HQ Digital Scans
Click on pics for larger view.
KRISTEN STEWART, The rebel.
At 24, she has the fame of a blockbuster’s star. She has loved under the glare of the paparazzi. She's discovered what Hollywood does to those who just do as they wish. After two years of silence, the sulky actress comes back –obviously- where we didn’t expect her, in French director Olivier Assayas’ movie. And talks with INGRID SISCHY about the disturbing similarities between this fiction and her reality.
Actresses with a fresh outlook—and the guts to break the usual Hollywood formulas—don't grow on trees in America. So when one comes along who does break the mold, and won't play the Hollywood game, it's worth sitting up and taking notice. Especially when that actress grew up in Los Angeles, a child of two hard-working lifers in the movie and television industries—which is how Kristen Stewart burst forth onto the big screen. This was no wealthy kid, protected by the cocoon of fame and/or wealth, secluded in a mansion surrounded by obsessively perfect, manicured hedges in Beverly Hills. Stewart's upbringing in the much grittier San Fernando Valley was the opposite. Her folks, Jules Mann-Stewart and John Stewart were workers, not stars. And they knew first hand what a pain in-the-you-know-what those stars could be.
When their daughter Kristen, who dressed as much like a boy as her brother Cameron did, particularly favoring her gym clothes, which she wore to school, wanted to start auditioning, her mother warned: "I work with these kids—they're crazy people. You're not one of them." But, as happens with Kristen, she persevered in her dream, and by the time she was 11, she was starring opposite Jodie Foster as her daughter, in David Fincher's knuckle-clenching film, Panic Room, about mother and daughter targets of a terrifying robbery. It was inspired casting. Stewart never played cute, but was just the kind of child you'd want to go on a dangerous mission with. I spoke to Foster, herself a survivor of the child-actor pitfalls, about Stewart a few years ago, and she put it succinctly. "Kristen does not have the traditional personality of an actress," said Foster. "She doesn't want to dance on the table for grandma and put a lampshade on."
After all, how many kids can claim they had pet wolf-dogs growing up? Which is the case with the Stewart household—a fact that seemed all the more eerie when Kristen was cast in the five-film Twilight franchise as Bella Swan the dorky-but-ever-so-romantic-high-school-loser-turned-vampire-love-interest who was the best friend of the buffed-up local kid who periodically shape-shifted into a wolf. To say those films were moneymaking machines is an understatement. (Try a $400 million world-wide box office take for just the first of the blockbuster batch.) Still, those movies were cheesy. Roquefort, I'd say. But Stewart never looked down her nose at them; nor did she diss the millions of followers of the books. As a consummate hipster it would have been so easy for her to do that. Both she and Robert Pattinson—her love interest in real life as well as in the series—seemed to have true respect for Twilight's fans. And for each other. Thus when a series of snapshots of Stewart having a secret snog with Rupert Sanders, her then-married director on Snow White and the Huntsman, came out it was a big to-do. Unlike France, America always gets on its morality high-horse in ways that must seem laughable to Europeans, but this was more than that. People felt disappointed. What's interesting is that, I think, Stewart was the most disappointed in herself of all. To find herself in such a clichéd situation is something one never expected of her. But the truth is that it was always Stewart's flesh and blood human-ness that set her apart from those impossibly perky, impossibly done-up, actresses one reads about all the time. Even though she had On The Road, the film adaption of Jack Kerouac's sacred 1957 novel about the Beats, a movie very close to her heart, coming out in the States at around the same time, she pretty much went off the radar until recently. In the below interview she recalls, "I got off this huge wave and said, I'm going to go in for a bit. I'm going to come back out later."
The time has come. With a slate of at least five new films already shot and scheduled to come out over the next year, or so, starting with Clouds of Sils Maria, Olivier Assayas's smart meditation on the movie industry and on contemporary fame, the actress has clearly been busy. In Assayas's film she demonstrates how she can laugh at herself. It is not a coincidence that the film is French. Like so many Americans before her, from Gertrude Stein to James Baldwin to Nina Simone, who have gone to France to give freedom to their voices, Stewart found hers again with French director and screenwriter Olivier Assayas. Speaking of which—you will note that something unusual happens in this cover story. It is an interview, in the tradition of the Playboy interviews, or the ones that Andy Warhol had such fun with when he started Interview Magazine, and wanted to get everything from what he called "the horse's mouth." That's how I first met Stewart; she was about 12, just beginning, and I was the Editor of Interview. At the time I thought, "This kid's got her own voice."
