Callous youths are acting their age, says Donald Clarke
It’s not easy being a teen heartthrob. Every day you have to fight your way past hordes of screaming hormones when going out for hobnobs and Toilet Duck. You miss out on so many of the life-enhancing experiences that characterise coming of age: leaky flats in slum districts, parental fury at maxed-out credit cards.
We jest. But making the transition from teen idol to grown-up actor is not easy. For every Sean Penn there are a dozen Judd Nelsons and a hundred C Thomas Howells. Some never properly grow up. A few grow up in the wrong way. Most make bad decisions or encounter plain bad luck.
This year’s Cannes Film Festival, which ends on Sunday, offered some happy news for members of the National Union of Heartthrobs. At least three recent officers of that body are showing the right way to move into adult life.
A few short years ago, the notion that Channing Tatum, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson would become stalwarts of La Croisette would have triggered hysterical guffaws. Yet there they are.
Following on from fine performances in Magic Mike and Side Effects, Mr Tatum, now an unbelievable 34, excels himself as an Olympic wrestler in Bennett Miller’s stunning Foxcatcher. It’s taken a while for Tatum, who first broke through in the dance movie Step Up, to break away and gain a degree of respectability. But that doesn’t stop teenage idiots from posting abusive messages beneath any mention on the internet.
Pattinson and Stewart, 28 and 24 respectively, attract similar levels of vitriol from the legions of malcontents still personally offended by the Twilight films. Hating those fine actors is, it seems, a way of asserting your own fragile maturity. Yet both are now making second appearances in the official competition at Cannes.
Two years ago, R-Patz turned up in David Cronenberg’s Cosmopolis and K-Stew weaved her way through Walter Salles’s On the Road. Now he is back in Cronenberg’s Maps to the Stars and she is alongside Juliette Binoche in Olivier Assayas’s Sils Maria. There’s more. David Michod’s The Rover, playing out of competition, also features a leading turn from Pattinson.
This growing up really is a tricky business. Whereas Stewart had a hit with the weird Snow White and the Huntsman, Pattinson really hasn’t made much money for the studios since that vampire franchise. Remember Bel Ami? Water or Elephants? No. Well, you get my point.
But getting in with good, powerful directors is a more reliable way of securing longevity. Leonardo Di Caprio realised this when he first bedded down with Martin Scorsese. Pattinson was wise, like Viggo Mortensen before him, to form a partnership with Cronenberg. Stewart’s relationship with Salles and Assayas makes sense.
They’re not really vampires, but may be with us for many eternities to come.