ANAHEIM/LOS ANGELES – The Kristen Stewart parade marches on. The sensationally gifted Twilight actress raises her game to even greater heights in her new film, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, which is a revisionist retelling of the classic fairytale. Stewart soars as Snow White, investing the porcelain princess with a feral charm and dark gravitas that goes well beyond anything in Bella’s imagination.
Though she seems to have been part of our cultural fabric for ages, Stewart has only just turned 22. She’s still massively uncomfortable with her celebrity and is undoubtedly the most nervous interview subject one could conjure, but in front of the cameras she disappears into her performance with the seamless grace that only the finest actresses can achieve. Away from the comforts of the film sets on which she grew up thanks to her mother’s job as a Hollywood set decorator, Stewart reverts to her twitching, fidgeting, hesitant, and relentlessly self-conscious persona, so much so that she struggles to deliver a convincing portrait of her own true self. Still, the pixie-ish actress with the alabaster complexion and chronic tendency to recalibrate her every thought does offer plenty of insight into her bubble-like existence.
“I like to play characters that I can draw from in my own life,” Stewart observes. “I’ve invested so much of my life into my work that I almost don’t have any choice. It’s interesting how you can blur the line between acting and living and learn from your performances. I’m just trying to keep learning as much as I can and not get caught up in all the distractions that can play havoc with your mind.”
Q: Kristen, what was your approach to the very tough Snow White that this film saw you play?
STEWART: She needed to develop a warrior-like mentality and at the same time she was a very caring, compassionate young woman. We wanted to remain true to the essence of the story where Snow White represents the good side of humanity and its best ideals. Yet she also has to engage in violence in order to fight very evil forces. That was our way of creating a new kind of fairytale that is going to engage people and take the audience on a different kind of journey.
Q: Was the presence of Charlize Theron one of the reasons you wanted to be part of this project?
STEWART: Yes. I’ve always been a huge admirer of Charlize. She was already signed to the film before either Chris or myself and after reading the script and knowing that she was playing in it, I knew I had to be part of it.
It’s really an incredible opportunity to work with someone you think is so brilliant and whose work you’ve followed and respected so much. Charlize was basically the reason I wanted to make this film.
Q: What makes Snow White special in your eyes?
STEWART: Snow White has a unique ability to see the true essence of others. Her real beauty is the way she can see the world and believe in humanity despite the violence and evil that surrounds her. She has incredible intuition that is one of her greatest gifts and so she sees The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) for who he really is. I also enjoyed working with Chris because he had a way of bringing new elements to the scenes we were doing and I was able to play off of that and that was really exciting for me as an actress. We surprised each other a lot and I thrive on that way of working together. Chris was also a lot of fun to be around.
Q: There is a lot of action in this film. Did you get banged up?
STEWART: (Laughs) It was scary sometimes to do certain things like jumping in cold water from pretty high up or some of the fighting. I once really hit Chris hard by accident and I felt awful. But he’s such a good sport and was more worried that I might have hurt my hand!
Q: What did it feel like to play opposite Charlize Theron? Were you ever intimidated by her?
STEWART: I was very inspired by her. She has an incredible presence and she has a way of looking at you that makes her perfect to play the Evil Queen. In some sense I probably was intimidated but it was more a case of my being so excited and excstatic about working with someone of her talent. We had a chance to talk about a lot of things and we both have the same goals and approach when it comes to acting. We both throw ourselves into the process and we had such a fantastic time working together.
Q: This fairytale is famous for the issue of beauty. In this version of SWATH, the Queen is convinced that beauty is the source of her power. Do you believe that beauty can be empowering?
STEWART: Beauty can be empowering in good and bad ways. There are people who use it to their advantage in a negative way and as our film shows the Queen has embraced her beauty in a way that has seen her become a horrible human being. She views beauty as a weapon and a force of manipulation.
This is where Snow White represents the opposite force. She sees beauty everywhere in the world and even sees the inner beauty of the Queen. Snow White is able to see the light and the beauty of things in general and that is her great strength.
Q: Is Snow White a more rebellious Bella?
STEWART: I think they’re both very strong characters although they’re also very different. I like films that take risks and where you have a chance to challenge audience expectations and you’re not worried about how you’re going to be perceived. I don’t think about how a role is going to affect my image or how it figures in to any big plan of how I want my career to evolve. I think your only guide should be to find interesting roles and films that you love and which inspire you to do your best work.
Q: You’ve achieved a lot as an actress at a very young age. How has your fame affected you?
STEWART: That’s hard to say. I still find it hard to feel at ease in situations where people know so much about you and you’re dealing with so many perceptions and you want to give people a sense of who you are – it’s difficult sometimes. I want to get past all that and it’s a struggle sometimes to be yourself and not feel that you have to behave a certain way. I don’t like any fuss around me and so when I’m with my friends I like the fact that I can be myself.
Q: Is it hard to socialise with people outside your profession?
