A fervent surfer who bears a striking resemblance to the young Jodie Foster, Kristen Stewart was poised to become a preteen star with her role opposite Foster in David Fincher's atmospheric thriller Panic Room (2002). A resident of Los Angeles, Stewart's nascent acting career got off to a promising start when she was cast in two vastly different films. Eschewing fluffy kids' movies, Stewart played troubled single mother Patricia Clarkson's tomboy daughter in independent film darling Rose Troche's tough examination of suburban angst, The Safety of Objects (2002). Stewart subsequently got her first taste of major Hollywood success with Panic Room. Replacing the original child actress cast as divorcée Meg's sullen, diabetic daughter Sarah, Stewart became an even more felicitous choice when original star Nicole Kidman dropped out and Foster stepped in. Though critics were less than ecstatic about the film, Stewart still garnered positive notice for her believable presence as Foster's offspring.
Following a supporting performance as the daughter of a couple who unknowingly move into a seemingly haunted house in the 2003 chiller Cold Creek Manor, Stewart took top billing in the emotionally charged drama Speak in 2004. Cast as a traumatized high school freshman whose status as a selective mute draws the concern of friends and family, Stewart's handling of the remarkably intimate material drew praise from critics and Sundance audiences. A subsequent role in Catch That Kid (a remake of the Danish blockbuster Klatretosen) found Stewart in super-spy mode as a scheming twelve-year-old who recruits a pair of friends to rob a high tech bank in hopes of paying for a life saving operation for her dying father.