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Kristen Stewart: young blood

On a summer’s day in L.A, paparazzi are hunting the 19-year-old star of the Twilight vampire saga. We fought our way past the flashbulbs for an intimate encounter with today’s hottest teen icon

Taken from the September 2009 issue of Dazed:

Kristen Stewart is in no mood for bullshit. There is a large crowd of ravenous paparazzi camped outside the door of The Runaways production office, peering over a high wooden fence and waiting like a pack of wolves for a glimpse of the 19-year-old Twilight star. Inside, Stewart is pacing, surly and ready for a fight. “They just wait for you! It’s insane!” she fumes. “I went to the wrong place this morning and this person’s like, ‘Hey Kristen, I think you’re in the wrong place!’” Stewart shakes her head. “Normal 19-year-old people in this world fuck up and make mistakes – they’re late and almost get in car accidents all the time. It just happens and it’s normal, and if it happens, they pull over into a parking lot and they take care of it. But I pull into a parking lot and I can’t back out of it, because it’s crowded with people shouting things like, ‘Hey, Kristen – you lost? Are you smoking pot? Are you fucking Robert Pattinson? You know, we have a call sheet, and you’re supposed to be at the production office now!’ And that’s when I’m like, ‘Oh my God! How in the hell do you have a call sheet?!’”

Here, she pauses and a red colour appears on her cheeks. Over the past few months, Stewart has been hounded by flashbulbs, been caught on film taking deep hits from a hash pipe, and dogged by rumours of a romance with her Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson (when I ask, she just laughs and rolls her eyes). She shakes her head again. “A call sheet?! I swear, if it’s one of these guys in the office selling that shit… I will kill them.” When Stewart says this, you’re inclined to believe her. She looks like she could kick some serious ass. She is tiny, yes, but also fierce. Her hair is currently dyed a flat, angry black, and she is clutching a beaten-up electric guitar in the same way a medieval warrior might wield an axe. At this moment, she is very much her character in The Runaways – the ultimate rock’n’roll heroine, Joan Jett. There is hair, there is guitar and most importantly, there is swagger. You get the feeling that Stewart is going to knock this particular role out of the park, partly because she is very much like Jett herself – a steely young woman in the midst of a dirty business, hell-bent on doing her own shit her own way. 

“She’s classic, you know? Just straight-up fucking rock’n’roll, and she does it so well,” says Stewart, who has been speaking to Jett in preparation for the film. “She’s the epitome of cool. And she’s not preachy. She’s not trying to put herself in a box and she never has been. She just is who she is, with no apologies.” So is Stewart. She is not the movie star these paparazzi desperately want her to be. All the fuss outside – the cameras, the shouting, the provocations – has more to do with her starring turn in teenage vampire blockbuster Twilight than with Stewart herself.

Throughout her career thus far, she’s clearly tried to choose character-driven stories – films more at home at Sundance than in the tabloids. Even with Twilight and its upcoming sequel, she hasn’t been seduced by the hype around the role, opting instead to tap into the lead character’s struggles, her battles with being young, confused and, sometimes, angry. 

This is typical of Stewart’s approach. With her most recent film, Adventureland (directed by Greg “Superbad” Mottola), she takes a fictional character and manages to turn her into a real teenage girl – not a “too sexy, too quirky, too smart” screen stereotype. In David Gordon Green’s Undertow (2004), she matched Jamie Bell’s fierce presence with a raw feminine vulnerability. And in Sean Penn’s stunning Into The Wild (2007), she did the same with Emile Hirsch, stealing scenes straight out from under him. She might have been in that film for only a moment, but she made a permanent impression. 