STEWART: I’m not good at meeting people. Most of my friends are people who have known me for a long time even before Twilight started and I usually hang out with them. It’s more difficult to get to know people because you learn to protect yourself when there’s a lot of attention focussed on you and I’m shy to begin with. So it’s tough sometimes to get to make friends except when you’re on a film set and that’s your family for several months.
Q: You attended the Coachella music festival recently. Was it hard to avoid people following you or crowds gathering around you?
STEWART: My friends are very good at being protective of me and sometimes I tell them not to worry so much about it. I just keep my cap pulled down tightly over my forehead and try to move away if I’ve been spotted or photographers are trying to take my picture. It’s not so bad. I had a good time at Coachella. It was fun.
Q: Your parents are both involved in the film and TV business. What was that like for you while your were growing up?
STEWART: She works very close with the director, so I would get special treatment when I would visit her on set. I knew about the process (of filmmaking) before I ever made a movie. I was just comfortable on a set. It is a very foreign place to be if you’re not used to it.
Q: How did you first get into acting?
STEWART: I sang in a school play and some agent happened to be sitting in the audience because his own daughter was in the play. So he called my parents about my coming in to audition.
My parents were nice enough to actually run it by me, I mean instead of just, like, hanging up. They were, like, ‘Do you want to do this?’ They were not very enthusiastic. They are realistic about the business. It is not a normal thing to be successful at it.
Q: What was the audition like?
STEWART: It was a general cattle call where agents would come and take a look at potential child actors. I didn’t really have anything to be worried about. It wasn’t something I needed. It was, like, let’s give this a shot. If it hadn’t happened, I wouldn’t be devastated. Now if you were to take it away from me, I don’t really know what I would do!
Q: Do you feel you’ve adjusted to your celebrity at this point in your life?
STEWART: It’s still something I’m working on. It took me time to feel less paranoid about people looking at me or following me. You learn to make yourself less conspicuous and keep your head down if you’re out in public and usually it’s OK. You get used to not making eye contact and walk faster than you normally would. It’s not a big ordeal. I’m able to travel so much and enjoy doing work that is really fulfilling. It’s all pretty good.
Q: How do you feel you’ve evolved personally over the years and becoming identified with Bella and the Twilight films?
STEWART: Bella and I have taken this journey together and she’s still my favourite character that I’ve played. When I look back on her, I see that she has so much going on inside her and how she sees so much. I will always admire her courage and insight. I feel that we’ve gone through so much together and there are so many parallels between her life and mine. She’ll always be a part of me.
Starring in Snow White and the Huntsman, Kristen Stewart features in her first movie since the Twilight saga phenomenon. As famous for her relationship with Rob Pattinson, which she still refuses to discuss, she’s slightly less guarded than usual about her life. In Malibu with some of her fellow cast-members, Stewart is wearing dark jeans, a long sleeved shirt, long hair and eyeliner.
Q: So what was your first impression of Charlize Theron?
She’s a bitch! (laughs) My first impression? I was really nervous and intimidated to meet her. She’s one of the main reasons I wanted to do the movie. I think she’s stunning at what she does, and I really also respect her as a woman and all of that. I loved the script and I loved everything surrounding it, but there was one concrete pillar in the middle and that was her. And so when I met her, I was like, ‘Oh wow. You are crazy.’ (laughs) she’s like really funny, and quick and she commands a lot of attention, you can’t help but look at her when she walks into a room and she’s cool.
Q: A lot of people feel like that about you.
Oh really? (laughs)
Q: Young people…
That’s a very different thing, that’s like, she’s special. She’s got something.
Q: Do you understand that reaction from people? You’re in Twilight and you’re an icon?
Yes, definitely because things are shown in a certain light. It doesn’t surprise me only because I’ve had similar experiences. You idolise something and it becomes yours sort of, and it changes in your head and so you project your idea of that person onto them. In reality, it can become a weird thing when they become a real person in front of you. I’ve had that experience a couple of times with actors that I’ve worked with and sometimes they really let you down. Sometimes they fulfill your expectations and the only reason I get it is because there are different versions of us but I was put into a mould. I was crafted to be this thing, and put on a pedestal and shine a big light on it, and make it sparkle and everyone is going to be like oh my God! (laughs) So yeah, I get it.
Q: What kind of relationship did you have with Snow White the character before you entered the movie?
I didn’t really have one, no.
Q: You had never seen it?
I saw it when I was younger, but I had to watch it again, and my favorite Disney movie as a kid was The Jungle Book.
Q: Some people would say looking at your life is something like a fairytale? Is that how you see it?
Yeah, it’s weird to talk about it but if life is sort of just going, ‘Wow, I can’t believe this is happening.’ It’s so great, it’s like an ideal version of what it is, but at the same time, fairytales are wrapped up in destiny.
Q: You’ve had to obviously make a big trade off for your success with the lack of anonymity and things like that. Do you think that was a fair trade off, or would you do it all again if you got the chance?
