Kristen Stewart tells about Twilight, her reputation for moodiness and her rumoured romance with R-Pattz
It’s tough being Kristen Stewart. Her performance as the indecisive, lip-biting heroine, Bella Swan, in the Twilight films has seen the 20-year-old American actress emerge as a rather reluctant poster-girl for 21st-century teenage angst.
She has lived out much of her teens under the media spotlight: she had just turned 17 when she made the first Twilight film and, on its release, became an overnight sensation.
The franchise has gone on to make more than $1.75 billion (£1.1 billion) at the box office worldwide, attracting hordes of teenage fans and their equally smitten ‘Twilight moms’.
Meanwhile, Stewart’s on-screen (and off-screen) relationship with her co-star Robert Pattinson has turned her into a regular on the covers of gossip magazines.
It’s not surprising that she has struggled to cope with the media attention, and her discomfort when dealing with interviewers has opened her up to accusations of being surly and defensive. I have not found her so on the previous occasions we have spoken.
She can be unnervingly silent – she thinks carefully about each question and often has many stabs at a reply before settling on a finished sentence – but she is intelligent and engaging. In truth, like many women her age, she’s probably just a little bit embarrassed.
‘I am quite shy and people think I’m aloof,’ she explains, sitting opposite me in a suite at a sumptuous Beverly Hills hotel.
‘I get that all the time: “She should not be in this position because she can’t handle it,” and, “She is stuck up and doesn’t want to talk to anybody. She is miserable, and if you are so miserable stop doing it.”
But do you have a choice? I want to be an actor, I am just not very comfortable talking about myself.
‘When I did the first Twilight movie they were like, “Now you have to go and do media training,” and I was, “Screw you! Do you think you are going to wrap up all my little insecurities and throw them out the window?
Do you think you are going to put soundbites in my mouth? I’ll do your course, but that’s not going to happen.’
And she is, indeed, refreshingly soundbite-free and unashamed of her insecurities.
She smokes one cigarette during our interview (‘I’ve pretty much given up’) and describes her outfit – her slender form is wrapped in a combo of black skinny jeans, black T-shirt, red checked shirt and open-top ankle boots – as ‘just cookie-cutter, really,’ claiming that ‘everyone’s wearing these boots’.
Stewart is by far the most accomplished young actor in the vampire- and werewolf-infested world of Twilight, eclipsing both Pattinson and their muscle-bound co-star Taylor Lautner.
This may be thanks, in no small part, to the fact that she already has a decade’s experience in front of camera.
In 2002 she was cast as Jodie Foster’s diabetic daughter in Panic Room and went on to take roles in Speak (2004), playing a 13-year-old traumatised into silence after enduring sexual abuse, Into the Wild (2007), directed by Sean Penn, and the offbeat comedy Adventureland (2009).
The actress’s most recent release in Britain, meanwhile, The Runaways – a biopic of the all-girl 1970s rock band fronted by Cherie Currie and Joan Jett – only confirms her status as the hottest young talent in Hollywood, offering up a character that fits Stewart like a leather glove.
She plays Joan Jett, a brooding adolescent who ripped up the rulebook when she and the music impresario Kim Fowley launched the Runaways’ three-year career, which finally imploded amid a blizzard of drugs and recrimination.
The film, in which Stewart shares some sapphic moments with her co-star, 16-year-old Dakota Fanning, was first screened at Sundance earlier this year, but, though it earned plenty of critical plaudits, it bombed at the American box office, recouping barely a third of its estimated $10 million budget.
‘The Runaways started everything for chicks in rock and roll,’ says Stewart. ‘So many women in bands say, “I’m in
a band because of the Runaways.
It was initially a small movie, then because of the whole Twilight thing it got a lot of attention. I now know Joan and I have a relationship with her, and if we didn’t do a good job everything would fall away, so it was important we got it right.
‘I felt comfortable in Joan’s clothing,’ she says. ‘It’s like armour. Punks put it on because they are protecting themselves, because they are outsiders, and because they are fighting something.
And it’s weird – I did a lot of press for the second Twilight movie when I was shooting The Runaways, and I was feeling a little insecure, which doing those press things makes me, and I didn’t go to my normal defences, I went to Joan’s.’
Having met both women, I suggest that their defences are actually quite similar. She fiddles with her long dark hair and ponders this.
‘I wore a T-shirt in kindergarten that said kick butt first. ask names later on the back,’ she says suddenly. ‘I just thought of that randomly, sorry, but I think it might show that I’ve always been overly indignant in my reactions to not being able to be myself.
