The public has always had a love-hate relationship with Kristen Stewart. Though we loved her as Twilight’s Bella, it was hard to warm to Stewart, personally. She twitched and stammered her way through TV interviews, she seemed sullen and uncomfortable when making public appearances, and otherwise behaved like a very ungracious movie star.
This year, however, Stewart has chosen to respond to her critics in both word and deed. Not only has she adopted a more confident and articulate persona when speaking to the media, she has also delivered a series of outstanding performances in films like Camp X-Ray, and Clouds of Sils Maria, co-starring Chloë Grace Moretz and Juliette Binoche (where she’s received applause both abroad and at Film Festivals across the U.S.—due in limited theaters April 10, 2015) and most notably in her newest film, Still Alice, co-starring Julianne Moore.
An intense and moving drama, Still Alice sees Stewart play the troubled daughter of a college professor (Moore) afflicted with early onset Alzheimer’s and how their relationship evolves over the course of the illness. Critics have given both actresses rave reviews for their highly sensitive work in the film. Stewart believes that the role is “very close” to her own nature, and came at a time when she claims to have finally overcome her high anxiety over the trappings of fame.
“I feel a lot stronger and more comfortable with the process,” Stewart declares. “I’ve been working really hard and I’m really happy with the way things have been going. I’ve become a lot better able to deal with everything that my job involves and understanding the reality of it. I’m not overwhelmed by it all anymore and it’s easier for me to put it into context and talk about it and not let it [her celebrity] get to me.”
This kind of declaration is a measure of the 24-year-old Stewart’s refusal to be defined by a distorted perception of herself as a surly and ungrateful celebrity. Instead, she has thrown down the gauntlet and challenged the public to accept her as a highly independent woman who finally feels comfortable in her own skin—even though she admits to lacking the gift for self-promotion.
“I’m not very good at playing up to what people expect from me. I know I’m not good at doing TV, and the way I present myself… but it’s also not something that I aspire to being good at. I know that some actors fucking love doing that, but I’m not that interested in promoting myself. I would rather have people focus on the film and hope that people appreciate the work I do, rather than just have all the attention put on me.”
What we are witnessing today is Stewart’s transformation from a skittish nymphet into a confident, albeit still fidgety, movie star who has declared herself ready to assume the responsibilities of stardom and is no longer terrified of the limelight.
Ever since she exploded into the public consciousness with the Twilight films, it was plain that she was not your ordinary sort of movie star. In an age of Kardashian-style media mongering, Stewart hated the wave of attention that descended on her and turned her then-romance with Robert Pattinson into tabloid fodder.
Then her world came crashing down with the sensational revelation of her affair with Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders, via photos of their secret assignations. Stewart was branded a cheater and a home-wrecker and a massive backlash followed in the wake of her split from Pattinson. Often caught unsmiling and shabbily dressed by the paparazzi, she became saddled with the image of the surly celebrity. Her Hollywood fairytale had turned into an ugly soap opera.
As fate would have it, Stewart has rebounded from her epic fall from grace by doing what she does best—acting. Her recent string of stellar performances leaves little doubt that Stewart is a brilliant actress with a bright future. Currently single and living in L.A., Kristen is now planning to take some time off to focus on working on short films, sculpture, and different ways of “being creative.” While filming Equals, a sci-fi love story co-starring Nicholas Hoult (Jennifer Lawrence’s ex-boyfriend), rumors of a real-life affair between Stewart and Hoult turned out to have no basis in fact.
THE KRISTEN STEWART FILE
ON HER NEW FILM, STILL ALICE
“I felt we were doing something important with this film, by drawing attention to Alzheimer’s, and it was a very meaningful role for me. It was one of those situations where you feel so lucky to be doing something you love and enjoying every moment of that experience. I live for these kinds of things.”
“[My character] definitely resembles me, because I didn’t try otherwise. There was no effort on my part to hide myself [in Still Alice]. All I tried to do with this part was to find myself and show myself. The best way to service this character was to be there honestly, so all affectations were meaningless. I could just have my own. It was selfishly a personal experience, but it had to be, so that the viewer would feel it as well. I didn’t need to play a character who was outside myself...I didn’t want to riddle her with shit that was going to distract you from the honesty of the relationship [with Moore’s character].
“It was amazing to watch Julie [Julianne Moore] work and create this performance. You could feel it on the set—everyone in the cast and crew was aware of how good she was. Julie was so prepared and emotionally invested in her character and that’s what the great actresses are able to do—they understand everything they need to know about the character and then let their emotions take over. With Julie, she’s completely in the moment and you can’t “see” the performance or the mechanics behind it, because it’s so seamless.”
“Julie is a very inspiring woman. Every day working with her was such a gift and a pleasure. I wanted to be able to get to the point where my performance was what was necessary to help Julie achieve what she wanted to do and what the story needed. In that kind of situation, you are so blown away about how good and intense the performance is that you feel an obligation to be as committed as you can be, and I wanted to make sure that I was doing everything I could to do her story justice.”
