Thanks to Lauren for the heads up! you’re a doll.
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KRISTEN STEWART- A Twilight Love Story
‘I’m not going to kill you’, says Kristen Stewart as I get into her car and she puts her foot down on the gas. ‘Let’s just go for a drive.’ We speed down one of Los Angeles’s lengthy highways, Kristen’s elfin figure fitting with the proportions of her car, a Mini, perfectly. In a slightly grotty hoodie, skinny jeans and a pair od old sneakers, greasy hair flopping around her tiny features, she could be any other 20-year-old, but she’s not.
You will know Kristen Stewart from the Twilight saga. Stephenie Meyer’s novels and the subsequent films, of which are now on the third, are the success story of the past two years; Twilight mania has taken over the world. Figurines, pencil cases, duvet covers and socks bear Kristen’s image, or rather that of her alter ego Bella Swan, a somewhat unremarkable, moody teenager who lives in the tiny, perennially overcast town of Forks, Washington. More remarkable is that Bella is in love with the deliciously handsome Edward Cullen, a 104-year-old vampire stuck in the body of a teenager and played by the also deliciously handsome Robert Pattinson.
So famous have these two young actors become, that their names have been amended for media purposes – to K-Stew and R-Pattz – and their combined ability to shft gossip magazine prompted American titles to find any reason possible to put the two on their covers last year. A strategy made easier by the ‘are-they-aren’t-they’ dating riddle, more on which later.
Screeching to a halt, Kristen bites a hangnail with her teeth. It’s fair to say that she’s nervous about this interview. In a century where you can track a celebrity’s whereabouts 24/7 on Twitter or PerezHilton.com, Kristen is fiercely private. Aside from the Twilight series, her film choices have been relatively low-budget indie films – awkward comedy Adventureland and the self-titled biopic of Joan Jett’s first band, The Runaways, her most recent releases. Yet Googling her name conjurs up nearly 19 million hits. ‘The Twilight thing is so unique,’ she says in her laid-back West Coast accent, following up with a pause for thought. ‘If I didn’t have that and I was just an actor, my life would be so different. [Twilight] is quite engulfing in its size, but at the same time, it’s what you work for.’
So the fans are devoted, but as an interview subject Kristen doesn’t exactly come recommended. She is notorious for not smiling in pictures, not chatting in interviews, not being cooperative in photoshoots. In person, Kristen comes across as a young actress who simply isn’t into being famous. She’s sweet and nervous, a bit like your next-door neighbors’ little sister. She doesn’t want to play the game, isn’t interested in what designer she’s wearing to a premiere and frankly would rather be at home reading a book or spending time with her friends. Like, well, a normal 20-year-old. ‘Right’, she agrees, while simultaneously lighting a cigarette and overtaking a truck. ‘It really bothers me when people write nasty shit about me and the perception is that I don’t give a fuck. It could not be further from the truth.’ She holds her breath for a minute. ‘People always ask me if I’m dating Robert. It’s beyond annoying.’ Concealing a small smile, she doesn’t exactly warn me off asking whether she’s dating her co-star, but a light tension hangs between us amid the cigarette smoke. I slice it in two, ‘Well, are you?’ She breathes out in a slightly exasperated, slightly amused way. ‘What I say is, that, why would I want anything that’s private to become entertainment for other people?’
She has a point. But it’s a question millions of people want an answer to. There have been insinuations, grainy photographs, examinations of body language and sexual tension. Everyone thinks they’re together, but can’t quite rest until the protagonists confirm it. Is the privacy beat a help or a hindrance in keeping their relationship private? ‘People say that id I just tell them everything I’ll be left alone, but God you think if I tell peple they’ll leave me alone? They pick up every little scrap, and that’s much worse.’
Her Blackberry rings, ‘Scuse me,’ she smiles. Her Blackberry case is chipped and the back has fallen off leaving the battery exposed. Suddenly, she roars, ‘Waaaaauuuuuuuggggghhhhhh!’ She ends the call and slips the phone back into the pocket on the car door, foot still heavy on the accelerator pedal. ‘I have one crazy stalker. It’s not worth changing my number for, I’m pretty certain it’s some girl who got my number from someone I went to school with who’s like,’ she adopts a fey accent not dissimilar to someone from The Hills, ‘“I’ve got Kristen Stewart’s number”’.
We chat for a while, talking about various things, words for vaginas (she calls them cooters), the difficulty in owning pets (she has a cat), the merits of pickles in burgers and why third albums always take so long. Oscillating between having so much to say that she hunches towards the steering wheel and shouts, and being so lost on her own thoughts I’m not sure if she’s heard the question I’ve asked, there seems to be a lot going on inside her head. It looks like a mix of teenage angst-driven inarticulacy and child genius.
Kristen turns the music in the car up a little and then down a little, so that it hardly differs. ‘Your little persona is made up of all the places that people have seen you and what has been said about you, and usually the places I am are so overwhelming in the moment and fleeting for me – like one second where I’ve said something stupid, that’s me, forever. What you don’t see are the cameras shoved in my face and the bizarre intrusive questions being asked, or the people falling over themselves, screaming and taunting to get a reaction. All you see is an actor or a celebrity lit up by a flash. It’s so…’ she searches for the words with one hand off the wheel. ‘The photos are so…I feel like I’m looking at someone being raped. A lot of the time I can’t handle it. It’s fucked. I never expected that this would be my life.’
