Nikki Reed has enjoyed both critical and commercial successes during the course of her still-young career, but lately the actress seems to be more famous for her personal endeavors than her screen time. So, what happened to make the Twilight alum’s career turn as stone cold as the vampire she portrayed in the hit book-to-film series? Here are some theories as to why Hollywood has lost its thirst for Nikki Reed.
She hit her stride early
Reed’s very first foray into show business came by way of her own hand as she co-wrote the screenplay for the semi-autobiographical indie film Thirteen (2003) when she was just 15 years old. Reed had enjoyed a longstanding personal relationship with then-Hollywood crewmember Catherine Hardwicke, who witnessed the personal experiences that shaped the story firsthand and helped her write the script and earn her first starring role.
Hardwicke told the BBC that she’d known Reed since she was five years old and that when she hit her teen years, her attitude needed some serious adjusting. "She used to be this fun, cool, great kid, and now she was trouble and she hated everybody. She was waking up at 4.30 in the morning to do two and half hours of hair and makeup before school," she explained. It was then that Hardwicke envisioned a future for Reed in the film biz and suggested she pursue acting lessons to get her start. "I thought I had to get her interested in something, so I found her an acting coach. I told her that good actors write their own material, and that we should write our own script together. We decided to write about the real stuff that was happening to her and her friends, not the fake, sugar-coated version. Nikki was originally going to play the lead part of Tracy, but nobody else was as sophisticated and sexy as Nikki—that’s why we cast her in the role of Evie."
The film was indeed a huge success for both women, as it launched both Hardwicke’s mantle as a director and Reed’s acting career, with an Independent Spirit Award for Best Debut Performance in her pocket to boot. Ever since that movie, Reed has apparently had a bit of writer’s block as she has yet to replicate such work as a screenwriter, but her thespianism was just beginning.
Such young stardom put a lot of pressure on her, though
Thanks to her work on the script and the screen in Thirteen, Reed certainly became one to watch after the film’s release and later told Nylon that the sudden attention she received right away was difficult for her to process at the time. "It was a feeding frenzy, and I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t understand what was happening. I didn’t have any media training—I didn’t have anybody but myself," she told the mag. "I was a very sensitive kid who then had to condition myself to desensitize."
Reed elaborated on the subject in an interview with Yahoo, in which she explained that she initially shied away from the spotlight as a result of her first brush with the fame game and instead went back to high school and prioritized her own well-being before any of those new career options. "I made a conscious decision between films: Instead of staying in town and capitalizing on the momentum and all that, I put my life, my desire to explore and go on adventures, and to develop myself, all before my actual career," she said. "Hopefully, I’ll always have work, but I have to close my eyes and go with what my heart wants. I have to do what feels good to my soul, and that’s why I’m always in school. I’m enrolled in a different college course online all the time, because I’d rather spend my time studying and doing homework for a class that won’t necessarily take me anywhere because it’s not for a degree, but I do it because I want to acquire knowledge."
Despite her trepidation, she eventually began steadily working in front of the cameras, starring in Hardwicke’s next feature film Lords of Dogtown (2005) and landing a recurring role in the hit teen soap The O.C. in 2006, but she had trouble finding the same kind of critical laud-worthy footing as she’d enjoyed in Thirteen, as her small-time starring vehicles, like Mini’s First Time (2006) and Cherry Crush (2007) simply didn’t earn her the same kind of critical praise as her debut appearance did.
Twilight was both a blessing and a curse
Thanks, no doubt, to her close affiliation with Hardwicke, Reed was a shoo-in for a role in Twilight (2008), the adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s vampire saga books which zapped right into the zeitgeist after the first film was an unexpected box office smash. Reed was cast as Rosalie Hale, the impossibly beautiful adopted sister to sparkly heartthrob Edward Cullen, and once the film became a full-on star-making phenomenon, Reed’s status as an "it" girl was officially solidified.
There was a downside to her part in the Saga too, though. Some fans of the book series vehemently opposed the selection of Reed for the role of the blonde stunner—Olivia Wilde was largely considered the best fit for the part by readers, at the time—which gave Reed some serious confidence issues. As she told Yahoo, "this role was supposed to be characterized as the ‘most beautiful woman in the world.’ That’s how the part was written. And when you’re cast to play that character with that description, there’s an inevitable amount of external and internal criticism. Suddenly, you’re wondering if you’re able to play that, and you’re listening to the rest of the world say, ‘That’s not who I would describe as the most beautiful woman!’" Reed ultimately realized that the standards of beauty set by the character’s description were quite literally impossible and was able to brush her shoulders off, but it was still a heavy burden to bear.
To make matters worse, the character was also quite off-putting and cruel at times, which may have blurred the lines between Reed’s real-life personality and the one she portrayed on-screen in the eyes of the same community of doubters, meaning she might not have walked away from the franchise with as enthusiastic a following as some of her former co-stars.
Her follow-up films just have not done well
Perhaps if Reed had nabbed the central role of Bella Swan in the Twilight Saga, things would be different for her coming away from the series. That’s certainly proven to be true for the now-internationally-renowned Kristen Stewart. However, those films pegged her for more an ensemble actress than a leading lady, and the trend has since stuck. Whereas before the Twilight Saga, she was near to becoming typecast as a central provocateur by way of Mini’s First Time and Cherry Crush, after Twilight, her roles have been more secondary in nature. And even those movies she has nabbed parts in have floundered.
Put plainly, Reed has had some serious trouble nabbing a subsequent movie that didn’t go straight-to-streaming or get shunned by reviewers. Among her most major misses since becoming a household name for millions of Twilighters were: Chain Letter (2010), which got slammed by critics and made virtually no money; Catch .44 (2011), which boasted a strong actor line-up but never made it to theaters; and Empire State (2013), which is one of the few Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson films that didn’t blow up at the box office.