“Being pushed to that level was fun and that’s when actors are at their best when someone has this ability to work at such a high level and you’re feeling this rush of adrenaline that makes you want to work at the same level and not let her down.”
ON HER EVOLUTION AS TWILIGHT’S BELLA
“It’s very rare that you get to play a character over the course of so many films. Bella meant a lot to me and she will always be such a formative event in my career. I grew up with her and she and I have been on this great journey together. When she becomes a vampire, she is really becoming the most fully developed and expressed version of her human self. It was a transition that she was determined and even desperate to make.”
“People identify with Bella’s journey and how she finally arrives at that stage of her life where she’s not completely sure of what she’s doing, but she has this instinctive understanding of where she needs to go in life.”
“I also see many parallels between her evolution and my own, because I lived so many things along the way while playing Bella and having this connection to so many people involved in making the films over the years. It would be impossible for me to separate my world from Bella’s.”
“I was scared of so many things [during her years working on Twilight]. I was not overcompensating but just compensating.”
ON HOW SHE FEELS MISUNDERSTOOD
“I’m not saying that anyone’s impression of me is wrong (that would be a silly thing to say), but initially I was deemed very ungrateful, like I didn’t care. It’s a thing. Think anything about me—do NOT think that I don’t care. It was because I was nervous and I was freaking out that everyone was fucking staring at me.”
“Initially, [doing interviews] was just kind of impossible. When you’re put on the spot and you can’t think… it was a ridiculous version of that. It blew up in my face. It’s hilarious that the perception is that I don’t care, because when that was happening, I was like: ‘Oh my god, no one cares more than me!’”
“I feel [the eyes watching me], but it doesn’t freak me out anymore. I’ve trained myself to not worry about it or feel stressed by that, because there’s nothing I can do to change that, so I might as well be cool about it and not let myself feel uncomfortable.”
“I don’t try to control the perception of me or make people think a certain way about me... I don’t know how people do that. I don’t know how people tactfully traverse their careers. I don’t know how they choose, “Well, this is a different side of me people have not seen and so I will present that to them now,” [when doing interviews]. It’s like, ‘Why are you doing this for other people? You should be doing it for yourself.’ And so I’ve functioned from that position since I started.”
“It’s like a soap opera. I try not to let it mess with me, because my true personal life, as much as people think they know about it, they don’t know dick shit. Who could? Nobody knows what the fuck is going on. You’re going to die. You’re going to lay next to the people that you know the most in life, the people that you’re going to grow old with. But you’re going to lay next to them in the middle of the night deeply curious about them and who they are, because nobody fucking knows anything!”
“I understand that the media is geared to creating a narrative about the celebrities they write about, but people should understand that often the stories have very little truth to them, and that people have no idea what’s really going on inside someone else’s life. Unless you’re very close to someone, you know how difficult it is to really understand what’s going on in that person’s life. It’s also very rare that things are all black or all white. The truth is often very complicated and I try not to get upset when it comes to stories about me, because I know it’s simply the way the media operates.”
“You don’t know who you will fall in love with. You just don’t. You don’t control it. Some people have certain things like: ‘That’s what I’m going for,’ and I have a subjective version of that. I don’t pressure myself... If you fall in love with someone, you want to own them—but really, why would you want that? You want them to be what you love. I’m much too young to even have an answer for that question.”
ON HER HATERS
“Honestly, I don’t care. It’s fine. I’m really happy doing what I’m doing. I’m sure there are a ton of people out there who would hate my movies even if they saw all those, just as I’m sure there are people out there who are obsessed with Twilight and say, ‘I watched the series, and she completely let me down, and then I watched every one of her other movies, and I fuckin’ hate her!’ And that’s cool! Just don’t watch my movies.”
ON DEFENDING THE NOTION OF FEMINISM
“Do you not believe in equality for men and women? [The backlash against the notion of ‘feminism’] is a response to overly-aggressive types. There are a lot of women who feel persecuted and go on about it, and I sometimes am like, ‘Honestly, just relax, because now you’re going in the other direction.’ Sometimes, the loudest voice in the room isn’t necessarily the one you should listen to. By our nature alone, think about what you’re saying and say it—but don’t scream in people’s faces, because then you’re discrediting us. [Some women say]: ‘If you want to make it in the film industry as a woman, you have to be a bitch.’ No, you are going to ruin any chance you have and give us a bad name. It’s the overcompensation to which our generation responds, ‘Relax,’ because it’s been easier for us, and because we don’t have as much of the anger, so it’s like we can’t get behind it and it’s a bit embarrassing. But that being said, it’s a really ridiculous thing to say you’re not a feminist.”
ON LOVING ACTING, BUT LOATHING FAME
“I initially wanted to get into this business by working on a film crew, like my parents did, and I loved being on a movie set. But because I was so young at the time, acting was my only way in, and things evolved from there. I love film so much that I didn’t think or care that much about the fame that sometimes comes with it. I love acting, but sometimes you would rather be able to live a more normal life and not have to worry about where you go.”
