Kristen Stewart has emerged from teen queen status to star of the indie circuit. So how has she done it, asks Brogen Hayes.
With two films premiered at this year’s Cannes Film Festival — Woody Allen’s Café Society (released next week) and Oliver Assayas’ Personal Shopper — it is hard to deny that Kristen Stewart is an actress who is going from strength to strength.
Spending time in the south of France presenting work that she loves seems to be an experience that Stewart revels in — “It just feels so genuine here,” she gushes when asked about the festival — but just how good is it to be Kristen Stewart right now?
In the four years since the Twilight series ended, Stewart has pulled off something incredible, and reinvented herself from teen queen to indie darling.
Sitting down in the glamorous Carlton hotel in Cannes with the newly blonde actress feels like a typical Cannes experience; fans are camped outside the hotel to catch a glimpse of the former Twilight star, while inside, wearing a leather jacket that feels entirely too big for her petite frame, Stewart talks passionately and intimately about working with Woody Allen on Café Society, a film which she — even as one of the most famous faces in the world — had to audition for.
“I really appreciate auditioning for something,” she says, “because it kind of gives you a confidence, not only that you can do it but just that it’s the right fit with the director.”
Stewart’s character in Café Society, a young woman named Vonnie who finds herself torn between love with a man close to her own age (Jesse Eisenberg) and an older man who can give her security (Steve Carell), is a departure for Stewart.
This is not the first period film that the actress has starred in, nor is it the first time she has played a character caught up in a love triangle, but Vonnie feels very different from the elfin, talkative woman sitting across the table, something that Stewart herself acknowledges.
“Her mannerisms and demeanour are more outside my immediate go-to personality traits. I am far from a character actor, so everything I have done, including this… Vonnie was definitely in there somewhere. I wasn’t faking it.”
It certainly doesn’t feel as though Stewart is faking it, with Vonnie as luminous and enchanting as a woman caught between two lovers should be.
Perhaps this is down to Stewart reteaming with Jesse Eisenberg for Café Society – their previous films together being Adventureland’ in 2009 and last year’s American Ultra — and finding confidence in working with someone she knows.
“I feel genuinely like I could mess everything up and fall on my face and just be an idiot around him, and it’s still not embarrassing. Therefore I could really play someone who was light and buoyant and fun. My immediate defences are hard, and with him I don’t have them.”
Playing Bella Swan in the Twilight franchise may have been the cinematic phenomenon that launched Stewart’s career back in 2008, but the superstar fame that came with the wildly successful teen vampire flicks is obviously something the actress still struggles with.
“My interaction with fame has been that it’s put me in a place where I can work as often as I do.
"I am so unbelievably stimulated all the time, I wouldn’t trade it, but I think its fairly obvious that there’s the nuisance of not being able to walk around and having people already think they know you before they do, and having to rectify that with every single interaction.”
It’s not just the hair cut and colour that has moved Stewart away from her most famous character though.
Last year, she made history as the first American actress to win the French national film award, the César, for her work with Olivier Assayas on Clouds of Sils Maria, something that still seems to excite her.
“It’s crazy,” Stewart says, when asked how winning such an award made her feel.
“I look at other actors that have had a place here and they are all people that I identify with and idolise and look up to, so it’s a good group to be a part of.
“It makes sense; American filmmakers that I like do what they do for the same reasons as French filmmakers and more European filmmakers do.
"It’s just that there is more risk taken here and it’s not about making a bunch of money all the time; it genuinely is just about desire.
"You feel that, it’s so strong, it’s so obvious and the fact that there is a little place for me in that, it makes sense to me, but I am also so proud. It’s awesome.”
When she talks, it is very clear Stewart is a woman who has found her passion. Her jacket zips rattling as she gesticulates while talking, Stewart is a person who seems to think about life very deeply.
She is aware that her experience with acting and celebrity is one that not everyone has, while also being aware that two people who work in the public eye have different dealings with fame.
When asked whether Woody Allen was able to give her insight into how to deal with being constantly in the public eye, Stewart is immediately aware that she and the director come at fame from different angles.
“He was famous in a very different time” she says, referring to the fact that Allen’s career now spans more than six decades.
“We have had entirely different experiences with fame and the way we consume the reality show that is the entertainment industry.
"It has turned into something that it never was and I have been cast as a character that is fully developed by everyone but me, and I have a part in that, for sure.
“People’s impressions of me are not wrong, you can have a cumulative impression of me based on pictures or movies or interviews or whatever, and that is not wrong; that is a genuine impression of me that’s totally subjective.”
Always aware that she is dealing with the public, Stewart is quick to qualify her statement, saying: “It’s different. But it’s still worth it, but it’s not so simple.”
The good must outweigh the bad, however, as Stewart shows no signs of stepping out of the limelight any time soon.
As well as acting in Café Society and Personal Shopper, Stewart has also moved into the world of directing; she helmed a music video for Sage + The Saints in 2014, and is in the process of shooting a short film.
Working with digital publisher Refinery29, Stewart’s film is titled Water.
Details are scarce on the project at the moment, and the actress is keeping mum.
“I’d rather not talk about what it is about, it’s very short so I’d rather have it speak for itself.”
What we do know is that Refinery29 have commissioned 12 female directors, writers, and animators to create work around the theme of power dynamics, and Stewart’s project is one of these films.
Stepping behind the camera is not a new passion however, and hearing the actress talk so passionately about this new turn in her career, it is clear that director is a role she intends to explore.
“I have been wanting to make movies since I was a tiny little kid, since I was like 9 years old, and I was introduced to this environment that was so holy, in this weird way.
"The energy that’s put into a project when its done right is so precious, it’s as if everyone’s holding together this really breakable little object.
“I have followed people down roads that are so worthwhile, and so whole and I want to be the catalyst for that; I want to be responsible for it.”
As our time runs out Stewart is effulgent about the Cannes experience: “I love festivals, but this is the best one. Having two movies with people that I really dig so much is just really cathartic and nothing but awesome”.
Nothing but awesome.
It really is a good time to be Kristen Stewart.
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