All told, Reed has had only two films that have passed critical muster, and even those—In Your Eyes (2014) and Balls Out (2015)—never saw the light of day when it came to theatrical releases. In fact, since The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 (2012) hit theaters, Reed’s face has yet to be featured on the big screen again where most audiences are concerned. That lack of cinematic exposure is a momentum-killer, to say the least.
She’s dabbled in music, too
At the tail end of the Twilight films, Reed began to take up the mantle of a musician, thanks in part to her former marriage to American Idol alum Paul McDonald. The two collaborated on an EP together, the first single of which ("Now That I’ve Found You") hit airwaves in 2011. The pair were featured together on the soundtrack for The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2 for their single, "All I’ve Ever Wanted," and Reed further explored her interest in the musical arts by co-directing the music video for Hanson’s "Get the Girl Back" in 2013. Even after the dissolution of her marriage to McDonald, Reed continued to pursue her newfound passion for music by releasing another album with him titled I’m Not Falling in 2014 and later branching off into a solo career with the release of her 2015 track, "Fly WIth You."
She told Nylon about her standalone song, "There was something so beautiful and honest about what Paul and I created, but there’s no denying that it had a very different feel from this. It’s just as real and as raw, but I connected with this music in a totally different way. It’s a new chapter for me." Unfortunately, that has failed to transpire into a full-on second career for her (yet).
She’s also a designer on multiple mediums
Another of the many hats that Reed has professionally worn is her work as a designer. The actress wrote that creating a line of accessories was the fulfillment of a lifelong interest because, "some of my earliest memories are of my mother sitting behind her sewing machine making clothes for my brother and I when we couldn¹t afford to buy the cool stuff that was sold in stores. When I was old enough to help, we would go downtown together and buy fun colored beads to string on elastic, and voila, I had my first jewelry line."
Her Matlin Era line with Glam Boutique was launched in 2012, and she continued in that interest by launching another collection that helps to raise funds and awareness for her current husband Ian Somerhalder’s environmental organization, the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, this time with pieces that were specifically inspired by animals. She also went on to launch a brand of vegan handbags called Freedom of Animals, which touted its cruelty-free material sourcing. Speaking of which …
Her focus has simply been shifted from Hollywood lately
A casual review of Reed’s Instagram feed should alert any spectator as to what she cares most about at present. Like Somerhalder, Reed has become a vocal proponent of humanitarian, animal welfare and environmental causes, ranging from her strange "Give a S***" campaign video which launched in 2011 to her vocal support of the Ian Somerhalder Foundation to her appearance on programs that support eco-awareness, like Years of Living Dangerously. Reed has also worked for years as an ambassador for the Humane Society of the United States, where she’s been the face of the organization’s effort to convince Costco to go cage-free with their controversial egg sales.
She told Eluxe magazine that the wealth of her philanthropic reach and sense of personal reflection is highly reflective of her priorities right now. "As I got older, and I found my ‘voice,’ I became more and more vocal about what I was seeing and hearing. I only recently became more involved in environmental issues, as my husband is my greatest source of inspiration and his foundation, which launched shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit, is very much focused on that. I am learning alongside everyone else, I just happen to be hungry for the knowledge as I discover more and more about the degradation of our planet caused by us humans," she explained. "After realizing the power of listening to the universe, I have been asking myself one question every morning. I find that, somehow, I am met with an answer. We live a very fast-paced, chaotic life, with tons of travel, different personalities, long hours, a lot of ambition, and nine fur babies. Finding quiet time is essential. I also work out. I find things that make me feel strong. I climb a mountain, I ride my bike, I run half marathons. I try to challenge myself. Reading is also extremely important. I know I have too much going on when I can’t focus on a book, and it’s a good reminder to slow down."
Her personal life has earned some ire
Although Reed’s definitely blossomed into a bona fide do-gooder, she’s still faced more than her fair share of publicized personal drama over the years. Not only was she smack dab in the middle of the Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart relationship rumor mill during the Twilight days, which did not earn her many points with the Robsessed members of the crowd, but she also found herself in a second gossip-frenzied love triangle storyline when it came to her relationship with now-husband Ian Somerhalder.
Somerhalder had famously dated his The Vampire Diaries co-star Nina Dobrev for several years before the pair split and he sparked up a relationship with Reed. The problem? Reed and Dobrev had previously been Instagram-official friends, so when Dobrev ditched out on the show shortly after their marriage, many fans cried foul on Reed’s relationship with Somerhalder. Once the pair wed after a few months of dating in 2015, Dobrev claimed there was no big drama which separated her from Somerhalder and even claimed to be "happy" for the then-newlyweds. However, her words have done little to quash the tabloid speculation of disdain between Reed and Dobrev, which has in turn caused something of a stain on Reed’s reputation.
She’s making a comeback, behind the scenes
Shortly after their marriage, Reed and Somerhalder decided to team up on a professional level as well, launching their company Rare Bird Films in 2015. The title of the company, Somerhalder said, is a tribute to their shared personal mantra of being "rare birds flying through the world nesting all over the place together and laying eggs." The kitschiness of that philosophy notwithstanding, their company did land a deal with Warner Bros. Television in 2016 (which houses The CW, home to The Vampire Diaries), which will allow them to develop new small screen properties for the network.
About the feat, Reed wrote, "So excited to get the chance to produce amazing (& socially conscious) TV … Now you know where we’ve been hiding!!" Perhaps Reed, whose short-lived run on Sleepy Hollow ended her near-decade hiatus from TV, will provide herself a second career wind for her the small screen thanks to this deal … which would certainly be an interesting development, given that it was her behind-the-scenes work on her first film which kicked things off to begin with. Don’t count her out just yet.