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‘I’m Kind of a Masochist’: Kristen Stewart Talks Embracing ‘Scary’ Roles at SBIFF Tribute

Stewart, who was honored with the festival's American Riviera Award, joined IndieWire's Anne Thompson for a wide ranging conversation about her career.

Kristen Stewart attends the American Riviera Award ceremony honoring Kristen Stewart during the 2022 Santa Barbara International Film Festival at The Arlington Theatre on March 4, 2022 in Santa Barbara, California. Photo: CraSH/imageSPACE/Sipa USA(Sipa via AP Images)

Kristen Stewart attends the American Riviera Award ceremony during the 2022 Santa Barbara International Film Festival

Sipa USA via AP

Kristen Stewart was a guest of honor at the 37th Annual Santa Barbara International Film Festival, which took place this weekend. The “Spencer” star was this year’s recipient of the festival’s American Riviera Award, a coveted trophy honoring outstanding achievement in film. Past recipients of the award include Robert Redford, Martin Scorsese, and Quentin Tarantino.

At the festival, the “Spencer” star sat down with IndieWire’s Anne Thompson for a discussion of her career. Stewart recalled that she knew she had made it after her first encounter with paparazzi.

“Two days before ‘Twilight’ came out, I remember I was sitting on my porch with my dog and I got papped for the first time,” Stewart said. “Sitting there smoking a bowl… I look back on that moment with fondness.”

Stewart followed the “Twilight” franchise with a series of bold artistic choices that established her as a serious actress. She worked with foreign auteurs including Olivier Assayas, Pablo Larrain, and Walter Salles. She became the first American actress to win a Cesar award, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, for her performance in “Cloud of Sils Maria,” directed by Assayas. Stewart praised the experience of working with the French director, and said that she loves the way French audiences and critics respond to films.

“The weird thing about that movie is, it is so not flashy. Most people win awards for playing historical figures, or shaving their head because they’re very sick,” she said. When she won her Cesar, Stewart says “I was really surprised by that. It definitely speaks to a French sensibility.”

Stewart continues to push herself. She earned an Oscar nomination for her performance in “Spencer” last year, with critics praising her ability to capture the legend of Princess Diana despite Larrain’s film refusing to conform to biopic conventions. When asked why she loves acting and continues to seek out difficult roles, Stewart laughed. “I’m kind of a masochist,” she said. “I love how scary it is.”

As for her next challenge? Stewart is eyeing the director’s chair. She told the audience that she is trying to develop a project that would mark her directorial debut. “I’m trying to put a movie together right now… I have a couple balls in the air,” she said. “I’ll tease you with that, but I’m very excited.”

After the conversation, Charlize Theron was on hand to present the award to Stewart, and praised the actress’ Oscar nominated performance as Princess Diana in “Spencer,” saying that “it’s not an easy task to take on the most iconic figure in modern history, but you let us into this character. You gave us a glimpse into her soul in the most tactful and heart-wrenching way.”

Watch a clip of Stewart’s conversation with Anne Thompson below:

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