When your first screen credit rolls up after the names Glenn Close and Joshua Jackson, fame is going to be difficult to avoid – even when you’re 11. Kristen Stewart has had nine years to get used to it, but the Twilight star still craves celebrity like a vampire seeks out sunshine. “I grew up in the business, so the attention isn’t surprising, but it is inhibiting,” says Stewart, who landed a role in 2001’s The Safety Of Objects after an agent spotted her in a primary school play. “I love acting and I’m so grateful for Twilight and the opportunities it’s given me. I’m just not very good at dealing with the idea of being followed everywhere, and not being able to walk down the street or sit at a cafe with friends without getting mobbed and Twittered.”
And don’t start her on the romance issue. The latest instalment of the Twilight saga, Eclipse, only ramped up the hysteria surrounding her apparent relationship with co-star Robert Pattinson. “Nothing I could say would change anything, so I’m not going to say anything,” sighs the ethereally beautiful Stewart, whose brittle manner suggests that a hotel suite remains her true sanctuary. A role reversal doesn’t hurt, either. And what better therapy for an angsty ingenue than a role as seminal rock chick Joan Jett in this year’s biopic The Runaways. As Eclipse and the critically acclaimed The Runaways are released on DVD, Stewart opens up about life in the Twilight zone and how she is managing to balance life, career and her conflicted bargain with the devil of celebrity.
Do you sometimes feel exhausted by the attention you’ve had to deal with?
It’s hard to talk about that without giving the impression that I’m being negative or complaining. I love acting – I’m so passionate about the process, but there’s a helpless feeling when you can’t do the things you used to be able to do without attracting a large crowd. I knew the business very well before I had the chance to be a part of these films and so it’s not like it’s a shock to me. I would just rather not have to worry about where I can go just so that I’m not going to be followed. Sometimes I stay in my hotel room when I’m working on films or while I’m doing publicity for them. It’s less aggravation.
Is it important to you to have the chance to work on other films in between the Twilight movies?
I love to work. I don’t have any master plan as far as my career is concerned. I just choose projects on instinct. It was so interesting for me to be able to do The Runaways and play such a fierce personality, and the other films I’ve done have all had something that was really meaningful to me. I try to find roles that connect with me rather than think about how big the film will be or what it will do for my career. I could never structure things that way.
What is your take on Eclipse?
We see a more confident and determined Bella. She’s evolving and learning more about who she is and what she wants out of life. She also has to deal with the possibility that she’s lying to herself about being in love with Jacob when she is still, in fact, deeply in love with Edward.
Is it a case of Bella overcoming a lot of her self-doubts?
Bella is surer of herself and not as moody and despairing as she was in New Moon. It’s a really interesting progression that we see in Eclipse. It was interesting for me to take the character into a different space. I enjoy being able to leave one film and one chapter in her life and then get to explore her again. Most films force you to leave your character and that’s the end of the journey. So with Bella it’s exciting to be able to revisit her and rediscover new elements to her character.
Do you think Eclipse is a classic love triangle situation?
It is in the sense that Edward and Jacob are both fighting for Bella. She thinks she knows what she wants, but now she has to be able to stand up and say, OK, so maybe every choice isn’t completely impulsive. Maybe there are different levels of love, and maybe my ideological views of what I think you are to me are wrong, and maybe I could look at somebody else.
Do you feel you understand better now why the public is so fascinated with the Twilight story?
I think you have these intense personal dramas and the kind of deep feelings that Bella is experiencing, and everything that is going on between Bella and Edward and Bella and Jacob, that these very intense and private stories are developing where there’s all this chaos and danger surrounding them. So you’re thrown into a world that most people can relate to on a personal level, and then there’s this incredibly exotic and threatening backdrop to that world.
You have to do your fair share of red carpet appearances and awards shows. Do you feel pressure to look your best and find great outfits to wear?
I like to dress simply, but you always like to look good or wear something that makes you feel good. I don’t know that much about fashion and I don’t think I have very sophisticated tastes. I’m not that comfortable being photographed in general, so most of the fashion shoots I’ve done have been kind of awkward, although I guess I’m learning each time.
Some of your directors have said you have a very good bullshit detector...
I don’t like to create any false image about myself or try to pretend to be someone I’m not. I guess I can be too serious sometimes and get too intense and involved when I’m working, but that’s [my] nature.
Are you still as intense as ever when you’re working on a film?
I like to throw myself into the character and feel that I’m giving everything I possibly can to the performance. I feel I need to bring that intensity and commitment to each film and it’s my responsibility to the audience to give everything to the part. Sometimes that can be hard on you and you feel exhausted and a little empty after each film. You’ve also been a part of this particular world; the other actors; the crew; whichever city you happen to have been shooting in. You then have to leave that setting and go back to your own life, and that’s not always an easy process.
Is that why you sometimes seem nervous in public or on TV talk shows?
I’m not the kind of person who wants or likes to be the centre of attention under any circumstances. I love the fact that fans are so appreciative and have such a great love for Twilight; I feel privileged to be a part of this, but it can be intimidating. I don’t have that interesting a life apart from my work, so when I’m discussing things about myself I feel strange. I wind up looking either really stressed or nervous or too laid-back – when the truth is that I don’t want to come off seeming overly serious about my work or complaining about all the attention that comes with the job.
What about awards shows?
(Grimaces) I’ve had some pretty bad experiences. I’ve even dropped an award and watched it break into a million pieces. I’m kind of clumsy and so as long as I don’t trip, I feel I’ve pulled it off. I should try to relax more.. I don’t know.
When you worked on The Runaways, where you played singer Joan Jett, what was your take on the sexual aura she cast?
There was a sexual revolution going on when she was coming up in the music world, and it is still having an effect on us now with people feeling much more comfortable at a young age doing stuff like that. But these girls, they were the first ones to rebel. Like, it wasn’t normal for girls to be sexually aggressive in any way.
How do you approach choosing scripts and then the character you’re playing?
A number of things draw you to a script. It’s not just like wanting to live out this experience; sometimes it is thematic. But that’s not your job; people you’re working with can keep that together, and you need to make sure you do everything you can to do your part. But in terms of intellectualising acting, you have to do it a little bit, but I feel way more than I think, and I think that’s good for an actor.
You’re 20 now. What’s your take on everything that’s happened to you?
I’ve been very lucky. I love being in the position now where I’m going to be able to do more and more good films and just keep working at something I love so much. I don’t really know how to do anything else. I just wish maybe photographers would stop chasing me.