[Editor’s Note: This feature originally ran during the 2014 Cannes Film Festival. "Clouds of Sils Maria" opens this Friday, April 10 in select theaters.]
READ MORE: Kristen Stewart on Finding Herself Through Her Roles
"It’s annoying that people think, ‘Oh, is this the role where she’s going to show everyone how she’s grown?,’" Kristen Stewart told Indiewire last Friday in Cannes. "I’m not trying to show anyone anything."
The actress was feeling a bit defensive following the world premiere of her latest post-"Twilight" indie, Olivier Assayas’ "Clouds of Sils Maria," and you can’t blame her. Ever since shooting to worldwide fame after being cast as Bella Swan in the "Twilight" franchise, it’s arguable that no actress has received more attention — often for the wrong reasons — than Stewart.
Up until the first "Twilight" entry, Stewart had endeared herself to many with her bracing work in David Fincher’s "Panic Room" and Sean Penn’s "Into the Wild." As soon as "Twilight" hit the scene, turning her into a supernova overnight, she became better known for her romance with co-star Robert Pattinson than her craft. She kept busy working in between the five "Twilight" installments, appearing memorably alongside the late James Gandolfini in 2010’s "Welcome to the Ridleys," and in 2012’s "On the Road," which also premiered at Cannes. But it’s been her post-"Twilight" projects that have drawn the most attention to the actress — attention she’s trying her best to manage.
First came the Sundance prison drama "Camp X-Ray," and now "Clouds of Sils Maria," in which Stewart shares the screen with Juliette Binoche, playing her character’s overworked assistant. "Clouds of Sils Maria" was better received by critics, yet both were met with countless articles on how Stewart fared in the film, and whether her performance boded well for a long career ahead. (Just last week, Criticwire ran an article titled "Will Kristen Stewart Finally Get Her Due With ‘Clouds of Sils Maria’?") Despite her many years the business, Stewart still finds herself having to prove that it’s her talent that got her to where she is today, and not the twihards.
That struggle was evident during a roundtable interview Stewart did with select press at Cannes the afternoon following the competition screening of "Clouds." No longer visibly press-shy as she was when promoting the first few "Twilight" films, Stewart took to the roundtable with a passion that was palpable in the way she articulated her candid responses to each question. It’s clear there’s some fight in her. Below are the highlights:
She doesn’t think of her projects as "products."
"I am obsessed with ignoring the idea that we’re creating products. I really choose every single project I do based on the desire, and based on really just wanting to experience making that story happen."
She’s using her celebrity as a tool.
"I just directed this music video with my friend, and it’s going to be made to be something that it’s not. It’s something I did in four days, it was a fun little story, and it’s going to get more attention than whatever it’s supposed to get. I think it’s just something to play on. If you can’t change it, then don’t be afraid of it — push harder!"
She loves blockbusters just as much as small indies — as long as they’re good.
"It’s so possible to make a [big] movie that is meaningful and truthful, and putting it in a sort of heightened setting, to really take ideas that mean something to us but making them more effective by putting them in an odd world. Using conventions to make things hit harder.
"I also just like really like big movies. I’m American, I grew up on them. But I also want them to be really good. I think that that’s totally possible. When you’re not completely product obsessed, I think it’s possible."
She’s doesn’t get too close for comfort with her assistants like Juliette Binoche’s character in "Clouds."
"I have had an assistant. While we were making the ‘Twilight’ movies, I did a movie in between each of them, so I needed someone who I could ask things like, ‘Can you go help me buy some toilet paper?’
"I haven’t gotten as close. I have seen it though. It’s something that’s familiar to me. Actors become super isolated. Again, I’m not fucking complaining about it. But you have a very unique perspective on things because people don’t talk to you. They feel like they can’t come up and say, ‘Hi.’ Suddenly you’re incredibly lonely. So people hire friends for these jobs, and then the lines get blurred. They’re your co-worker, your employee, your associate, your friend, your mom sometimes.
"In the case of the film, what I think makes it interesting is you have these two women who are codependent and obsessed with each other in many ways. And they don’t fit into the normal categories of what we all know relationships to be. Our relationship should have a category. What the movie is about is having a very unique relationship in a very esoteric world, and having a really hard time gauging why it’s happening and how to deal with it. Knowing that it’s unhealthy and you should be getting those things elsewhere, and how that polarizes you and how at the exact time, it brings you so fucking close together."
She got a tattoo after the making of "Clouds of Sils Maria."
"I got this because of this film," Stewart said after being asked about her new tattoo on her right forearm. "I gave Valentine [her character in the film] tattoos for the film, so I had transfers made. You don’t know anything about Valentine, it’s all about Maria [Binoche’s character]. And that’s a huge aspect of the story, is that she never focuses on herself. They never talk about her life, ever. I wanted to show little indications of, ‘Who is that?’ Instead of just playing an assistant that was generic. She has interests, she’s going to places, you just don’t know where they are. And so I got so attached to this one that I got it."
"This is part of ‘Guernica,’" she said of the tattoo itself. "It’s a Picasso painting that I saw when I was 18 and in Madrid. It fucking floored me and it’s the first time I responded to a piece of art like that. It is just perfect for me. I love what it makes me think of. It’s like ‘keep going, and keep the fucking light on.’"
She’s doesn’t consider herself to be a "performance-y" actor.
"I’m just the type of actor, and there are different types, who’s not all performance-y. I know a lot of actors that fucking love it. Like right now they’d be captivating you. It goes against my grain. Those things don’t go together for me, which makes it hard sometimes."
She feels she was misunderstood early in her career.
"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."
She knows how to deal with her popularity now.
"I totally have changed, just in the way that I can deal. It’s not like they were right, but they weren’t wrong. I don’t think I was conveying myself as easily. I was just totally overwhelmed. The impression just wasn’t as spot on. I’m a little older and I’m more experienced with it. It’s easier to talk to you guys about it. But initially, it 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!’
She’s not in it for the fame.
"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, a thing I think the movie is about. 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 wont be happy people at the end, ’cause they’re not doing anything for themselves. They’re always satisfying."
She thinks actors are "weird."
"If you don’t have anything to put in, you’re not going to give a lot out," she said of her craft. "Go out and live your life and show us something that you’ve learned. I’ve worked a lot. It’s not like I’ve taken breaks. It’s not breaks that helps, it’s managing input and output. Most people live their lives happily. The impulse to make stuff is not in everyone. Most people who have that impulse are weird. They need to take care of themselves."