And when other people are in that position I get enraged, too, so I think that I share that with Joan. I’m a bit easier than Joan, although she’s really thoughtful and quiet underneath.
With everything she wears she’s not trying to be cool, she is trying to be tough, she’s compensating. At the time, it wasn’t normal to do what she did and she was always told, “You’re not right, you’re different, so you’re a bitch.’
It is a line with which Stewart can empathise. She grew up in Los Angeles, her father a television producer, her mother a script supervisor, and started acting at a young age.
At nine she was cast in a film for television, The Thirteenth Year, and a year later appeared in The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas. She found her peers’ reaction to her experience somewhat difficult.
‘I didn’t walk around talking about doing movies,’ she says, ‘but then someone saw an old movie I was in, The Safety of Objects, and realised that the little boy in it [she played a tomboy] had grown up into this girl – me. And then I got a lot of, “She’s such a bitch!”
And yet most of these kids had never even spoken to me.’
She left high school when she was 13, unable to balance the pressures of a burgeoning professional life with a full-time education – ‘I was glad to leave school.
I was missing a lot of classes and they were failing me’ – and says that she does not feel as though she was deprived of a normal childhood (she’s since completed her high-school education via correspondence courses).
‘I couldn’t relate to kids my own age,’ she says. ‘They are mean and don’t give you any chance. Once you have done with school, you realise that it is just a smaller version of life, and really I have felt that I should have been an adult since I was aged about five.
I remember when I turned 18 everyone asked me if I felt more mature, but I felt the same as I always did. Juggling work and school, and helping my mother; I’ve always had a lot of responsibility.’
She remains close to her parents and talks fondly of her mother, who studied history and has a passion for vampires; she has even written a script about Vlad the Impaler.
‘She was so excited when I got the Twilight gig,’ says Stewart. ‘My whole family were. Before Twilight they were like, “Why are you doing all these Sundance movies that no one will see?’
S tewart is less forthcoming about her relationship with her co-star Robert Pattinson.
The very first time I met Pattinson, before the original Twilight film, he enthused about her and laughed about the rebuffs he got when trying to ask her out (Stewart was dating Michael Angarano, her co-star from Speak, at the time).
Since then the pair have become a couple, although neither one has gone on record to confirm it.
The last time I saw Stewart and Pattinson was at this year’s Bafta dinner, where they sat together and left together. They definitely acted as a couple.
‘It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve spoken to someone or how well they know me, I’m just not going to talk about that,’ she says when I ask.
‘But it is weird with the paparazzi,’ she continues. ‘We are not on the top of the paparazzi list, but it is definitely tougher for Rob.’
The pair looked to have been rumbled when a photographer caught them cosying up on the Isle of Wight over New Year.
‘That was some kid, not paparazzi, who took that shot,’ she says, smiling. ‘That’s the kind of thing that just baffles you. I can’t believe that came out.’
She says that she finds London an easier place to roam than New York or Los Angeles, and concedes that she can no longer live a normal existence in her home-town.
‘I have friends who say, “Hey. We are in a restaurant today. Want to come? A bunch of us are hanging out?” And yet I am like, “Do you want to go to someone’s house? It would be so much more fun.
Bring everyone round to my house!” It is weird never to be just some girl. Everybody knows me so I can never be just a new person with somebody. New people always have an impression of me and I am so aware of it, and it probably changes me.’
Her hobbies, she says, are simple. Along with her interest in the guitar, she’s an avid reader and likes to write (‘not stories per se, just thoughts and bits of prose’).
She also adores her cat, Max, who is ‘insane. He’s like the antichrist when I try to travel with him. I like to take him with me when I’m away filming.’
Stewart is currently shooting an adaptation of On the Road, directed by the Brazilian film-maker Walter Salles. ‘I play Marylou and I am f–ing freaking out about it. Nobody has ever tried to make it and yet, reading the book, it is insanely iconic.
It is my favourite book. It is so f–ing cool that I am doing it. A friend introduced me to it when I was 14 and I have read it a couple of times.’
When that finishes she’ll begin work on the final chapters in the Twilight saga (the novel Breaking Dawn has been divided into two films).
‘With Twilight we all really got lucky. It is a rare thing on a movie, when it hits and it gives you freedom. Because of Twilight I could make a film like Welcome to the Rileys.’
Yet to be released in Britain, this indie film, produced by Ridley Scott, sees Stewart play a prostitute. ‘I’m happy that people might think, “Let’s go and see that Twilight girl in a stripper movie!” I’m cool with that.’ Perhaps being Kristen Stewart isn’t so tough, after all.