Kristen was born and bred in Hollywood. Her parents are in the trade – her dad is a stage manager (‘his life is TV’) and her mum is a script supervisor. Her breakthrough role came aged 11 as Jodie Foster’s epileptic daughter in Panic Room. But though she may have been a child star, K-Stew is no Li-Lo. Her chosen roles are serious, adult, intelligent. She’s close to her family – ‘My family are amazing. I had like, the perfect upbringing. It sucks for people like Lindsay, but it’s not her fault that she’s off the rails’ – and she’s smart, very smart. There are going to be no head-shaving meltdowns or illicit sex tapes; her head is firmly on her shoulders. Kristen steers clear of the Hollywood circuit, avoiding the ‘cool hangouts’ and never-ending roster of parties.
She stops the car at a shack on the side of the road. There’s a giant painted lobster wearing sunglasses and a floral shirt holding a sign that reads ‘Malibu Lobster Shack’. ‘Uh, are you hungry? If I tell you what I want, would you run in?’ I look at her blankly. There are only two other customers in the shack, neither of whom look as thought they’d raise as much of an eyebrow at a Hollywood A-lister ordering a crab sandwich. ‘It’s the interaction thing,’ she sighs. ‘It would be fine id people talked shit about me at their own table, but sometimes you’re just not in the right state of dress to talk to people, and then they’re like, “Oh, she is a crack whore, just like Perez says”.’
Two Ahi tuna burgers with fries and a Diet Coke later, we’re speeding down the highway once more when I raise the subject of fashion. On the ELLE shoot the previous day, Kristen didn’t seem at all interested in the outfits being put on her back. In fact, the only item of clothing she commented on was my Siouxsie and the Banshees T-shirt. She appears to struggle for a response and lights another cigarette. ‘Like when I have to talk to Hollywood press, I have to put on a nice dress and a smile, but when I do this, I can just put on whatever. Then I have to go and do a talk show it’s something else.’ She continues a little more coherently: ‘When we did the press thing [for The Runaways], Joan Jett would be like, “What are you going to wear?”, and I’d be like, “I don’t know what the designer’s name is” and she’s be like, “Kristen! Find out!”
Publicity junket aside, Kristen clearly enjoyed The Runaways experience. ‘It was fucking incredible playing Joan. I had so much fun making that movie. Detail-wise it was really nerve-racking to get her. She’s a really dynamic person, and she has so many fans and people that know her distinctly. And musically, she has the weirdest voice. It’s cool, but it was really hard to sing like her.’ I tell her that the film was amazing, that all the way through it made me want a beer and a cigarette. Her eyes light up, ‘Dude! I smoked sooo much making that film. It will do well in big cities – LA, London, New York – but I’m worries that the suburbs won’t get it. Kids my age don’t know who Joan Jett is – well, until now.’ I tell her I’m talking to Joan about her for this piece and she laughs. ‘Sure, do it. I’m gonna text her now and tell her you’re coming.’
For the record, Joan describes Kristen as ‘a very humble, down-to-earth, likeable human being. She was also extremely dedicated to the task at hand – and as silly as it sounds, when she told me she was going to cut her hair into my Runaways shag, it really relaxed me. It showed me Kristen was “all in”. I knew she would get shit for it.’
The film itself is brilliant, if somewhat controversial. It charts the rise of the first all-girl rock ‘n’ roll band, The Runaways, who were still in their teens when success hit. Director Floria Sigismondi cast 15-year-old Dakota Fanning (who also stars with Kristen in Eclipse as the cruel vampire, Jane) as the lead singer in the band (Joan, Kristen’s character, played rhythm guitar and shared vocals). There are lesbian frissions and drug taking a-plenty, but it was the 1970s and it is rock ‘n’ roll. Kristen is 100 per cent convincing as Joan, right down to her walk and guitar-playing style. She’s definitely a talent, this girl.
The phone rings again. Kristen tentatively answers it as we speed along, whispers something, then shoves it into her pocket. ‘With Twilight, we never thought it was going to be so huge; we never thought we’d do a second, a third. I’m quite nervouse about the third one, actually.’ Kristen clearly has not only an enormous amount of pride and conviction over the series, but also, ownership. ‘It’s such a privilege to be able to play a role for so long. Also, it’s such a product now; it didn’t start out as a product. I read the first book and thought, “Wow, this is a page turner.” There was something in the script – the energy. It’s raw desire, that’s what the book is. Which is why it’s weird that little kids read it. I’m like, “What are you thinking when you’re reading it?” I thought that it was going to be a really simple, overly dramatic – which is what was attractive about it – rotten love story. When they cast me it wasn’t like, “Omigod, I got this huge movie”; it was like, “OK, I got this film.” You have to rev it up.’
‘Can you get my iPod out of the glove box?’ she says. ‘Oh, shit!’ She laughs a throaty laugh. ‘It’s so weird, that you have to be worried about people seeing things. You want to be excited about something, normal people can be excited about their lives, and I am, too, but it’s such a different thing. It comes out as entertainment for other people and that makes me want to throw up.’ She slides her sunglasses, and adds in a small voice, ‘Do you want to pick something to put on? If you look at the pictures on here I’ll kill you.’
An investigative scroll reveals an iPod full of a music fan’s music – Bowie, The Velvet Underground, The Smiths. ‘I’m just getting into The Smiths actually. Vicar in a Tutu is my favorite song. I was singing along to it this morning in my room; I’m so emo! I’m listening to [Scottish jingly pop] Camera Obscura. It’s really “chicky music”. I listen to stuff over and over. My favorite band is Interpol, and I’m listening to Broken Bells a lot, too. They are the new band from the lead singer of The Shins. I’m always going somewhere, so I get the chance to listen to a lot of music.’
She takes the iPod back, pauses and bites her lip nervously. ‘This is what I wanted to show you on here.’ Kristen hands me her iPod and flashes me a picture. It’s a familiar, deliciously handsome young man with an arm around her and an arm around Jella, her cat. Without saying a word, she quickly shoved the device back into the glove compartment and turns up the volume before I can say anything.