Kristen Stewart Steps Back Into The Spotlight At TIFF And Shines

With Venice over, movie industry, media and stargazer eyes are now firmly trained on Toronto’s 2012 International Film Festival. While, for most, that means films, stars, awards buzz and business — for Kristen Stewart, tonight meant much, much more. Tonight, it was showtime, with a difference.

Pictured flying out of LAX on Wednesday wearing a ‘familiar’ T-shirt with the words ‘Irie’ (no worries) emblazoned across it and her middle finger in a strap, TIFF is the first time Stewart officially returns to the spotlight since her tryst with Rupert Sanders, director of Snow White and The Huntsman blew up the world as we know it last month.

Along with co-stars Garrett Hedlund, Kirsten Dunst and director, Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries), Stewart is promoting her latest film, an adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s beat classic On The Road.

Every bit as big a ‘moment’ as her Cannes Film Festival May debut, Stewart must have been feeling the pressure. And with the eyes of the world on her, along with hundreds of fans and press waiting outside Ryerson theater for a glimpse of the 22-year-old at the 9 pm screening — the big questions on everyone’s lips:

How was she feeling, what would she wear and what would she say, if anything?

Recently revealed that TIFF organizers —newly installed artistic director Alberto Barbera and Cameron Bailey — would be tightly controlling the usual mosh of camera crews, press, (now) pre-approved photographers and paparazzi on the red carpet, earlier this week Bailey told news outlets:

“The thing we always want to do when something like this happens is to keep the focus on the film. I think she does great work, and it’s a really break-out role for her, so we hope whoever’s in the theater that night recognizes that.”

And tonight, people inside and outside the theater did exactly that.

Against a background of approving screams from fans and supportive banners — some in the crowd actually paid to cut in line — a beaming, composed Stewart stepped out on the red carpet wearing a sparkling floral Zuhair Murad dress and killer black heels.

Once the actress arrived she signed autographs for tons of fans for over an hour before posing for shots with co-stars Garrett Hedlund and Kirsten Dunst.

Kristen Stewart, Garrett Hedlund and Kirsten Dunst pose on the red carpet for On the Road at TIFF Sept 6, 2012

The starpower attending this year’s TIFF is huge. Tom Hanks, Jake Gyllenhaal, Colin Farrell, Ryan Gosling, Ralph Fiennes, Tom Hanks, Hugh Grant, Joss Whedon, Ben Affleck, Gwyneth Paltrow, Mark Ruffalo, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Tim Robbins, Bradley Cooper, Colin Firth, Maggie Smith and Christopher Walken among the names gathering in Toronto to support a line-up packed with strong Oscar contenders.

For the press, critics, stars, directors, writers, studios and movie buyers that have rolled into Canada’s biggest city, TIFF has quickly become known as a reliable Academy indicator. Sci-fi thriller Looper kicked off the festival today and the next 10 days are expected to reveal a crop of awards possibilities. It’s worth noting that the last five Best Picture winners screeened at TIFF before opening in theaters.

Wider Oscar musings aside, despite weeks of corrosive headlines and forebodings about her return, the undeniable roman candle of the night was Kristen Stewart. She’s back.

Stewart signed for fans over an hour outside Ryerson Theater

Directed by Brazilian director Walter Salles and adapted from Jack Kerouac’s classic 1951 beat novel, On The Road is a semi-autobiographical odyssey with three core characters at its heart. Writer, Sal Paradise (Sam Riley, in a role based on Jack Kerouac’s experiences on the road), Dean Moriarty (Garrett Hedlund) and Marylou (Kristen Stewart). Bound by a desire for freedom, this trio travel across 1950’s America burning for each other and experience itself. Released October 12 in the UK and December 21 in the U.S.