While Kristen Stewart has alienated “Twilight” fans by cheating on long-time boyfriend and co-star Robert Pattinson, experts say the brewing controversy could do more to boost their careers than damage them.
Stewart issued an apology this week when a photo of her canoodling with director Rupert Sanders (pictured, with Stewart) surfaced so as to temper attention to the controversy, but in the 21st century sometimes all publicity really is good publicity.
“Twenty years ago or 30 years ago controversy was a career killer,” Howard Bragman, veteran industry publicist and vice chairman of Reputation.com, told TheWrap. “Now it can be career Viagra. We kind of embrace controversy.”
For both actors, it was their real-life relationship, paralleled by their cinematic romance in the ‘Twilight” films, that elevated them to the Hollywood A-list.
In four years, Stewart went from an indie darling to the star of a big-budget summer tentpole, Universal’s “Snow White and the Huntsman.” It was on that set where she met Sanders, the other crooner in this duet of infidelity.
Pattinson has since earned leading roles in films such as David Cronenberg’s “Cosmopolis” and a pair of indie films.
Though this controversy may only enhance their star power, her youthful indiscretion raises some serious questions for all of the characters involved.
The final “Twilight” film comes out in November, and there is its box office performance to think of.
In this last episode in the franchise, Stewart’s Bella and Pattinson’s Edward are now married with child, and Stewart has turned into a vampire.
Will viewers flock in the same droves to watch a romance that has been spoiled off screen?
For the most part, fans have defended the two stars, expressing incredulity but not anger.
"Although Kristen has made a statement and may have cheated on Rob I still believe the pics were photoshopped to manipulate the situation," tweeted @Twi_Hard247.
Still, there are skeptics.
"I think it could hurt it," BoxOffice.com editor-in-chief Phil Contrino told TheWrap Thursday. "The fact that they're together in real-life created some of the appeal for its fans."
The lead-up to the film’s opening will determine whether there is an impact.
In the past, fans fawned over the 20-something lovebirds. Now that Pattinson has moved out of their shared house, how the former couple behave in public could go a long way toward dictating popular response.
They will be booked for endless media appearances, from magazine covers to television shows to press junkets to international premieres.
“The only sticky point will be the press tour,” Bragman said. “A lot of that will be determined by how she and Robert are interacting at that point. They will either be ‘we love each other and decided to split up’ or ‘we learned from this and learned what’s important.’”
Summit has declined to comment on the subject, as a spokesperson noted that this is a personal issue and has nothing to do with the film.
If there is no impact on “Twilight,” what of the sequel to “Snow White and the Huntsman,” which Sanders is set to direct and Stewart to star in.
Universal placed a big bet on Sanders, an unproven feature director who had a great reputation in the commercial world. He delivered with a film that grossed $381 million at the global box office and earned itself a sequel.
Liberty Ross, Sanders’ wife, has entered the fray by posting a photo on Instagram of an animated Snow White curled over, crying and holding a bottle. A caption reads,
“Not so pretty or pure after all…”
Yet though Ross may try to bar Sanders from directing Stewart, the success of the first film means Sanders is expected to be back for the second one.
Universal has issued no comment and most observers believe there is no reason to pull Sanders off the film. Universal declined to comment.
Alexander C. Kaufman contributed to this report.