Radcliffe, Stewart survive fame with passion intact

Tom Long
The Detroit News

He is arguably the most recognizable person on earth. His movies have earned nearly $2.5 billion over the past 15 years, and individually they’ve made an average of $204 million.

Yet his latest film opened in just one theater in Metro Detroit on Friday. It will be lucky to earn as much as his last film, which made less than $3.5 million.

She, too, has been making films since just past the turn of the century, and her numbers are none too shoddy either. Her movies have earned $1.7 billion, and her per-movie average is $80 million.

And yet her latest film will also be opening at only one local theater when it arrives next Friday, while her last film didn’t even earn $1 million domestically.

What are Daniel Radcliffe and Kristen Stewart doing wrong?

Nothing really. In fact, they may be doing everything right.

They are blockbuster survivors. He rose to stardom with the Harry Potter movies; she skyrocketed onto magazine covers playing Bella in the “Twilight” series. They are recovering child stars — he’s now 25, she’s 24 — trying to prove their artistic worth, if not their bankability.

They are pushing themselves, trying new things. Radcliffe’s latest film, “Horns,” is a kooky horror exercise in which, yes, horns sprout from his head. In other recent films, he’s played a lovestruck young man (“What If”) and a young version of the poet Allen Ginsberg (“Kill Your Darlings”). These never were going to be blockbuster films, but they’ve been ways for Radcliffe to show his range.

Radcliffe started branching out even while Potter was still going strong, starring on stage in a 2007 production of “Equus” and on Broadway in 2011 with “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.” He knew his happy Harry days were going to come to an end.

Stewart was already an established young actress when she took on “Twilight.” She’d done “Panic Room” with Jodie Foster for director David Fincher (“Gone Girl”) and “Into the Wild” with Sean Penn. And she did low-budget, indie films (“Welcome to the Rileys,” “The Runaways”) the entire time she was doing the “Twilight” flicks. She also added another blockbuster — “Snow White and the Huntsman,” which earned $396 million worldwide — to her resume.

Now she’s checking out edgier stuff. In her coming film, the deeply human “Camp X-Ray,” she plays an MP guarding prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. After that, she has the Oscar-buzz drama “Still Alice” with Julianne Moore, the artsy “Clouds of Sils Maria” with Juliet Binoche and four other varied projects. She’s hardly wanting for work.

But the luxury both she and Radcliffe have now is that they can do the work they want to do. Neither actor should ever need a paycheck again. Their higher priority is establishing themselves as serious, versatile actors, something they’re both well on their way to accomplishing.

And if their movies aren’t big hits, who cares? They’ve each been to the top of the mountain, no need to climb that high again. They just want to do good work. They have survived fame.