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Kristen Stewart is not sullen. Nor, for the duration of our interview, is she withdrawn, reluctant to speak or wearing a pained expression. No nerves seem to be affecting her, making her appear on edge or keyed up. She is not hiding behind her hair nor looking longingly towards the exit. In short, Kristen Stewart is nothing like I had been led to believe.
that Kristen is at all surprising, is , well, surprising. This is a 22-year-old woman whose every hairstyle, musical preference and favored brand of trainers is pored over, disclosed and dissected by millions. If she mentions an album she’s listening to, iTunes will see a surge in downloads. When we tweeted from the cover shoot in Los Angeles, the hashtag #KristenELLE became the number-one worldwide trending topic. The intimate details of her likes, loathes and movements are considered public property and shared accordingly. All of which means that when it comes to Kristen, you could be forgiven for thinking we know everything there is to know. But has she been holding out on us?
Some things are as you’d expect. Today she is dressed exactly like every ‘off-duty Kristen’ paparazzi image you’ve ever seen: vest, hoodie, blue jeans and bright yellow plimsolls (the pair she wore as Allison, or Mallory, in (Welcome to the Rileys). And physically she is instantly recognisable from her on-screen persona: not skin-and-bones thin, but so petite that the high-backed chair appears to dwarf her 5ft 6in frame; long, shampoo-advert-worthy hair raked casually to one side; she’s very pale, and freckled; it’s all set off by eyes so clear and assessing I have to shake the idea that I’m the one up for inspection.
During the day she hangs back a little from the hoopla of photographers and assistants, but she’s at ease as she goes through the rail of clothes ELLE has brought, enthusing over the Miu Miusatin cropped top and skirt on our subscriber’s cover.
She is described as fiercely private with tedious regularity, mostly because she doesn’t much want to – alrightwon’t – talk about Robert Pattinson, who is probably her boyfriend but who knows for sure, because – remember? – she doesn’t like talking about it. She’s been explicit about her reasons for not discussing it, saying, ‘I’m selfish. ‘I’m like, “That’s mine!”‘ But she has also said, ‘Come on, guys, it’s so obvious. And, between the public displays of almost-affection at premieres and the grainy camera-phone shots of the pair out and about together, looking scruffy and beautiful and young, it kind of is.
But, still, she’s not going to talk about it, so let’s shift our gaze to what is talked about less often: what is it that makes her, well, happy? What is her all-consuming passion? What does she really love?The answer explains perfectly why she considers the downsides of this modern Hollywood life worthwhile. Because what she really, reallyloves is her job. ‘It’s a physical thing,’ she says passionately without a moment of hesitation. ‘I f***ing love everything about [acting]. I love movies, I love what they do. I am just so fueled by it like nothing else in my life.’ (Pattinson, it’s worth noting, seems sweetly in awe of Kristen’s professional drive. ‘[She] is very focused on being an actress,” he has said. ‘I mean, that’s what she is… she’s an actress, where as I just don’t really know.’)
Kristen made Hollywood debut in 2002’s Panic Room. She still cites working with Jodie Foster on that movie as one of her favorite experiences. ‘I was really lucky. Jodie’s incredibly professional but she’s not too professional because she’s cool. She’s just another member of the crew. I love that and it’s completely influenced me.’ It’s really not hard to imagine that that’s exactly the kind of career Kristen wants to have; it’s not hard to imagine achieving it, either. But it’s her ultra-normal background that she claims motivated her career choice. ‘I’m really boring; things I would want to read about have not happened to me. But that’s the reason you read those book and watch those movies. This job is just a crazy, different step forward from being able to watch a movie. It’s like I’m truly walking into someone else’s shoes, I get to live there. And I want to do that because I’m pretty sure I have something to learn each time. Even if that’s learning how to f***ing ride a horse in Snow White.’Snow White and The huntsman is Kristen’s latest release. And despite the Twilight behemoths, this blockbuster registers as an unusual choice: outside vampire romance, character-driven roles in lo-fi productions have been more her style. After the first Twilight installment – which she signed on for when it was a low- budget, low-expectations affair – she took the role of a teen run prostitute in Welcome to the Rileys. Her other credits include parts as a turbulent teenager in Adventureland, an acclaimed performance as a young Joan Jett in The Runaways and a still- to- be- seen turn as Marylou in the adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s classic On The Road (this is the first one you can sense she enjoyed making the most). Just having to turn up and look pretty isn’t going to secure Kristen’s services, so what was it about Snow White that made her agree to turn princess? ‘It’s a war movie and an identity-crisis movie,’ She explains. ‘Basically, she goes to jail when she’s seven and gets out when she’s 18. She’s so stunned that she’s essentially a child, even though she’s already a woman. When she comes out she’s got save people, but she hasn’t experienced anything like they have. She’s very isolated. She has all these feelings and doesn’t really know why yet, and I can relate to that.’ Reliability might just be a secret to what Kristen does so well. Making complicated, contradictory characters seem understandable is her skill. Even classic lovelorn teen Bella presents a quandary- is she prepared to die for a boy, a killer, she’s just met?- but Kristen makes each dilemma seem real. Welcome to the Rileys’ sex worker is a tougher sell, but the actress took pleasure n curve balling her Twilight audience with that choice. ‘I think it’s great I did a movie that a whole load of young girls wouldn’t otherwise be exposed to. I knew they were going, “S***, she’s playing a f***ing prostitute!” But I think even now everybody probably looks back and goes, “It’s f***ing cool she did that”.’