She still does. And even though Vanity Fair France normally has a rule against interviews, rebels break rules. Kristen Stewart is a true rebel. She has a phrase for when she rebels that I think is hilarious. She says, "I put on my nope mitts." But Vanity Fair is a rebel, too. So together we broke the rule, put on our yes mitts, and got into the ring together, to spar, laugh, and talk.
Kristen Stewart: What's up?
Vanity Fair: YOU are up. First question: I know how you love red-carpet questions. [Laughs] What do you have on for this interview?
Kristen: I'm out of my sleepwear. I'm proud of myself. What time is it, noon??
VF: Time to talk. You know, we've broken our no-interviews rule for you.
KS: Cool. I love reading interviews with people I'm interested in, when they’re candid. You can't mince words that way. It is what it is. I know you're into them. They're like your bag. Dude—you go for it.
VF: So, it's been quiet at your end for the last couple of years. But it's about to get noisy, with a slew of movies coming out. I saw the first of them, Clouds of Sils Maria, directed by Olivier Assayas, yesterday, coming out in France at the end of August. Frankly I wasn't expecting to be so hooked. I thought it would be a bit boring. Instead I was enthralled. The film is a real case of Art imitating Life imitating Art imitating Life. At points I even wondered if you inspired the script.
KS: It is somewhat uncanny. Sometimes you play parts that are stretches, that you have to reach for. But this one was in my lap, and I had so much fun with it.
VF: There's also a European versus American thing, built into the film. A past versus future thing. Old world values versus the new digital world, where everything ends up on Twitter, Instagram... But it's the way the film reverberates with real life that hooks you. What did you think when you got the script?
KS: As soon as I read it basically I was terrified I wasn't going to get the part—because Olivier had already re-cast it. But there wasn't any world in which I wouldn't play that part. I asked Olivier, "Please get on Skype with me." He thought I was talking about the part of the [scandalous] young actress, played by Chloe [Moretz]. I was like, "No, that's impossible, I could never play that part." The only part I could play is Valentine, the assistant. Luckily something shifted and it all worked out.
The stars aligned in that fateful way that they do. Because movies can sometimes be insurmountable mountains you never know if you are going to get across. I thought I wasn't going to get this part because there was a mix-up in communication. A French-American mix-up, with my agent and the producer. I hadn't read the script and the producer, Charles Gillibert, thought he was going to respect the friendship that we have and so didn't follow up. He figured that, had I liked it, I would've jumped at it, which is a natural thing that actors do. When I saw him later he was, like, "I think it's surprising you didn't respond to Sils." I was like, "I have no idea what you're talking about." Luckily it all fell into place.
VF: It's funny because obviously the role of the rebellious young actress might seem like a fit for you, but, to anyone who knows you, the part you ended up playing—the personal assistant who is very much the worker—is the one that seems like destiny. Did you click right away with Assayas, your director?
KS: We met in a restaurant in Paris. This was the first time Olivier displayed his way, which is not wordless because everything he puts forth is fully pregnant. But we didn't talk much. We just sort of sat there and I felt instantly comfortable and aware of the fact that we were going to make this movie together. We exchanged a few words about it and then we were on our way.
VF: So describe your part.
KS: I am Valentine, the personal assistant to Maria Enders, this famous actress in the film [played by Juliette Binoche]. In Sils Maria both of these women represent two very different stages of life. Their perspectives are so different, yet they're so similar and they can share so much. At the same time everything that brings them together polarizes them. It's just like this weird fucking emotional thing that they can't put their finger on. They are not friends. They're not coworkers. They're not girlfriends. They're not mother and daughter or vice versa. They're just fucking all of it and it's so weird. That's why I wanted to play the part. I am her co-conspirator in every way.
VF: The whole personal assistant thing can be a minefield. You must have witnessed the relationships of stars and their personal assistants a lot.
