If you’re bored of Kristen Stewart interviews that boil down to “please tell us who you’re attracted to and why,” her sit-down with Vanity Fair‘s Krista Smith, conducted at this year’s Toronto Film Festival, will come as a relief. Clocking in at nineteen minutes, it’s the perfect antidote to the sixty-second, junket-style interviews that Stewart herself admits are nearly impossible to engage with.
The interview, available in full on Vanity Fair‘s website, is pegged to the North American premiere of Equals, the Drake Doremus-directed science fiction romance set in a dystopian, Giver-esque future where human emotions have been eliminated in the name of world peace. Stewart co-stars with Nicholas Hoult, another former child actor fresh off a critically acclaimed international production.
The interview itself, however, mostly focuses on Stewart — her belief in emotional expression, her work with French director Olivier Assayas, and her relationship with the fashion world. Stewart, unsurprisingly to those who saw her César-winning performance in Assayas’ Clouds of Sils Maria, comes off as professional, insightful, and willing to show off her sense of humor, prefacing one well-considered answer with the deadpan observation that she’s “huuuuuge in France.”
During an obligatory explanation of Equals’ premise, Stewart elaborated on her own belief in the importance of emotional honesty:
I think I’ve got this emotional through-line that I very much trust…I do trust myself in a way that I think is a gift, that is squashed. Like after a breakup, you’re totally screwed: ‘I never, ever want to feel this again. I think that I could be a better person, I think that I could function.’ No! You have to go through it, you have to feel it. That’s what makes us who we are. What is life without that?
Moving on from her current project, Stewart reflects on moving past the ingenue phase of her career — “People are more impressed with you when you’re younger!” — to her reputation for being guarded, and for good reason, in her relationship with the media.
Anyone who might perceive me as ‘guarded’ in a given context, typically speaking it would be a really superficial, fleeting interview that means nothing to me. Therefore, I cannot fully invest myself in it, because it would be a lie…But really, what I’m dying to do as an actor and as a person, all the time, is to reveal myself. There’s this constant desire and curiosity to get down to it, as an actor. I have this really strong aversion to feeling subject to something that doesn’t feel real to me.
For someone who has every right to be adversarial towards the press, Stewart comes off as remarkably aware of her public perception. And for someone who’s frequently trivialized as a Twilight alumna or reduced to rumors about her romantic relationships, she’s also serious about her work — including an upcoming “existential ghost story” directed by Assayas, set in the fashion world and starring Stewart as the titular Personal Shopper.
Stewart even prefers working in France, where she became the first-ever American to win the Oscar-equivalent César award — even costar Juliette Binoche didn’t think she would win! — because of its film industry’s “commitment to risk” over the U.S. industry’s preference for a “sure equation.” (Somewhere, screenwriter of her latest American release Max Landis is raising his glass in misguided agreement.)
Finally, Stewart discusses her ties outside the film industry, with figures like Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel — “I like to be around people that are compulsively creating, even though I have nothing to do with dresses” — and Joan Jett, who Stewart played in a 2010 Runaways biopic. The conversation unsurprisingly steers clear of the recent controversy surrounding Jett and the sexual assault of her former bandmate Jackie Fox, though Stewart still offers her perspective on Jett’s enduring appeal. “She’s hot, and she’s precious, too,” Stewart says.
“All of that armor, it definitely makes her up, but the whole reason—it’s that female balance thing. Yeah, she’s really hard, but the reason she’s so effective, the reason she gets under your skin is because she is a woman. She is a precious, soft, caring, sensitive, fuck-off woman.”
A welcome treatment of Stewart as a (gasp!) serious actress, the interview promises to convert any skeptics who still identify her with the franchise that made her famous—and avoids reducing Stewart to a soundbite. Said converts will be happy to know that Personal Shopper starts production in November.