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Kristen Stewart : the rebel
At 24, she has the fame of a blockbuster’s star. She has loved under the glare of the paparazzi. She's discovered what Hollywood does to those who just do as they wish. After two years of silence, the sulky actress comes back –obviously- where we didn’t expect her, in French director Olivier Assayas’ movie. And talks with INGRID SISCHY about the disturbing similarities between this fiction and her reality.
Actresses with a fresh outlook—and the guts to break the usual Hollywood formulas—don't grow on trees in America. So when one comes along who does break the mold, and won't play the Hollywood game, it's worth sitting up and taking notice. Especially when that actress grew up in Los Angeles, a child of two hard-working lifers in the movie and television industries—which is how Kristen Stewart burst forth onto the big screen. This was no wealthy kid, protected by the cocoon of fame and/or wealth, secluded in a mansion surrounded by obsessively perfect, manicured hedges in Beverly Hills. Stewart's upbringing in the much grittier San Fernando Valley was the opposite. Her folks, Jules Mann-Stewart and John Stewart were workers, not stars. And they knew first hand what a pain in-the-you-know-what those stars could be.
When their daughter Kristen, who dressed as much like a boy as her brother Cameron did, particularly favoring her gym clothes, which she wore to school, wanted to start auditioning, her mother warned: "I work with these kids—they're crazy people. You're not one of them." But, as happens with Kristen, she persevered in her dream, and by the time she was 11, she was starring opposite Jodie Foster as her daughter, in David Fincher's knuckle-clenching film, Panic Room, about mother and daughter targets of a terrifying robbery. It was inspired casting. Stewart never played cute, but was just the kind of child you'd want to go on a dangerous mission with. I spoke to Foster, herself a survivor of the child-actor pitfalls, about Stewart a few years ago, and she put it succinctly. "Kristen does not have the traditional personality of an actress," said Foster. "She doesn't want to dance on the table for grandma and put a lampshade on."
After all, how many kids can claim they had pet wolf-dogs growing up? Which is the case with the Stewart household—a fact that seemed all the more eerie when Kristen was cast in the five-film Twilight franchise as Bella Swan the dorky-but-ever-so-romantic-high-school-l
The time has come. With a slate of at least five new films already shot and scheduled to come out over the next year, or so, starting with Clouds of Sils Maria, Olivier Assayas's smart meditation on the movie industry and on contemporary fame, the actress has clearly been busy. In Assayas's film she demonstrates how she can laugh at herself. It is not a coincidence that the film is French. Like so many Americans before her, from Gertrude Stein to James Baldwin to Nina Simone, who have gone to France to give freedom to their voices, Stewart found hers again with French director and screenwriter Olivier Assayas. Speaking of which—you will note that something unusual happens in this cover story. It is an interview, in the tradition of the Playboy interviews, or the ones that Andy Warhol had such fun with when he started Interview Magazine, and wanted to get everything from what he called "the horse's mouth." That's how I first met Stewart; she was about 12, just beginning, and I was the Editor of Interview. At the time I thought, "This kid's got her own voice."
She still does. And even though Vanity Fair France normally has a rule against interviews, rebels break rules. Kristen Stewart is a true rebel. She has a phrase for when she rebels that I think is hilarious. She says, "I put on my nope mitts." But Vanity Fair is a rebel, too. So together we broke the rule, put on our yes mitts, and got into the ring together, to spar, laugh, and talk.
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