Young stars shed blockbusters for mature roles

Transformers, vampires, singing high-schoolers — they can be hard to outrun.

But at the 65th annual Cannes Film Festival, a number of young Hollywood stars are attempting to do just that. By striking out on their own, they hope to move their careers beyond mega franchises and toward more mature roles.

Robert Pattinson and Kirsten Stewart (Twilight), Shia LaBeouf (Transformers) and Zac Efron (High School Musical) all have films in competition at the festival.

In David Cronenberg’s Don DeLillo adaptation Cosmopolis, which is to premiere at Cannes tomorrow, Pattinson stars as a Manhattan billionaire on a crosstown odyssey.

“It’s changed the way I see myself,” says Pattinson.

“I’m kind of getting older,” says the actor, 26. “People aren’t thinking of me as a kid anymore, so I’ve got to stop behaving like one.

“When you do a big franchise movie, there’s a ton of pressure on you that’s nothing to do with the job at all,” he says. “You have to adapt to an entirely different world, rather than just try to get better at acting and do better within your movies. As soon as you become famous, your movies and your life become one and the same.”

Certainly, most actors would eagerly jump at the chance to star in well-paying, hugely promoted movies. But iconic roles begun as teenagers can choke promising acting careers. Stewart, Pattinson’s 22-year-old Twilight co-star, is also exploring new territory with Walter Salles’ adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road.

Earlier in the festival was LaBeouf’s Lawless, a Prohibition-era gangster film. LaBeouf says he’s gratified to have been a part of the film from start to finish, rather than, he says, “just piggybacking” on the success of a blockbuster.

“I’m taking risks more,” says LaBeouf, who plays the youngest in a trio of Virginia bootleggers in the film. ‘I was really risk-adverse for a while because I had a big nugget to protect, not only for myself but for the people behind me. I think I’ve become less corporate.”

Today, Efron, 24, stars in The Paperboy as the brother of a reporter who’s investigating an inmate on death row. Director Lee Daniels says that, having suffered relentless viewings of the High School Musical movies by his children, he thought he’d never put Efron in one of his movies. “He’s a grown-up Zac and a tortured Zac,” says Daniels. “Someone we haven’t seen before — a different Zac.”

Efron, Stewart, LaBeouf, and Pattinson will get no better launching pad for their new roles than Cannes, where daring is prized above all else.


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