AS ROBERT Pattinson struggles to leave Edward Cullen behind -- with flops such as Water For Elephants (2011) and Remember Me (2010) no doubt giving the 25-year-old some sleepless nights -- his Twilight co-star seems to be on somewhat firmer ground.
Having already made an impression in such movies as Panic Room (2002) and Into The Wild (2007) before the role of Bella Swan put her face on T-shirts worldwide, Kristen Stewart didn't have to prove to Hollywood that she was more than just a pretty face in a box-office-conquering vampire franchise.
This kid can act. And act well. Which may explain why Stewart has fared better than her leading man. Critics swooned over Greg Mottola's geek-love-in-a-fairground comedy Adventureland (2009) and Stewart's portrayal of real-life rocker Joan Jett in The Runaways (2010), while Kristen's performance as a Florida teen runaway who's rescued by James Gandolfini's runaway husband in Welcome To The Rileys (2011) has already been garnering rave reviews.
"It's going to be part of who we are as actors for a very, very long time," offers the 21-year-old actress. "Everyone knew, signing on to Twilight, that the fans would be very, very dedicated to these characters. We just didn't quite reckon on how dedicated, though. And how many of them there would be."
One of cinema's most lucrative franchises of the past few years (a neat $1.8bn at the box-office so far), the Twilight saga is drawing to a close with the first of a two-part finale, Breaking Dawn -- Part 1, hitting cinemas this weekend. The reviews have been verging on the diabolical, which may explain why the Irish distributor decided not to show the film to critics until a few hours before its first public screening.
"It's going to be strange, saying goodbye to Bella, Edward and all the other residents of Forks," smiles Stewart, "but there's also something joyous about wrapping up this incredible experience -- because as much as Bella has had an incredible experience, I've been pretty dizzy most of the time we've been making these films, too.
"Making the Twilight films has been a wild experience . . ."
A high point of that wildness being the recent laying of the hands, in cement, outside Grauman's Chinese Theatre, on Hollywood's Walk Of Fame, alongside co-stars Robert Pattinson and Taylor Lautner.
"That just wasn't part of my plan," says Stewart. "It wasn't even part of my dreams. I'm not supposed to be here, alongside all these legends, alongside all these incredible artists. Part of me felt very, very humble to be there, and part of me was just flying through the air. I wanted to grab everyone there in a big hug."
The trio's paw prints will sit alongside those of Harold Lloyd, Groucho Marx, Bob Hope, John Wayne and, well, the Harry Potter trio of Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. Grauman's Chinese Theatre knows where its bread is buttered these days.
"It's insane to think that my hand imprints are going to be there forever and ever. I'm only 21!
"They've never crowbarred anyone's handprints slab up, right . . ?"
Still holding on to her dream of becoming a writer ("I love what I do, but it's not all I want to do -- be a professional liar for the rest of my life"), Stewart plans on going to college to study literature. Her mum, Jules Mann-Stewart, is a script supervisor, while her dad, John, is a stage manager and TV producer. "The silly thing is, I never really planned on becoming an actor," says Stewart. "This all just sort of happened. I'm glad it did, but it took me a long time to get comfortable with it."
And let's not forget the moolah. In 2010 alone, Stewart is estimated to have earned $28.5m, giving her the distinction of being the highest earning actress listed in Vanity Fair's 2010's Top Hollywood Earners.
"I do okay," smiles Stewart. "I'm always amazed when I see these figures being bandied about though. I've got to check with my bank manager, see where all this money is exactly. Still, it feels very strange, being 21, and having enough money to retire on. For a few years, at least."
Upcoming work includes the title role in Snow White And The Huntsman (with Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, taking on the latter), plus the role of Mary Lou in Walter Salles' adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On The Road, Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund co-starring.
And then it's back on the Twilight merry-go-round, for the release of Breaking Dawn-- Part 2 next November.
"Yeah, it takes the edge off this particular goodbye," finishes Stewart. "Knowing we've finished the film and we're going out there to talk to people a full year before that final outing hits the screens. Should help ease the pain a little.
"I'm sure Bella is going to be a part of my life forever though and I'm okay with that. I owe her a lot . . "
See page 35 for George Byrne's review of The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1