To some, Kristen Stewart is simply “the ‘Twilight’ girl.” Her arresting turn as love-struck teen Bella Swan in the swoony series of vampire romance blockbusters put her on the map and earned her the mantle of “movie star.”
And for many young actors, this would have represented the chance to cash in, to do a whole bunch of well-paying wannabe hits with various supernatural love interests. Stewart, on the other hand, prefers the more challenging route: offbeat indies, parts that speak to her in a genuine way, and the occasional portrayal of an icon (like, say, Joan Jett). She only hopes that those who want to see her as nothing more than Bella will give her a chance.
“There’s a road I’m going down now, and I’m aware that there’s not as much of an audience for strange movies—for different, eclectic movies—and I totally accept that,” she says. “But at the same time, if I do films like that, I want people to take it for what it is instead of going, ‘Oh, let’s see the ‘Twilight’ girl try to do this.’?”
Stewart says she is deeply grateful for all the opportunities the runaway vampire franchise has sent her way, but she has made sure the personas she has taken on since have not been terribly Bella-like. Take her nuanced performance in the recent indie sensation “Welcome to the Rileys.” As foul-mouthed teen runaway/stripper Mallory, Stewart is raw and real, a believably bruised troublemaker, and she more than holds her own opposite co-stars James Gandolfini and Melissa Leo. “I’m really glad that it took the time that it did to get made, because I think by the time I was 18, I was ready and more confident and mature enough to play the part,” says the actor, now 20. “I had read the script when I was 16, and I was just too young. I would’ve shied away from stuff, I think.”
“Rileys” director Jake Scott first took note of Stewart in Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild.” Her screen time is limited, but she made it her own. “I went for a drink with Sean Penn, and he said, ‘Check this kid out,’?” recalls Scott. “She didn’t do very much in that film, but she just had this quality that I’d always imagined Mallory would have—I always say ‘vulpine.’ Kind of feral, a bit of an alley cat. That really is strong in her, even though she’s come from a very happy, loving background. It’s interesting; maybe that’s why she can play such damaged characters, such complex characters.”
“Welcome to the Rileys” was in the works pre-”Twilight,” and Scott recalls having to fight a bit to cast Stewart. “I was lucky he thought I deserved it,” she says with a laugh. Stewart did everything possible to live up to the faith Scott had in her, throwing herself into research and character work. “I’m from the Valley, and I’ve had the most normal and privileged upbringing, so the fear in that is sort of ‘Who are you and what do you know?’?” she says.
Stewart read books on homeless teens, talked to real-life strip club workers, and even learned to pole dance. “You really don’t see it in the movie,” she says of the pole dancing, “which sucks—I mean, it doesn’t suck. Jake didn’t want to exploit Mallory any more than she already is, but I did find that they beat the hell out of themselves. I had bruises all over my legs, all up the sides of my body. I think we did everything we could to do it right. For the girls who can relate to a movie like this, it’s so necessary. We would be such frauds if we didn’t do the proper work.”
04 Nov 2010 Leave a comment