KS: As actors we get into these isolated positions that can get weird because you tend to guard yourself in a way that limits interactions. So it's normal for actors to hire friends or somebody to be around. The lines can get really blurred, because they are working for you. They are an employee but they're also your friend and a creative partner. Then you become codependent and obsessive. It's this weird unbalanced, but really odd relationship that is so unique and so esoteric in terms of how many people actually experience it. But I know it so well.
VF: You and Juliette Binoche really get in there and the movie shows how tricky things can get between these famous people and their assistants. Part of it is that there are no boundaries. The movie business and the music business are the perfect Petri dish for these situations, because they can be 24-hour jobs, so often away from home, friends, and family.
KS: It's interesting, because it takes a certain person to want to service another person. Then, when those lines do get blurred you feel taken advantage of, yet you were offering yourself up so willingly. I don't know about the Gaga situation but for Valentine things build to that point where she breaks. Maria is surprised, but Valentine is like, "Come on, how could you be surprised? Jesus fuck! I know I haven't said anything until now, but I can't take it anymore." I was interested in the fact that you don't know anything about Valentine.
VF: Because the innate narcissism of the dynamic is that we would know everything about the famous actress and nothing about the anonymous assistant?
KS: Exactly. That was pretty deliberate. We wanted to keep that and hold onto that. There were a few tiny glimpses into who Valentine is. I wanted to riddle her with clues that we never followed through on, like tattoos. She really comes from somewhere, but we don't know where. She has interests, but we don't know what they are.
VF: IS: So, how did you feel being in a movie with Juliette Binoche? Intimidated? Excited? Unimpressed?
KS: I was cottonmouth nervous to meet her for the first time. She has this insane ability to put you in a position where you're revealing parts of yourself that you didn't know about. That speaks to what I always wanted her to be, which is this eccentric, open, really fucking lofty thinker. Like, Juliette Binoche--
SUDDENLY THERE'S A HUGE DIN OF DOGS BARKING
KS: What's up guys? Shhhhhhh. Like, what is going on?
KS: Bear and Bernie and Cole. They're my real security team.
VF: [Laughs.] Did you use the word lofty a minute ago about Juliette Binoche?
KS: Yeah. Not to attribute this fully to the fact that she's European, because that would be discrediting this amazing quality that she has, but she was exactly what I wanted her to be. Instead of saying, "Oh, I'm fucking starving," which is what I would say, she would be like, "I have this deep hunger within my—within the depths of my..." You know what I mean? She wouldn't say something as simple as I'm hungry. She is not hungry. She has a deep need.
VF: Let's talk about your hunger to work with heavy hitters. Right from the beginning you've worked with directors and actors who are the real thing—for example, you were about eleven when you shot Panic Room (2002) with Jodie Foster, about sixteen when you shot Into the Wild (2007) with Emile Hirsch, directed by Sean Penn, around twenty-one when you did On The Road (2012), with Garrett Hedlund, directed by Walter Salles....maybe at the beginning it's luck, but there is a pattern here and these things don't happen by accident. Even with the whole series of Twilight films, which may have been basically teenage fare, your co-star, Rob Pattinson, was a real-deal actor, and there were plenty stories about the two of you fighting "the suits" to keep it all more risky, broody, emotional and authentic. It feels like you really care who you go to war with.
KS: Oh yeah. Absolutely. I'm not the type of actor who can perform without wearing a mirror on my face. Everyone knows that you're better with other actors who are really present, who you are having the same experience with, but I am made or broken on it. If I'm working with someone who I'm not vibing with, or who I have to fake anything with, then it's sad for me and it's bad acting.
VF: Has that happened with actors?
KS: Absolutely. I haven't been totally screwed, but I've had to force things. I've had to be in front of people and be like, "Oh, thank God we only have a few scenes together." As you mentioned I've been really lucky and the good experiences have definitely outweighed the not as euphoric experiences. But, yes, I know the difference. When it's good it's fucking like a drug.
VF: What do you do when it's bad? What happens to you?
