson id="262629"]Kristen Stewart[/movieperson]'s acting skills. Now, the 19-year-old actress is back in theaters next Friday (February 26) with "The Yellow Handkerchief," a romantic drama she was cast in after Foster recommended her to the film's producer, six-time Oscar winner Arthur Cohn. But when it comes to which role was tougher to play — her "Handkerchief" rebel Martine or "Twilight" icon Bella Swan — KStew and Cohn disagree.
"I followed Jodie's advice because she's a great actress and director," Cohn said of casting Stewart in "Handkerchief," a love story featuring old and new romances blossoming side by side. "Kristen had an enormous sensitivity for an extremely difficult part. With all respect to 'Twilight,' I think this part was infinitely harder to pull off."
Making matters more interesting, Kristen was only 15 when she landed the role. It wasn't until "Handkerchief" hit Sundance in 2008 that she was even cast in the "Twilight Saga" films. But with all due respect to her producer, Stewart disagreed with his thoughts on which role was more difficult to pull off.
"No, I would say definitely not," Stewart insisted, claiming that Bella is the more complicated portrayal from an actor's point of view. "It's so hard to compare roles — this was difficult for other reasons.
"It was so much smaller, it was so personal," Kristen remembered of the "Handkerchief" shoot in New Orleans in 2007.
In "Handkerchief," Stewart's Martine is a lonely, troubled teen with a knack for getting into trouble — and intriguing young Gordy (Eddie Redmayne) so much that they set out on an unusual road trip to help an ex-convict (William Hurt) reunite with the woman he hopes still loves him (Maria Bello). At the time, Stewart was targeting smaller, grittier films like "Handkerchief" and "The Cake Eaters" to hone her acting skills — but the next relatively small film she made would turn out to far exceed the expectations of its modest budget.
"Bella has definitely got more [complexity]," Stewart said of the iconic "Twilight" role that made her a household name. "Bella has more to do. [As an audience member], you're with her for years of her life; you're with this girl for two weeks — not even, a week."
Because Bella starts out in "Twilight" as a clutzy, confused teen and ends up in "Breaking Dawn" as a woman and mother confident in her weighty decisions, Stewart sees no comparison between the weight of a four (or five) film character and one who only appears in one film.
"When I play a character, I have to know her very well," Stewart said. "Maybe [Martine] is mysterious to the audience [because she is less explored than Bella], but I know her very well. I know her for a brief period of her life. But then, I have to explore what it would be like to live [Bella's] life from the age of 17 to 21 or 22."
Ultimately, KStew explained, it's hard to compare any two characters. But as far as heavy-lifting is concerned, she insisted that Mr. Cohn is selling her recent blockbuster work a bit short.
"I wouldn't agree with that [statement that Martine is harder to play]," she explained. "But it's like comparing people — you can't say one person has more range, or that they have to go through more."
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