They've squared off in Twilight's big-screen saga and rocked out side by side on stage as Joan Jett and Cherie Currie in The Runaways, a biopic in which both starlets shone. We think it's about time for a Kristen Stewart vs. Dakota Fanning showdown.
Round 1: Range
Fanning has far more range than you might expect from a 16-year-old -- until you remember she acted in her first film at age eight. From sadistic vampire telepath and psychic fugitive to jailbait rock star, rape victim, alien, little girl under attack by aliens, mentally handicapped man's daughter, and the animated heroine of a dark fairytale. Kristen Stewart also kicked off her screen career at eight. She's also done a turn as a jailbait rock star and rape victim, as well as the girlfriend of a vampire, a teleporter, and a wilderness adventurer. She's also done stripper, amusement park employee, and disappearing diabetic daughter. Both have tried their talents in similar genres, from science fiction and horror to comedy and drama, and have dug deep to deliver complex, compelling characters.
Winner: Dakota Fanning
On paper it's a tie. But in reality, though her resume boasts a diversity of characters and movie genres, we can't help but feel Kristen Stewart delivers them all with the same aloof, tough-yet-fragile, pensive persona -- as charismatic as it may be. Dakota Fanning is more of a chameleon.
Round 2: Star Stamina
A good measure of an actress' fortitude and skill is sometimes whether or not she can hold her own with her A-list colleagues and how often she's chosen to star with them. Kristen Stewart has held her own with Sean Penn, Robert De Niro, and Jodie Foster. Dakota Fanning, on the other hand, has also worked with Penn and De Niro as well as Tom Cruise, Forrest Whittaker, Denzel Washington, and Charlize Theron. Both Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning have received kudos from the big names they've brushed shoulders with on set.
Winner: Dakota Fanning wins by a smidge.
Round 3: Awards
Excusing her Twilight Razzie (it's Bella's fault), Kristen Stewart earned a 2008 Screen Actors Guild Award nom for her performance in Into the Wild. She also won this year's BAFTA rising star award and was included in Adventureland's 2009 Gotham Awards nom for best ensemble cast. Dakota Fanning, meanwhile, was the youngest person (at age eight) to be nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for I Am Sam. She also nabbed a 2006 Saturn Award for War of the Worlds and the Broadcast Critics Associate Award for best young actress/actor twice.
Winner: So far Dakota Fanning's garnered more total awards at 17 compared to six for Kristen Stewart, and neither can trump the other with an Oscar, so we're ruling in favor of Dakota Fanning again.
Round 4: The Future
For the most part both Dakota Fanning and Kristen Stewart seem capable of and partial to challenging and unique roles -- the stuff of Oscars. Neither has backed themselves into a rom-com, action-adventure, or any other film genre corner and both seem willing to take risks and test their abilities. Next for Kristen Stewart is a film based on Jack Kerouac's iconic book On the Road and K-11, in which she's rumored to play a transsexual prisoner with autism. That's bold! What's next for Dakota Fanning? Talk on the boulevard is she'll play Betsy to Al Pacino's Napoleon in the adaptation of the beloved children's book Betsy and the Emperor. She's also slated to slip into the deadly shoes of 17-year-old assassin Lily in Furious Angel.
Winner: We think they both have Oscar potential and are certainly aiming high enough to reach a golden boy someday soon, so we're calling this one a tie.
The Verdict: Dakota Fanning wins by a moderate margin, so far. Only time will tell who truly triumphs.