KS: It is uncomfortable. I never know until a few days, or a few scenes, in. At first you think maybe we just haven't fallen into our rhythm. But as soon as you are exhausted by trying to find it, you give up and just sort of fall into default mode—it's just shitty. It's just not fun. And it's not as good. When I look at those scenes I go ugh. I don't like watching them. Again, it's a two-way road. Some people jibe and some people don't.
VF: This reminds me of something Elizabeth Taylor told me. I was lucky enough to do a series of interviews with her shortly before she died. We were talking about BUtterfield 8 (1960), for which she won an Oscar, [as Best Actress in a leading role], and she said something like, "I thought that director was such a fool, and I disliked him so much that eventually we didn't speak and I basically directed myself." Wild huh?
KS: Like, wow! A story like that is so revealing. It's crazy when that happens on a movie and we the audience just can't tell.
VF: Elizabeth Taylor was still so fiery. Actresses today seem tame compared to her. But because of the Internet scandal has lost its sense of glamour. In Sils Maria you all deal with this. In fact you defend the young actress whose life is such a mess, people can't stop watching it, like a traffic accident. Tell us about this role played by Chloe Moretz.
KS: Chloe plays a young actress, Jo-Ann Ellis, at the precipice of something great and also in the middle of a scandal. She represents a freshness and an eagerness and a naïve courageousness that is really attractive and that people want to watch. There is something about Chloe's character that is really harsh in an honest and youthful way. She is a young girl with a different perspective.
VF: The role, played by Chloe Moretz, is obviously not based on one particular person, but seems to be a kind of portrait of our times. This character, Jo-Ann Ellis, could be a compilation of any number of young American actresses out there, who find themselves in the eye of a media storm for one reason or another. A very memorable moment in the film is when you rush to her defense. You say, something like, "She's young, but at least she's brave enough to be herself. At her age that's pretty brave. These days that's fucking cool. She's my favorite actress right now." As an American, having watched your thing all these years, one couldn't help thinking Assayas gave you lines to describe yourself in terms of your career. Not in a smug, narcissistic way, but in a wink to the audience way. I mean, how many times have we seen people say, "Oh Kristen Stewart doesn't smile," or, "Kristen Stewart is so moody." It struck me as funny having those words coming out of your mouth. I've heard them said about you.
KS: I have to admittedly say that there were a few lines that I had to sort of curb the sense of glee while saying them. In fact Olivier did not write it for me. It wasn't a deliberate thing. But it was kismetly perfect for me to play the part. I responded to the material in a way that was a little bit closer to home than normal, but it just happened. It's crazy. It's like such a weird, funny and awesome coincidence. One thing that I say [in the film] after Juliette's character asks, "But how could you like her? She's a crazy person!"—is that it is all celebrity news. I'm paraphrasing because I don’t remember the exact words. It's fun, I say, but what does she knows about Jo-Ann Ellis? I say she doesn't really know anything.
VF: Which, again, takes us not just to celebrity gossip—which has always existed—but to the impact of the Internet, the Digital press, the bloggers, the Twitters, the millions of do-it-yourself soapboxes, and the world-wide web. The film captures what happens when all these outlets become part of the action, when the young actress shows up in a restaurant with a married writer, and you, the knowing personal assistant predict, "When word gets out it will be like a tsunami."
KS: I think the best is when Juliette's character says, "Oh yeah, on what planet?" And I reply, "The planet has a name. It's called the real world." It felt good to me. People say how insignificant that stuff is. It is really easy for a pompous person to say it doesn't mean anything. Sure, but she was talking about it.
VF: It's irresistible.
KS: You definitely do not want to hear anyone in my position harp on the hardships.
VF: You mean harp on how hard it is to be famous.
KS: Yes, exactly.
VF: Yes, it's a horrible thing to hear people kvetch about that. That's why people got so mad when Gwyneth Paltrow said how hard her job is as a working mother because she has to take her kids on movie sets. It was difficult to feel much pity when one compares her life to that of most working mothers. You don't want to hear that.
KS: I know. Trust me. To speak lightly about it is okay. For people to say it is not a big deal, it is not real life—that is a sentiment I couldn't peddle more. I completely agree that all of this media stuff, if you're involved in it, can't really touch you physically, and it shouldn't affect you and all that. Yet it does technically affect your life. Obviously in the best ways imaginable. In dreamlike ways it affects your life. But from anyone's perspective it is nuts and it should totally be acknowledged.
