Out of the darkness

Revelations about Kristen Stewart’s affair with director Rupert Sanders rocked her world. Will Lawrence meets the actress on the eve of the release of the final Twilight instalment.

WHAT SHOULD have proved a good year for Kristen Stewart has turned into something of a stinker in the wake of revelations a few months back that the 22-year-old actress had an affair with her director on Snow White and The Huntsman, Rupert Sanders.

The fling put her long-term relationship with boyfriend and Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson in jeopardy.

According to reports, the Twilight pair are back together and Stewart has lavished almost $2m on a Malibu mansion just a mile from Pattinson’s home. Some of the fallout from the news seems irreparable, however, and Stewart may have lost her place in the new Snow White franchise on the back of her indiscretion. The studio is still deciding what to do next.

All of which is something of a fly in the ointment for Stewart, who should be celebrating a massive year. Her fantasy action outing in Snow White and The Huntsman earned almost $400m at the worldwide box office, and this success would ordinarily have launched the actress into a second major franchise. She also appears in Walter Salles’ adaptation of cult novel On the Road, which opened last month.

Most important of all in terms of her career trajectory, however, is the fact that 2012 sees Stewart’s four-year stint in the Twilight saga finally draw to a close. With the release of the fifth film, Breaking Dawn Part 2, later this month Stewart will be free to spread her wings.

The teen vampire-werewolf movies have cemented her position as one of the most bankable young stars in Hollywood, but they’ve also overshadowed the more impressive work she’s done alongside them.

“People will always talk about the fact that I got really super-duper famous on Twilight,” Stewart says, in our interview just days before the affair revelations are printed in People magazine. “And if people that really love the books have a hard time seeing me in other parts, it’s kind of the ultimate compliment.

“But I’m sure that there are not too many people like that, and it hasn’t seemed to put a damper on anything to do with my personal experiences,” she adds. “I am so challenged; I’ve gotten myself into a position where I get to pick and choose my challenges, which is close to unparalleled.”

Such is her position Stewart has managed to get small indie films up and running, such as rock’n’roll movie The Runaways or Welcome to the Rileys, (“where people could go, ‘Let’s go see the Twilight girl play a stripper’,”) even as her vampire franchise rolled on. Now it’s almost over, she is in a position to pick and choose her movies.

“It’s very lucky and unique to be in that position,” says adds. “It doesn’t happen as an actor very often and if I didn’t have that, then I would be pissed off. If I didn’t have that, then I really would be worried. But Twilight, I’m really proud of it and hopefully people keep talking about it.”

People will be talking about Twilight for the next few weeks, that’s for sure, as Stewart and Robert Pattinson step out again under the glare of the world’s media to promote the movie. Neither of them will enjoy the questions about their private lives, with Stewart, in particular, fiercely private. Having started so young, she notes, she once felt exposed during her press rounds. “This feels much more reasonable now,” she says of today’s interview. “I know what I am talking about but there was a time before when I couldn’t figure why people were interested in me. Having done Snow White and On the Road — this by far the most interesting set of things I have done.

“I’m totally up for talking about them. But before you know how to limit yourself everything comes out and you feel very exposed. I feel more in control now. I can relax more.”

Stewart is more than comfortable talking Twilight, even though the last film in the series, in particular, has proved something of a challenge. Her character, Bella, has finally taken on vampire powers, and she’s a relatively new mum to boot, prompting all kinds of physical and emotional turmoil. Bella also has to cope with the fact that an enormous army of vampires is setting forth to kill her child.

“Bella has changed into a vampire when she was having a baby, or like just having popped it out, and so because of that, she’s got this steady nature that is so different from the one that Bella has,” the actress explains of her character’s final transformation.

“Bella is not very steady in the earlier part of the story, and now she also has the most feral type of protective nature you could ever imagine. There’s nothing stronger than a woman protecting her child.”

Especially when hundreds of vampires are after its blood. “Basically, now Bella is this very developed, mature version of what we all know her to be,” Stewart offers, “and at the same time, she is this very young, new animal, quite a baby herself in vampire terms, and she is figuring out how to use the tools that she has been given.

“She is like a 12-year-old getting into a six-speed sports car, and being like ‘Whoa, so that was fun’.”

The final instalment was filmed alongside last year’s release, Breaking Dawn Part 1, although it also required some re-shoots to up the dramatic and visual ante. While normally a passive observer when there’s action exploding on screen, this time around Stewart is caught up in the maelstrom.

“The physical work was tough,” she concedes, “especially the wires. Sometimes, you want to get as close as you can to those experiences. I want to feel as strong as Bella, but obviously, you can’t always do that for real.”

The high-speed running that features in the film, for example, is executed on treadmills. “Sometimes you have to fake certain things,” she says. “I really appreciated it when we weren’t on treadmills. I liked being able to actually run on the ground and get movement, actual space behind me.”

Was she ever scared by the wirework? “No, although I must say that some people really know how to use themselves like an instrument. They have got a lot of self-control, and then after that, they can really take credit for what they’ve done.

“I’m always like, ‘What just happened?’ and my nerves are really good for me. They push me really hard and if you watch someone get a little bit nervous and get launched off on a wire, it’s much more interesting than watching someone who is completely comfortable.

“Fear is good,” she adds. “You need to be comfortable being fearful and if you do everything very honestly. Mistakes are great. Often that’s when the most interesting things happen.”

Stewart is always thinking about her craft — she’s been acting on camera since childhood, having launched her career with David Fincher’s Panic Room in 2002, opposite Jodie Foster, and then Cold Creek Manor with Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone in the following year. Before Twilight she’d already shone in the likes of Speak (2004) and Sean Penn’s Into the Wild (2007).

“There’s really never a time when I am not actually working on a movie,” she says. “It’s not like you stop asking questions. There aren’t many answers, but there is that striving to figure it out and I’m always wondering how to turn something into something. I’m always taking from experience.”

The actress was about to start work on a movie called Cali, but put the project on hold until news of her indiscretion with Sanders had died down. She’s also unsure of her position with Snow White.

“I don’t know,” she says of a Snow White sequel. “I have a feeling, but it’s not something that I can say with certainty. I don’t think they [the studio] know either. But I am so ready to do that.” She laughs, “If you told me that there was a sequel for most of the films I do, I’d be like ‘Whoo!’ excited about it. I just like to work.”

Breaking Dawn Part 2 is released Friday

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