Interview: Kristen Stewart
After toiling in Hollywood for half her life, all of a sudden 18-year-old Kristen Stewart can get pretty much any role she wants. Something to do with a vampire movie, we’re told. This month, Stewart takes a break from snogging the undead to hang at a theme park in Adventureland
By Bob Strauss
Kristen Stewart finds herself in a dangerous world of powerful, seductive people. Some of them may really care for her, others just want her lifeblood for their own selfish needs. How’s a girl to tell?
In the megahit Twilight and its upcoming sequels, Stewart’s heroine Bella Swan has to follow her heart through the covens of vampires and werewolves she encounters to find true love. But on the very real, hazardous streets and casting stages of Hollywood, the 18-year-old L.A. native (who’s now one of the hottest young actors in town) will need a discerning brain to end up in one piece.
“You have to watch out for people in the business that want to get you on their project because they can’t get it made otherwise, and they really don’t care about working with you,” says Stewart during a Los Angeles interview on the eve of Twilight’s blockbuster theatrical release. Her delicate features and tousled hair belie the steely serious nature of a savvy acting vet who has been working professionally half her life.
“But sometimes I’ve fallen so in love with a character and there was nothing I could do to get the movie off the ground — so I just sort of sat and waited and hoped that I didn’t get too old to play the part,” adds Stewart. “I don’t think that’s going to happen anymore. I feel like, if I really want to do a movie now, I can.”
This month sees the release of Adventureland, one of several features Stewart worked on before Twilight made her bankable. But unlike some obscure movies that have tried to capitalize on her skyrocketing stardom (Didja catch The Yellow Handkerchief? Didn’t think so), this period coming-of-age story is likely to enhance Stewart’s reputation, not just feed off it.
Adventureland pairs Stewart, sort of, with The Squid and the Whale’s estimable Jesse Eisenberg as downscale theme-park employees searching for themselves, love and more than a few good highs during the summer of 1987. Though directed by Superbad’s Greg Mottola and featuring a wacky supporting cast that includes Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig, the film has serious issues for its young leads to deal with.
From left: Bill Hader, Martin Starr,
Kristen Wiig and Kristen Stewart
In the case of Stewart’s Em, it’s an awful father and stepmother and an
affair with an older, untrustworthy musician. And, of course, there’s
pressure on Em to relieve Eisenberg’s pothead James of his virginity.
“Em’s sort of like a little, beat-up puppy…. But maybe more like a
kitten, because she’s defiant, she’s not broken,” says Stewart.
“Otherwise, she’s just Jesse Eisenberg’s little love interest, I
suppose. She works at the park that he begins work at, and they sort of
go through this summer together.”
tailor-made for an actor who famously wrestled with Twilight director
Catherine Hardwicke over Bella’s hokier lines of dialogue. And who,
when she was a kid, acted too independently to get jobs on highly
controlled, cookie-cutter Disney shows.
That’s just how little Kristen was, and while she wasn’t about to
change herself to further her acting career, it made her early efforts
frustrating to the point where she was about to give up.
“I was still nine when I got my first job,” a role in the indie film The Safety of Objects, Stewart recalls. “But I was almost done with it because I’d been doing auditions for a year and I figured nothing was going to happen. That was a long time to give it a crack. But I had some really good auditions and they felt great, so that’s what kept me going.”
She also had the support of two show-business veterans at home; dad John is a stage manager for Fox Studios and her Australian-born mother, Jules Mann-Stewart, did script continuity. (Mann-Stewart has written, and is preparing to direct, one of those movies her daughter hopes to get off the ground now, a prison drama in which Kristen would play a transsexual). She still lives with her parents and has been dating fellow actor Michael Angarano (The Forbidden Kingdom) for several years now.
Good film jobs have come steadily since Stewart got that first gig. Her second role was a high-profile one as Jodie Foster’s daughter in Panic Room, and after that she laid a sturdy career foundation of children’s movies (Catch that Kid, Zathura), fright flicks (Cold Creek Manor, The Messengers) and credibility-building indie dramas (Undertow, Fierce People, Into the Wild).
She knew nothing about Stephenie Meyer’s wildly popular series of vampire novels until she was approached to be in Twilight while on the Pittsburgh set of Adventureland.
“I frequent used book stores,” Stewart says with a shrug. “So I never saw the big signs for Twilight, and it was through the movie that I became aware of it.”
Despite her wised-up attitude and mile-wide, so-not-in-the-mainstream streak, Stewart seems to have genuinely fallen in love with Bella. She obsessed with Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson about Bella and her conflicted lover Edward’s every motivation. Stewart got so emotionally involved that, for her own mental good, she refused to read the second book in Meyer’s series, New Moon, until the movie’s sequel got underway. It’s slated for release in November.
“I had to live this for three months,” Stewart says with evident sincerity. “And even after that, I wasn’t ready to walk away from it. I needed to really take a breath. I knew, at the end of that movie, that if I started the second book I’d be paralyzed; I’d be like, ‘Okay, when do we get to start making the second one?’ It was too much.
“Until they told me they were ready to make the second one, I couldn’t start work on it. And I’d heard all the details of the second, third and fourth books, so I feel like I know it. But I didn’t want to go through her neuroses until I had to; it’s like a very detailed journal, her account, it’s not just like a general story that I could read. It’s very personal.”
Hmm. Should we be worrying about this girl? Nah. As mentioned earlier, despite fragile appearances, Kristen Stewart seems to have things pretty well figured out.
“I don’t have that schizophrenic, Daniel Day Lewis type thing, where he really feels that he becomes these people for a while,” she clarifies. “I feel like I’m a spokesperson, that only I know this person well enough to portray it. So at the end of a movie, at least when you feel like you’ve hopefully done the character justice, you miss them almost like a buddy. Said like this, it sounds sort of nutcase. But I do miss characters. It’s fine though; it doesn’t take long to get over it.”
Bob Strauss lives in Los Angeles where he writes about movies and filmmakers.