Top 10: Best Performances from a ‘Twilight’ Alum

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Few film franchises have endured more ire than the “Twilight” franchise. The first film was produced for a relatively small budget from Summit Entertainment in 2008. While met with middling reviews, it became a massive surprise hit amongst the younger crowds. From there, the sequels skyrocketed in box office, but took a nosedive in quality. Still, if there was one thing “Twilight” was consistent with, it was wasting great talent. With each passing film, the franchise roped in talented stars and top notch character actors. Unfortunately, none had really anything to do during the series. Luckily, the franchise stuffed their coffers so they could chase projects that challenged them.

In honor of star Kristen Stewart’s latest art piece, “Personal Shopper,” we count down the ten best performances from a “Twilight” star. In order to not overload the post with Kristen Stewart performances, I am limiting myself to one performance over movies and TV per actor.

Check out the list below:

10. Dakota Fanning as Lucy Diamond Dawson in “I Am Sam”

Few child actors were more ubiquitous in the millennium than Dakota Fanning. Since her emergence, and subsequent SAG nomination, for “I Am Sam,” people touted her as the next big thing. She landed some of the biggest gigs for nearly a decade, with the lead Volturi role coming at the close of her tenure as a prolific child star. Still, she never quite achieved the level of success that she found at the start in “I Am Sam.” Fanning plays Lucy, the young child of Sam, a mentally handicapped man whose ability to parent is challenged. She brings an astounding authority and maturity to the role of a child who, in a way, has to have a hand in their own parenting. This isn’t done in big scenes, even though the film is chock full of them. It’s done in quiet moments. Fanning was ahead of her time.

9. Cameron Bright as Sean in “Birth”

It warms my heart to think casting directors of “Twilight” were watching “Birth.” How else would they have stumbled upon Bright for the pivotal role as part of the Volutri, a class of vampires that ruled? There’s something unsettling, but irresistible about Bright’s performance in “Birth.” Sean is a ten year old who claims to be the reincarnated soul of Anna’s (Nicole Kidman) dead husband. It’s a hard concept to wrap around, especially as Anna seeks to understand more and we delve into the prospect Sean may be her husband. However, Bright is able to find the old soul within and let him peer out. Even better, he does this without the normal precociousness that plagues many a child actor. “Birth” is a hard film to follow, but hopefully Bright will revive his penchant for unique and challenging material.

8. Gil Birmingham as Alberto Parker in “Hell or High Water”

Few character actors more reliable than Gil Birmingham. Even during the “Twilight” series, as the father of Jacob (Taylor Lautner), Birmingham brings gravitas to a thankless role. After a long career, it was a pleasure to see him pop up with a sizable role in the Best Picture nominated “Hell or High Water.” Birmingham plays Alberto Parker, a Texas Ranger and partner of fireball Marcus (Jeff Bridges). Alberto is the rock of the partnership, who endures many a jovial racial slur joke thrown at him by his partner. He wears his weariness well, but one sees Alberto growing tired of the decades of institutionalized racism that plagued him and his environment. It’s an integral role that was one of the most underrated in the ensemble. A stunning third act twist reveals just how much of an emotional core Alberto represents. Here’s to seeing more substantial parts given to Gil Birmingham.

7. Lee Pace as Ned in “Pushing Daisies”

Character actor Lee Pace is a delight each time he is on screen. Even as Garrett, the head of the American Nomad tribe in the final “Twilight” chapter, Pace managed to make him the most interesting part of a scene. Still, some will be forever endeared to him as a leading man if they watched “Pushing Daisies.” As Ned, Pace plays a piemaker who has the power to resurrect with a single touch, and bring back to death with the same touch. He resurrects the love of his life, only to never be able to touch her without killing her for good. This gimmick is surprisingly potent. In fact, it gives us one of the cutest love story TV has seen. The inventive chaste way Ned courts his beloved is something we haven’t seen before. Pace is a chameleon in tone and hopefully he gets more roles to prove this.

6. Rami Malek as Elliot Alderson in “Mr. Robot”

Rami Malek pulled off a stunning surprise this year at the Emmys when he won Best Actor in a Drama. However, this shouldn’t be shocking for anyone who watches “Mr. Robot.” Malek manages to turn deadpan addiction into an art form in hacker Elliot Alderson. His apathy towards anarchy makes him an interesting mix for the organization he gets mixed up in that enlists him to take down corporations. Yet, the meat of the show stems from his relationship with his mysterious mentor, Mr. Robot (Christian Slater). It springs from the childhood abandonment from Elliot’s Father. Malek manages to show this void gaping in the character’s life in such interesting ways. While the hit series should keep Malek busy for the next couple years, we can certainly anticipate a bevy of wonderful characters to come from him in the future.

