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Interview: Kristen Stewart and The Yellow Handkerchief

In The Yellow Handkerchief, actress Kristen Stewart plays Martine, a lonely and troubled teenager who heads out on a road trip with Gordy (Eddie Redmayne), a young man looking to get closer to her, and Brett (William Hurt), an ex-convict, just released from prison after serving six years for manslaughter, who is trying to reconcile himself with his past. The trio are all going in the same direction, but quickly find their relationships forging and changing in many ways.

At the press day for the film, Kristen Stewart talked about what drew her to this smaller, independent film. She also gave an update on her own feeling about whether Breaking Dawn, the final book in the Twilight Saga, should be split into two films, how excited she is about the March release of The Runaways and her hopes to make the drama K-11 with her mother at the helm.


Q: What was it like to play this character, when you hadn't done too many major roles, at the time you did this film?

Kristen: Anytime you have to play a person who is not yourself, you're stepping out of a comfort zone, but that's what we do. If the role is bigger, that's just more to chew on, and that's always good.

Q: What about Martine resonated for you?

Kristen: I can relate to her, in that she's such the typical girl that really wants to be out there and smiling and totally in the middle of whatever is going on, but has been embarrassed one too many times and has just gone, "I can't do that anymore." I feel like she's also isolated herself. She's put herself above everyone else. She can't talk to people because they've let her down too many times and, in reacting to that, she made herself better than them. And, through this journey, which is such a cool thing to see such a young person go through, she realizes, "Oh, God, I never looked at you and now I'm opening my eyes and I can see you, and I was wrong." I liked that.

Q: Did you know this film was based on a Japanese film, and did you see that original film?

Kristen: I knew it was based on a Japanese original, but didn't watch it because apparently it was just starkly different. It was just a different movie completely.

Q: What was producer Arthur Cohn's involvement with the film?

Kristen: He had such a faith in the material. He has a very old school sense of, "I'm the producer and I'm going to take care of everybody, and the most important thing here is the movie, the performances, and chocolate and watches."

Q: Your character doesn't have any luck with guys, from her father who leaves to the guy who dumps her at the beginning of the film. What was it about Gordy (Eddie Redmayne) that you think appealed to Martine?

Kristen: She probably wouldn't have needed to be won over, had she just opened her eyes and not been so affected by the other guys who had hurt her. She's the type of girl who really wants to let herself hang out. Every time she does that or puts herself out there, she gets disappointed by people. The journey that they take, a lot of revelatory things happen.

For me, what made Martine re-evaluate Gordy was how Brett (William Hurt) looked at him. And then, there's this thing that happens when we hit a deer and he had this really emotional reaction to the deer. He helps her out earlier as well. She's dropping prejudices that she didn't really know that she had. She's becoming more open to people. She's very closed off, in the beginning, and realizes that she doesn't actually want to be like that at all.

Q: As a young actor, what was it like to work with someone like William Hurt?

Kristen: He is absolutely the most attentive, hard-working actor I've ever worked with. I say that about actors that I like to work with. I say, "Oh, they're really hard-working, I really appreciate them," about a lot of people, but you don't know more than him about basically everything. Regarding the story, he just makes you work so much harder to understand things. I wouldn't understand this movie as I do, if it wasn't for him. I would have a completely different impression, I'm sure.

Q: Were there any particular scenes in this that stood out for you?

Kristen: That scene where we first kiss was THE scene. It was a really big deal, especially the way it was written. My character was so explosive and so sensitive. You would never expect so much from this tiny little thing. It was like, "What is wrong with you?" And, her problems are so completely far away from anything Gordy could ever understand. It's like opposite sides of a magnet. I can't even watch that scene.

That was what I was most intimidated by, technically speaking. She's so explosive and emotional in that scene, and so raw in that moment, and you don't know her very well yet. It was a very defining moment for her, so I was nervous about doing that wrong and having it seem out of nowhere. I didn't want her to seem like an arbitrarily weird, emotional girl, for no reason.

The characters were drawn so wholly and completely that, if we didn't play them that way, they wouldn't have made sense. It would have been a bit of a random story because it's so quaint. It's not like all these plot events happen. So, all these little character things are unspoken. I was nervous about that. But, the last scene of the movie was what I really put everything into because it was written differently as well. We got there and we didn't have a whole lot of time to shoot. It was raining and they were like, "Okay, we have 10 minutes to get this." The way it was written, she was so emotional. Everything affects her. She has such thin skin and feels everything so much. That moment where everything comes to fruition, it needs to be effective.

Q: Have accents always come easy for you?

Kristen: I had to go to school for it, so they could break it down. There's 15 accents, just within Louisiana. And then, you can fall back on it.