“Reading a script and loving a character and not being able to play it... That’s like having a crush on someone and not being able to fuck them” – Kristen Stewart

“With Adventureland, and pretty much everything else I’ve done, I’ve been lucky because they’re characters I really identified with,” explains Stewart. “Sometimes, I’ll read something and it has something about it that makes you need to live it, and if you don’t, it’s like an unconsummated relationship. Reading a script and loving a character and not being able to play it… That’s like having a crush on someone and not being able to fuck them,” Stewart laughs. “But when you get a part you love, it’s so scary because you then have the ability to kill this character right there on the page. Unless you do this right, she will be dead and nobody’s ever going to get to meet her.” 

Greg Mottola spoke about Stewart’s appeal as an actress at his film’s Sundance premiere. “There aren’t too many people in her age group who have the qualities I needed,” he said. “I knew she was the kind of actress who wasn’t afraid to do unlikeable things on camera, and be a character that might test some people’s sympathy. Kristen’s one of those rare young people who have that weird mix of being very self-possessed and adult in some ways, but also very vulnerable and naked in their emotions.” 

Impressively, Stewart has already managed to maintain this vulnerablity over the course of eight years and 23 films. Her dedication to her work and her fearlessness in front of the camera may also have something to do with the fact that Stewart grew up in the thick of the game, with both her parents working in the industry. “My mom is a script supervisor and my dad’s a producer. They have technical jobs but they’re very much embedded in the business – and once you get in, there’s no way out! But I love it and I’ve always wanted to be a part of it, since the day I was standing on set at five years old.” 

And she didn’t have to wait too long to get involved. “I was asked to do an audition after a really lame school play. I was nine years old – it wasn’t about acting or being famous, I just wanted to be on set. And I found out that it was something that is actually very fulfilling. It became something that I loved. I literally shake my feet in my sleep when I’m working. I cannot turn off, because I don’t have enough time to myself. So, when it’s all over, it’s a very valuable time, because you can try to understand how this character has affected you. Sometimes though, you get to the end of a film and you’re like, ‘But where am I?’” 

This dislocation is, of course, both a curse and a gift. Stewart has chosen a career that requires possessing other people’s identities when she is still trying to find her own. This makes the paparazzi and the whole celebrity machine particularly frustrating. Presumably, it’s not at all easy trying to figure out who you really are at exactly the same moment the whole world is trying to figure out how to define you. “Anything you say can come and bite you in the ass,” Stewart says of her burgeoning fame. “It’s not even like you say things you don’t mean, it’s just that sometimes they come out wrong. The fact is, the paparazzi and most interviewers, they want your soul. It’s so scary because your persona… and I guess I now have one, because people think of me in a certain way… is all based entirely on quick snippets of crazed moments in your life. And that is what people then base their entire opinion of me on!” 

Who exactly Stewart is and will become is hard to define, actor or not. Both fragile and powerful, wise and naïve, angry and peaceful, she is aware that she will have to fight hard to keep some small part of herself for herself. “Look,” she says firmly. “I love what I do and I know how lucky I am to be doing it. But I guard against being insincere, and I try not to say really cheesy things. I could say the whole, ‘I am so grateful for this. I get to put my heart and soul into something every day and people appreciate it... blah, blah, blah.’ But to say something like that seems so trite to me – a cliché of an actress talking about acting. I don’t talk like that, and so now people say, ‘Oh, she’s ungrateful. She’s a bitch.’ But I am just trying not to say something totally un-genuine about something I love. People have to try to understand that it’s very weird for me to talk to people I don’t know about something I care about so much.” 

Outside, the paparazzi are waiting for Stewart to do just that. But for now, what Stewart has to say is still most eloquently stated in her performances. “You have a movie and everyone can take from it what they will,” she says. “And hopefully, as the actor, if you’ve connected to your character the way you should have, then maybe they can take something real from it.” 

hair Adir Abergel at The Magnet Agency; make-up Jillian Dempsey at The Wall Group; set design Kadu Lennox at Frank Reps; photographic assistant Christopher Helmut Grosser; styling assistant Abigail Mclucas, Louise Hall-Strutt; retouching La Boutique Location Pier 59 Studios, Santa Monica; production Paula Navratil; jacket in cover image Dolce & Gabbana

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