5. Peter Facinelli as Dr. Fitch Cooper in “Nurse Jackie”

“Nurse Jackie” was loaded with lovable side characters. Dr. Fitch Cooper could easily have been the sore spot of the ensemble. He’s a cocky new doctor without the skills to back up his bravado. In that way, he’s the nemesis of our drug addled heroine, Jackie (Edie Falco). However, that’s what makes Facinelli such an asset. His winning smile and boundless energy act as a tonic and foil to a comedy that so very often veers into addiction drama. While most macho doctors engage in bouts of wit, we see him frazzled and out of his element. He’s a privileged white male who rose too high and realized that he needed to work with those below him to run a functional hospital. The show experiments with giving him heart break. At these moments, we realize how much we’ve cared about Fitch all along.

4. Nikki Reed as Evie Zamora in “Thirteen”

“Twilight” casting directors were up on who would be the next best thing. While Reed hasn’t quite made good on her initial promise, one can’t help but be gobsmacked by her debut. Her Evie Zamora in “Thirteen” was everything a young girl wanted to be. She was edgy. She was cool. One could easily see how Evan Rachel Wood’s Tracy would completely reinvent and upend her life to be friends with this girl. Reed manages to make debauchery look effortless, but never glosses over Evie’s hard edges. She’s a damaged girl with a bad home life, and often asks Tracy’s mom (Holly Hunter) for help and solace. There’s a heart to this maniac, and its what grounds the movie from becoming a soap opera. If only Reed can once again find a film to challenge and push her much like this did at the onset of her career.

3. Michael Sheen as Dr. William Masters in “Masters of Sex”

There’s a quiet, yet off-putting charm that Michael Sheen has mastered throughout his career. It’s no wonder “Twilight” sought to make him a vampire king. However, he works even better as a prickly, yet pioneering doctor. In “Masters of Sex,” Bill Masters is anything but your typical leading man. He is haunted by the traumas of his childhood and stogy, even as he studies human sexuality. He never treats his counterpart, Virginia Johnson (Lizzy Caplan) right. However, Sheen is able to make us relate to Masters’ complications. He’s an true outcast who only pushes himself further out of the fray. A season two bottle episode featuring solely Sheen and Caplan in a hotel room is a master class in acting. There’s no doubt, Sheen can carry a television show.

2. Anna Kendrick as Natalie Keener in “Up in the Air”

Anna Kendrick holds the illustrious title of being the first “Twilight” star to reap an Oscar nomination. Her character, Natalie, is a bundle of type A nerves. She’s the newest recruit to a firm that helps companies downsize and brings with her a technological service to increase efficiency. However, this jeopardizes Ryan Bingham’s (George Clooney) role and lifestyle as a lone wolf. Rather than being the hard edged boardroom leader, Natalie struggles to find her confidence. She knows that she’s talented and correct, but has trouble buckling under Ryan’s pressure.

One of the most fun scenes involves Natalie letting loose following a breakup. As if breaking the rules were new to her, Kendrick accentuates Natalie’s wide eyed gusto. Yet, the crux of the performance comes during Natalie’s first firing. She’s excited to learn the craft. However, after a truly traumatic response from the employee, Natalie momentarily breaks down before composing herself. It proves Kendrick can manage a wide array of tones, even in a single scene. Unfortunately, “Twilight” managed to just use her as a plucky best friend. Thankfully, Hollywood has welcomed her with open arms.

1. Kristen Stewart as Valentine in “Clouds of Sils Maria”

Even before “Twilight,” Kristen Stewart showed signs of having a great career. Her star-making child performance in “Panic Room” still holds up. In addition, her small ensemble role in “Into the Wild” sticks out amongst a bevy of veterans. However, even the loftiest of expectations couldn’t prepare us for what Stewart was about to unlock. From “Still Alice” to “Cafe Society,” Stewart was able to bring her trademark persona to a different, intriguing characters. However, the perfect marriage of performer and character happened in Olivier Assayas’ “Clouds of Sils Maria.”

Stewart plays Valentine, the no-nonsense personal assistant to famed actress Maria Enders (Juliette Binoche). Enders is set to make a comeback in a retelling of the play that made her a star, only this time playing the older woman part rather than the younger woman. What’s interesting about Valentine are the layers in which Stewart’s performance informs the character. On one layer, it’s refreshing comic kismet to see Stewart riffing off her role as a franchise star. In many scenes, Valentine is defending the disposable YA franchise films. It’s also great to see her as the cool, emotional center to a volatile movie star. However, if one digs deeper, one can marvel at the grey areas Stewart finds. One can see how Maria Enders begins to fear that Valentine is modeling herself after the vicious younger woman in the play. Yet, there’s also a warmth and protectiveness to Valentine.

What are your favorite performances from a “Twilight” performer? Let us know in the comments.

  • Alec Glass

    Robert Pattinson in Rover?

    • Alec Glass

      Also, more little known, but everyone should see Kristen Stewart in The CakeEaters

      • Chris James

        haven’t seen the Cake Eaters but remember hearing about it when it came out. Will have to check it out.

  • Joey Magidson

    Excellent pull with Gil Birmingham.

    • Chris James

      You gotta love an always reliable character actor.

      • Joey Magidson

        Agreed.

  • Luke McGowan

    Love me some Gil Birmingham