Does the responsibility of being a role model weigh heavy on her shoulders? ‘I don’t apply it to the choices I make,’ she says. ‘I feel like a role model is not necessarily somebody you want to imitate, just someone you admire. I look at characters I play sometimes and think, “F***, I would like to be like that.'” Like Joan Jett? ‘Exactly. It makes sense to me why other people don’t just look at that person, they look at me. Anyone who happens to choose to look up to me, it’s like, “But I’m literally you. I’m looking up to the characters you’re admiring me for choosing”.’
But it’s not just about her roles. She herself has been a positive influence on many. The way she would rather feel comfortable than wear the typical Hollywood starlet uniforms, both on and off the red carpet, is a worth wile message. A Yigal Azrouel dress with Converse All stars was her outfit of choice for one early premiere, and though the dress for Breaking Dawn’s London screening two years later was a dramatic black Roberto Cavalli affair, she made no attempt to hide the moment she changed from her heels into trainers. I think she can take credit for showing a generation of young women that it’s OK to be different.
She nods, considering the idea. ‘It’s weird, at school I was torn apart for not wearing a certain brand of jeans,’she says. ‘It nearly killed me. I was so embarrassed and so insecure, but I knew I could never put them on. I would look ridiculous.’
Kristen’s early start in acting meant a standard education was impossible. I bring up a comment she made about her teachers failing her. Her clear eyes roll. ‘When I said they literally failed me, I meant that they literally failed me. As in, I got F’s!’
Does it bother her, being misrepresented? ‘You grow callouses,’ she shrugs. Which might account for the impression people have of her of being slightly guarded, a touch cool. She will concede that there’s something to the image, though. ‘I don’t say I’m not magnetic to try and sound self-deprecating,’ she says. ‘I’m just not. I’m pretty good at…’ Repelling people? ‘Yeah. Though actually I love people. I would like to meet more people. I know no one.’
Well, not no one – though it’s clear that her friends come mainly through work, the unifying factor being they are all people who inspire her in some way; talent is what turns her on. Rupert Sanders, the director of Snow White and the Huntsman, for example, won her adulation because, ‘Considering how young and fresh he is it’s like f***ing awesome that he’s already got such balls.’ And then there’s her new fashion friend, Balenciaga’s Nicholas Ghesquiere (who seems to have a knack of collecting cool women around him; he counts Charlotte Gainsbourg, Irina Lazareanu, Jennifer Connelly and Francoise Hardy as muses alongside Kristen). She’s at pains to explain that theirs is more than just a paid-face-of-the-fragrance relationship. ‘I didn’t have to go to Paris [for the Balenciaga show in March]. I really love Nicholas,’ she says. ‘We’re buds now. I love being around him.’
Kristen has sat front row not only at Balenciaga but also at Burberry and Mulberry, though fashion is a world she carefully chooses when and how to enter. ‘It makes me excited because of how little I’ve had to do with it,’ she says, enthusing about the ‘unbelievable’ Balenciaga archive Ghesquiere showed her on a previous visit. Her natural style is ‘not experimental’, she admits. ‘I just wear very functional clothes. When I’m in London I feel so dressed down and young and Californian. Even if I try to look nice when I go out for dinner, I just don’t have that thing. I will always wear no socks and be like, “F***, it’s freezing; what am I doing?”‘
That’s not to say she is forced into those red-carpet outfits. ‘I know a lot of people who are able to take it into their lives, people who are quite chic all the time. For me it really is like there’s a time and a place – I love doing it but it fits into a very particular part of my life.’ Parts of her life like the ELLE Style Awards in 2010, when she wore a Pucci dress with a jacket LA label 1020 by Nicole. She works with a stylist for promotional tours, but says she is ‘incredibly picky. I know as soon as I put something on, “OK, I will wear this.”‘
At some point in the future we will be seeing Kristen Stewart the director. ‘I want to direct movies. Sometimes I think, “God, I want to do that, I want to do that next.” But then I work with someone who’s great at what they do and I think, “I’m not there yet.”‘ I ask whether she wants to escape for a while, but, despite acknowledging a break would be a good idea, she dismisses it.
Is there nothing apart from the thrill of a new work challenge that drives her? When is she really happy, I ask? ‘In my car with the right friend – I like to drive and I love being in LA, it always feels like, “Ahhhhh.” So I would say if the right song came on windows down, that’s a great feeling. To just be excited to be moving, to be like, “Here we are”.’
Final question, I promise, as the evening turns chilly: how would you describe yourself?
‘I don’t know,’ she hedges. ‘I was going to say that I really like what I do. I really love what I do. I think the most interesting part of me, literally, is what I do.’
Snow White and the Huntsman is out on 1 June
Transcript: Robsten Dreams