Yeah. I definitely think it’s worth giving up being able to go buy soap even though I want to do that so bad (laughs)
Q: What about the idea of Prince Charming? Charlize was saying she doesn’t think there’s just one, there’s possibly several. What are your beliefs?
I don’t know…. I don’t have, I don’t think about it. I think that for some people, you can feel like there’s one but I don’t think that there are rules. If life had rules like that, God, it would be so much easier.
Q: Do you believe in ‘happily ever after?’
It’s possible. I mean, lucky girl, (laughs) but at the same time a lot of people grow up needing that so that if it doesn’t happen then I’m not complete in my life, I would have lived half a life or something. That would be sad. But I feel pretty sturdy, I feel pretty lucky.
Q: What’s the best thing a guy has done for you?
I don’t know…(laughs)
Q: Best date?
Come on now, my God, (laughs) no, I don’t know, man.
Q: In what way do you think beauty is powerful?
It’s weird because it actually is but it’s a scary thing because it can be…. some of the most beautiful people who use their beauty as a weapon, if looked at through the wrong eyes, or through the right eyes actually, are grotesquely ugly. And I think it just depends on who is looking and you can really take advantage of people, and also, you can be so taken advantage of if that’s all there is to it. But I think, in our case especially, beauty is power yes. To her, she’s being brought up and told that that’s the one card that she can play to a fault. No matter what, you’ve got this and it’s strong and it’s probably true, but ultimately, it’s strength of character. It’s all of those really basic things that are so true, but what is going to last? Not that. Obviously.
Q: Chris Hemsworth mentioned that you took a swing at him several times, once even where you weren’t kidding. How physical did you get in this movie?
It didn’t feel great. I mean, it was one of those situations where you’ve done something you’ve never done before and you realise that it has a great effect, ‘Whoa, wait, I feel horrible,’ (laughs) cause he was in quite a lot of pain, and yeah, not a great feeling, but it was funny. It makes for a funny story at least.
Q: What do you cherish most in a human being?
Honesty probably, but not objective honesty, it’s like, there’s a way to be soulfully honest, there’s a way to be honest with your eyes.
Q: Is there some truth that you wouldn’t like to hear?
Maybe, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to hear it, I’m like ridiculously obsessed with (laughs) truth.
Q: Snow White developed from an innocent little girl to a strong woman, do you recognise yourself as a woman now?
Yeah, I’m 21 years old, yeah. (laughter) I think what’s interesting in this case is that it’s not really a coming of age story, the reason the story starts and ignites is because she has developed. She’s in her prime suddenly and to have such a stunted character be that for an audience, to have your main protagonist be somebody who is an adult, who’s18 and she’s like raring to go, yet she has no life experience, she knows a completely pristine world, and when she comes out basically, it’s like starting completely fresh, I felt like I was playing a kid a lot of the time. I don’t want to make it sound like….it’s not about growing up, for her it was really about realising that these weapons that she had, she was strong enough to utilise them and then it was worth doing so. Those weapons are literally the light that she has in her, and just like the impulsive nature of things is her intuitiveness and all of that.
Q: Can you relate to that?
Yeah, I mean I guess so, yeah. I haven’t felt the switch if that’s what you are saying, I haven’t felt like oh wow now I am becoming something else. I mean, things are a bit easier I guess. I can relate to becoming a little bit more comfortable and older but at the same time I haven’t gone, ‘Oh, I am a woman. Oh, I am an adult now.’
Q: Are you more a warrior or damsel in distress?
In real life?
Probably the latter.
Q: Is there some time in your life where you can enjoy just the pleasure of feeling like a princess?
I mean yeah, sure. But I don’t need that though to be honest, I don’t have that thing, I have a lot of friends who are actors as well and they sort of love the process of getting ready for something because they feel kind of important, I don’t identify with that, other things make me feel…
Q: How about being the face of Balenciaga? That’s like a princess dream in a way.
Yes, when I found that out I was like, because admittedly, I’ve always been sort of like not on the forefront of the things that I wear. Like, I don’t always know exactly what I’m doing, but I always have been incredibly into it, and so I was kind of shocked that they offered it to me. And I was really, really honoured, and very excited.
Q: Are you modelling at all, photoshoots, things like that?
Yeah, I like to play characters, it depends on who you are working with, it can be really fun and artistic and like free. But I don’t always like taking pictures.
Q: Snow White had a great mother as a role model and she instilled values in her. What about your mother?
My mum has always been very affirmative, even if that’s not the most honest thing, but my mum was always really like encouraging, and even if it was sort of something I was being silly about, or something. Sometimes you have to tell a kid when they are wrong, that it’s okay to be wrong, I don’t know, she’s always just been very supportive and proud and she likes me. I think that’s important, it’s weird, it’s strange and sort of, it feels unnatural and whatever, but I do have friends that don’t have that connection with their parents and it has such an awful effect, it’s sad. So I’m really lucky.