VF: You personally have been on the other side of the “tsunami” in a number of ways. I remember the last time I wrote about you and I was interviewing you in Paris at the restaurant Le Duc. We opened the door to leave the restaurant when we were done and holy shit. It was at the height of the craziness about Twilight, before the third installment came out, and a mob of paparazzi was waiting. We went right back into the restaurant. They were still there though when we left a few hours later. That's one kind of big wave of something coming at you.
You have also experienced being at the other end of another kind of “tsunami”—when the gossip stuff hits. That hadn't happened to you before, but it happened. When those photos came out of you having a little smooch [with Rupert Sanders her director on Snow White and the Huntsman] it went nuts. So you know how it actually does touch you.
KS: Yeah, I do. The way that I talked about my forced interaction with the media is that nobody forced me to be an actor. But it would be crazy to deny that this is just a different beast—nobody could have signed up for it.
VF: It's a new beast than, say, when the Hollywood studios controlled the press in the 1930s or 1940s.
KS: I never really thought of anything in terms of designing a career. I never tried to shape people's perspectives of me, which is something that a lot of people do. There are certain actors and artists who want to be a certain kind of actor or certain kind of artist, and I'm really not like that. I have very much fallen into every situation, every creative and not creative experience, that I have delved into, based on gut. Therefore true regret can never eat at me. In terms of what people consume about you and then subsequently how they shape their opinion of you, none of it is wrong. It's all a varied assortment of whatever flavors they've picked up at the newsstand or in the theater or on the Internet. But that literally is something that is not designed by me and so it's not something that bothers me. But I don't want to add to this already pre-existing, enormous mound of salacious bullshit that isn't real. That's not me defending anything. That's true. Just being in the middle of it it's weird to comment on it. But I feel oddly capable of stepping outside and going, "Isn't it obvious to everyone?" I mean, it's fun, like Valentine says, in Sils Maria. The stories are fun, but do you not realize that there are characters that have been cast in the media and people like to get their weekly fill on these stories. It's like soap opera. I try not to let it mess with me, because my true personal life, as much as people think they know about it, they don't know dick shit. Who could? By the way nobody knows. Nobody knows what the fuck is going on. You're going to die. You're going to lay next to the people that you know the most in life, the people that you're going to grow old with. But you're going to lay next to them in the middle of the night deeply curious about them and who they are, because nobody fucking knows anything.
VF: You are reminding me of a passage that Philip Roth wrote in American Pastoral. The subject is "other people.” It goes: “You never fail to get them wrong.... You get them wrong before you meet them, while you're anticipating meeting them; you get them wrong while you're with them; and then you go home to tell somebody else about the meeting and you get them all wrong again.... The fact remains that getting people right is not what living is all about anyway. It's getting them wrong that is living, getting them wrong and wrong and wrong and then, on careful reconsideration, getting them wrong again. That's how we know we're alive: we're wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to forget being right or wrong about people and just go along for the ride.”
But, let's go back to when you started out auditioning as a kid, going around with your mother. I remember when we talked about this many years ago you told me the people in charge of the auditions for the commercials would try and make you be all smiley-smiley which felt fake to you. Or they'd complain that you were too tomboy-looking. How do you think that early experience formed you?
KS: I attribute my early start to my ability to do this job. It requires being comfortable within an insane amount of attention. If I hadn't started out when I was really little I don't think I would have done this as a teenager or as a young adult. It's not in my make-up to go stand in the middle of a room. But I really wanted to be an actor and I wanted to make movies. I wanted to emulate my parents.
VF: They were in the business, right? Your mother, a script supervisor and your father, a stage-manager, would sometimes take you with them, as I recall.
KS: I looked up to them and thought that what they did was the coolest thing that one could do with one's life. And because I didn't fit the mold of kid actor, or want to be a famous person/actress, or a let's satisfy the masses person, I was cast by this young, awesome female director/writer, Rose Troche in The Safety of Objects as who I was, which was a full-on tomboy. You couldn't decipher me from my brother.