Q: What was it like to shoot in so many different locations?

Kristen: We were everywhere. But, it was cool though because it's a road trip movie, so we felt like we were on that a little bit. The set just went around everywhere.

Q: Did you get to have any fun in New Orleans at all, or where you working too much?

Kristen: We shot in the summer, so I had just turned 17. I love New Orleans. I've worked there since, also underage. I'm still underage. New Orleans is such a going-out town, but just walking around is awesome. It's an amazing place to be. I can go see music, but I have to stand outside the club and be like, "That's really great."

Q: Is there anything about New Orleans that you specifically enjoyed?

Kristen: I liked petting the mules that walked around Jackson Street. They were like, "Come on, take a ride!," and I was like, "No way!" I just wanted to pet them. I wasn't going to be dragged around by this thing.

Q: When you have the opportunity to take a road trip yourself, do they become profound journeys of self-discovery?

Kristen: The only road trip that I've ever taken was back from Portland. When I was up there doing Twilight, I bought a little truck and drove home. It wasn't the most transformative experience, but it was fun. It gave me a sense of freedom. I was going away from something that was a rather intense experience.

Q: Because you spend huge amounts of time away from home, when you go somewhere on location, do you try to make it more like home or do you really drown yourself in the lifestyle, wherever you're at?

Kristen: I try to do that. I know actors who go on location and make their trailer like their home. They literally put pictures up and stuff. I don't do that. I really like being where I am. You're made to pretend that you actually live there.

Q: Since you have your pick right now, what attracts you to a role? What do you look for when you get a script these days?

Kristen: As much as you can say, "I'd like to do this because it's different from what I've done before," I can't really plan things out like that. Despite whether or not a character fits my description and the script is good, what actually drives me to do something like this, which is a really bizarre thing, if you think about it, is more than just to be in a movie. It has to speak to me, in some way, and that's always hard to describe. I don't know what I want to do. And, this is the first time I don't have my next job lined up. I have a totally clean horizon and that's actually pretty exciting.

Q: Is that a scary place to be, not knowing what you're going to do next, in a business that's so unpredictable?

Kristen: To be honest, you don't look at scripts that are very clearly just framework and they just want to put a dollar sign in the picture frame, but that's so obvious. I only want to do work that I find to be moving, and that's something that I can't be specific about. I'm totally lucky and I can't believe that I have more opportunity than I've ever had. It's awesome.

Q: You did this film before the Twilight films. Would you have approached things differently, now that you have this international profile?

Kristen: I guess because I don't hold the reins, I really follow my heart. It would really be a shame that just because I did one movie, and I know it's four or five films, but it's one story and one project for me because it's the same character, it would affect choices that I make. I don't have this scheme for how people are going to receive my movies, in the order that I do them, and why I do scary movies or movies about disaffected teens, which I get all the time. They're just people that I really wanted to play. I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I'm just playing parts that speak to me.

Q: Do you follow your heart when you're acting as well?

Kristen: Yeah. You get hired on a job and I had had roles in movies before, that I took really seriously and really liked, and I learned that, if I was a fairly impulsive actor or I felt something, I didn't need to sit down and go, "Okay, this is why," and it helps so much. I understand the story so much more because of that.

Q: What are your feelings on Breaking Dawn? Do you think they're going to do two films? Do you know when that will happen?

Kristen: Probably in November, but I don't know if it's going to be one or two films.

Q: Are you contracted for two movies, or are you contracted for one?

Kristen: I don't know, actually. I can't imagine that they wouldn't want to do two films. The story so completely warrants two films, and it would be really disappointing to have to lose a bunch of the story. I would like to do it as two movies, but to be perfectly honest, I don't know what they're going to do.

Q: The Runaways is getting a lot of buzz now too. How has that been, and what has the experience of the festival circuit been like?

Kristen: We all knew that, if it did well, it would be a Sundance movie. But, now it's being released. It became a bigger deal than we thought, which is just always very exciting. Sundance was awesome. I love Sundance. It's one of the only places that you can go, show your movie, and then talk to 300 people who just saw it. It's just a different experience.

Q: What's it like when your mom calls you and says, "I'm going to direct a film and I'd like you to be in it"?

Kristen: I wish it was like that. We're trying to get it (K-11) off the ground. If she called me right now and said, "We're making the movie," I would be really excited. We're really close and, at the same time, we're creatively very, very different. It would be cool. I think that we could actually leave the family thing. I feel like we both like what we do so much that we could actually work on something and do something pretty cool

THE YELLOW HANDKERCHIEF opens on February 26th .
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Tags: media: interview, movie: the yellow handkerchief
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