[Fame]: “That’s all I’ve really wanted. I’ve already had more attention than I ever imagined possible, and even when I was starting out in the business, I never wanted to be famous.”
“Even with all the success I’ve had, I don’t feel any different from the girl I was before I became famous. It’s hard for me to analyze it and compare how my life would have been if Twilight hadn’t happened, although when I look at where I am, I can at least say I’m pretty happy with how far I’ve come...”
“I don’t think I can ever step outside myself fully. It’s not the type of acting I want to do. I’ve been lucky enough to be allowed to do this. Everyone can tell me that I run my hand through my hair too much, and that’s fine, because I’m truly there and very present in these moments. With the roles I’ve been playing, especially recently in films like Sils Maria and Still Alice, the way to do those parts justice is to just really be them and to learn the things they’re learning. You’ve got to walk in their shoes for real and experience what they experience. In that regard, I didn’t feel like I was playing characters. They were so there for me, I just wanted to live in them.”
ON ONE OF HER FAVORITE ROLES –
MARYLOU IN ON THE ROAD
“[When I began work on the film, On The Road], I asked myself: ‘Oh my God, how am I going to play such a bubbly person?’ I felt very different from her, especially from her outward self. Marylou was constantly smiling; she shined. As soon as I knew where that smile came from, it became much easier for me. It’s not a vanity thing. She was aware of herself physically, but she was able to throw that out. Whereas most girls who smile are smiling at themselves, she’s truly smiling at you.”
“It truly was the most absolutely loaded, richest, craziest, wildest time I ever spent on a set. It didn’t feel like we were doing a movie... We were exhausted. We didn’t sleep—ever. I don’t know how we did some of those scenes... It really felt spontaneous, like “on the road” should always feel. Our trip would have been worth doing, even if we weren’t filming it.”
“I was so dead. It was very hot in Montreal at the time, and we had 60 extras in the little room we were shooting. I was able to shake my nerves for all the other scenes, but for [the dance scene], I was very nervous, because I’m not a dancer. But it was my job to lose my mind. I wanted so badly to get to the point where I couldn’t see. Every single time I thought I was going to fall over, someone caught me. It scared the hell out of me, but at the same time it was the most fun thing I’ve ever done.”
ON FAME, TWITTER, AND NOT WANTING
TO TURN INTO A BAGS OF CHIPS
“With some people, you wonder why they’re still doing what they’re doing. What is driving you at this point? The job takes a toll. You’re giving so much of yourself all the time. It’s not something in your genetics that you retain. It can really kind of destroy you, constantly thinking about what people think about you.”
“People who want to be movie stars—it’s such bullshit. That type of life is a huge driving force in so many actor’s lives. But they won’t be happy people at the end, ‘cause they’re not doing anything for themselves.”
“What would I Tweet about? Who are you talking to? What are you saying? Imagine sitting here right now and thinking: ‘That’s a good thing to say to the world?’ (Glancing at her phone) What?! I can’t even understand it.”
“It’s annoying that people think, ‘Oh, is this the role where she’s going to show everyone how she’s grown?’ I’m not trying to show anyone anything... When I take on a role, I don’t care what people think about them afterwards. I really want the experience. I think a lot of actors—not good ones—are just product-oriented, as is the business. Never, at any point, have I sat down and plotted how I should proceed from here on. As soon as you start thinking about your career as a trajectory—like, as if you’re going to miss out on some wave or momentum—then you’re never doing anything for yourself anyway. Then you’re truly, actually, specifically working for the public. You’re turning yourself into a bag of chips.”
ON HER FUTURE
AND HOW EVERY DOOR IS OPEN TO HER
“I have very much fallen into every situation, every creative and not creative experience that I have delved into based on gut. I can get any role with a snap of my fingers, and I don’t have to fight and struggle on my way up, like some other actors.”
“I imagine a huge map with lots of streets and roads, and the only thing I have to do is choose: Where do I want to stay? Every door is open for me. Everything I do, I do for myself. Blockbuster, art-house or Chanel commercial—it doesn’t matter. It could seem that, after a successful movie, I can allow myself anything. And you know what? I can! It’s incredible! I can do anything I fucking want.”
“I’m taking some time off, because I’ve been working for two years. I’m an actor and that’s my art form, and because I started that so young, I’ve always felt intimidated and insufficient when I think about other forms of art I want to create. I’m going to buy a work space in downtown L.A. and I’m going to make some [stuff] with my hands, literally. I made that decision a few weeks ago. I’m making a short film. I’m making a bunch of [stuff]. I don’t know how I’ll put it out. But I’m not going to hold it so preciously close to me.”
“Now, I really have no apprehension about anything, which is great. I can get behind all of my creative endeavors more so than ever before. I’m super-happy and challenged, and inspired and relaxed.”