I was kind of a cocky kid, and so when you go to school and you're not fully accepted as this girl who was supposed to look like a girl, it affected me. I hated it when people were like, "Ewww you know, you don't look like ..." I would get called a man—and all this stuff. There was a very very brief time when it bothered me. Then it ended because when I started working I wasn't considered weird at all. I was cool. I liked myself. I felt really lucky. I feel really lucky to have been a kid in this business, because if you find the right road it is the most accepting, open environment that I could imagine. It's a field that attracts the most diverse assortment of people. Challenging people who are progressive and subversive in large numbers and want to ask questions and express themselves. It's a fucking beautiful environment. It's amazing. I love it. I feel so happy and proud to be a part of it.
Actors are strange, questioning people. They're odd. They're willing to step into different shoes for long periods of time, no matter how much it hurts or anything, just to have that experience of telling a story.
VF: Why do you think going to work as a kid meant so much to you?
KS: The root of it, as I've said before, is that I loved how my parents walked through the door at the end of a 16-hour day on a film set.
VF: Didn't you once tell me that you used to smell them?
KS: Yeah. If I pick up a backpack that I had on a certain movie, but I haven't used since, I can smell the place and I can smell the set. I can literally smell all of the things that went into that experience. My mom is a script supervisor and she has like a ditty bag, a script bag, and it always reeked of, like, craft service and spilled coffee and then, smoke, from the atmosphere effects on set, like dust from an explosion. So that's what got me into it at first. It was like you have just walked miles and miles today. Where have you been and what made you get up and go? I just knew it was something interesting. I knew that my parents would only get up and work 16 hours a day if it was like, you know, cool and fascinating.
And then I had that feeling of discovering it and sharing it. It's not readily available for you to find, but you need to search for that feeling and then you can share it with others. It's fucking hard work and it takes faith. You have to put yourself on the line for something that might not immediately present itself to you. And when you find it it's the most exciting—it's like what fuels my life. I would never stop working for it. I like that quest. That quest is the best part, that searching and finding and digging, and digging, and digging.
VF: What's interesting is that when you're working nobody ever describes you as twitchy and getting up and sitting down all the time. But when you're being written about for an article the writers often describe you that way.
KS: There are definitely times on set where I'm vibrating, and I love that feeling. But it's a different sensation. I'm comfortable with that unease.
VF: You didn't work for two years--
KS: Yes, it took forever.
VF: Was Clouds of Sils Maria your first film after all that time?
KS: Camp X-Ray, [directed by Peter Sattler and scheduled for release in October 2014] was my first film.
VF: What was the last before Camp X-Ray?
KS: Breaking Dawn—Part 2.
VF: Why did it take two years after that for you to agree to doing a movie?
KS: I was looking around. There are a couple of things that started and stopped that didn't get off the ground, and I put a lot of time into those things that didn't go anywhere, which, happens. And after that—this could totally say something about where I was at—it took a special thing. Who knows if I were to look now at the stack of scripts that I went through during that period? I wonder if there would be something that I would go, "Oh how did that get by?" Seriously, I think that after Twilight and after Snow White and the Huntsman, which were such huge movies, that I felt I didn't want to search for the next "big, successful" thing. One thing that people do with two enormous movies is think that that's their thing now, to do big movies, and ride that wave. I got off this huge wave and said, "I'm going to go in for a bit." I'm going to come back out later. That was good. I needed some time off. I needed to get in with my friends. I needed to be back in my life. I needed to like, live in my house and be surrounded by my own shit and play guitar and write.
VF: It must have been a relief, when you finally did, go back to work to do something like Clouds of Sils Maria, shooting in bucolic spots in Switzerland and Germany...away from the roar of the crowd, as it were. But the film is definitely about the roar of the crowd, which is what makes it so current. I want to go back to a moment in it: You, Valentine, and Juliette, as Maria Enders, are in the mountains. You are talking and making your way up and down the paths. You come upon a lake. You both go down to it. Then what happens is a complete flip of expectations. Or is it? Juliette jumps into the water nude. You, Valentine, the example of so-called perfect youth, however, stay modestly covered in your skivvies.
KS: I'm literally wearing two pairs of underwear.
