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Kristen Stewart Seberg

See Kristen Stewart playing French New Wave icon Jean Seberg

The upcoming biopic will chronicle the fraught life of the actress, style icon, and FBI-targeted political activist

Kristen Stewart is playing Jean Seberg in a new biopic of the actress’s troubled life. Released with Amazon Originals this December, the film is directed by the Australian film and theatre director Benedict Andrews.

If you don’t know Jean Seberg by name you’ll know her by face. A poster girl of French New Wave cinema, she was the star of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (remember “New York Herald Tribune”? that was her) and pretty much invented the pixie-cut that was later adopted by Mia Farrow.

Born in the Midwest, Seberg got her first film role in Otto Preminger’s Saint Joan in 1957. She married the director François Moreuil in 1958 and moved to Paris where she starred in Breathless in 1960, leading the film critic and director François Truffaut to call her “the best actress in Europe”. Moving back to America, throughout the 1960s she became a high profile activist, speaking on civil rights movements in America and publicly supporting The Black Panthers as well as gifting them donations for financial support. She also had a relationship with the civil rights activist (and cousin of Malcolm X) Hakim Jamal (played by Anthony Mackie in the biopic).

Because of this, J Edgar Hoover’s FBI began to target Seberg with their COINTELPRO programme, which harassed and defamed people. A rumour spread that Seberg’s baby was fathered by the Black Panther Raymond Hewitt, rather than her husband Romain Gary, but this was later disproved when, two days after the baby’s birth, the child died, and an open casket ceremony showed the child’s white skin. 

After this, Seberg’s mental health suffered and her acting roles dried up. In 1970, she had a comeback with the disaster film Airport, but it didn’t amount to many other roles. In 1979, at the age of 40, she was found dead, with the death believed to be suicide. Gary told the press that the FBI harassment was to blame for her bad mental state, and under FOIA, the FBI released documents that admitted to defamation.

Seberg also stars Zazie Beetz, Jack O’Connell, Margaret Qualley, and Vince Vaughn. Seberg is expected to hit cinemas early 2020. Watch the trailer below.