VF: Is it because you Kristen [put on your American puritanical hat and] wouldn't do a European nude scene? Or did it have to do with the dynamic of the relationship in the film?
KS: It was another one of those Life imitating Art/Art imitating Life moments. We haven't really talked about Olivier [Assayas], but the way that he works is sort of by orchestration. Once he had cast us we had sort of preliminary, very general discussions about what it was about, and then once we started shooting, he really gave us our parts to play. Any time that I would push them for an answer on something, he really was reluctant to give me one. He would always say, like "I think it's really whatever you think." I would be coming to him with this big thing. I needed an answer. And he was like, "I think it's just whatever you want to do." He's, like, "That's why I hired you."
He wasn't even comfortable asking us to jump into the water. Because he is that way, he gets everything. He started rolling and just said, "Whatever you guys are comfortable doing. Look at it as you're going to the lake and whatever you do with the lake, go in, don't go in, talk, don't talk, just do whatever. Just do your thing." Of course we were going to jump in the lake. I knew walking into it that I was going to do whatever she did. Once she started taking her clothes off and I started taking my clothes off I was just like, "Oh my God, I can't fucking get naked around her." I felt self-conscious as Valentine. I fully represented this American sort of modest self-consciousness and she, like, 100% started exuding her freedom. I completely assumed my own identity and went, "Nope. Fuck it. I'm sticking with undies."
VF: You can cut the sexual, erotic, atmosphere at that moment with a knife.
KS: When she started taking her clothes off, as Valentine, it was a challenge which I could not face. If you're working with someone who allows those things to be free-form, and fluid, it's so interesting to play and interesting to watch, because they're all surprises.
VF: Well, you're full of surprises, when it comes to clothes, wearing them, or not wearing them, included. I'm going to take that as an opportunity to switch things up a bit now and talk about you and fashion. All along you've written your own rules about what it is to be an actress in Hollywood. You have definitely not played the red carpet game. So when you have made a connection with a fashion house it has really meant something. A few years ago you were the face of Balenciaga for the fragrance, when Nicolas Ghesquière was there as the Creative Director. And then at the end of last year it was announced that you would be the face of the Métier d’Art de Chanel collection. I remember sitting beside you at the Chanel show in Dallas, last December, thinking, "That's perfect." How did that happen?
KS: My relationship with fashion is by default because as an actress you have to walk down these carpets, and from a young age I have done that. As you probably remember I met Nicolas Ghesquière at a shoot I did in Montauk for you with Bruce Weber. That was my first introduction into the inspiration that I could feel around an artist who did something that I had nothing to do with. Up until that point, for me that inspiration had only been with actors and directors. With Nicolas it was a full on, revelatory Aha! moment. It was a "Oh my God I totally get it." I had found what I was attracted to. Before that it was just annoying that I had to wear these heels and, like, try and satisfy people who wanted to talk about the heels. Now it was, "This is cool and artistic and fun, and basically a rad thing to do." That awakening was so exciting. And from a very young age I had worn a few Chanel pieces. When you wear their stuff its a different experience. I've said this about fashion. When it’s exciting you're reaching in and finding parts of yourself that are a new side, that you wouldn't be able to find had you not put the piece on.
VF: Also, happily there are some fashion houses, Chanel being one of them, where as a celebrity you are not just treated like a pound of flesh, a walking ad to sell the stuff at all costs.
KS: Yes that's a dreadful thing to feel and nothing that I ever want to be a part of. You can starkly feel the contrast between these approaches. And I got to know the family over at Chanel, which it very much is. I'm saying this not in the PR way. You would expect them to be the most haughty, pretentious group of people, but really they're a family. Their system is quiet and very unassuming. I had gotten close to these [girls who work there]. They were thinking who could represent this more Americana based line that [Lagerfeld was designing for the Métiers d'Art de Chanel collection, first shown in Dallas for 2014 pre-fall]. They were like, "Dude, how about her?"
VF: [Laughs] And you got the job. And started working with Karl Lagerfeld. You are both such workers. I imagine that was a great bond.
KS: He's awesome, man. When you say Karl Lagerfeld, you almost picture the silhouette before the actual man. You can see the shape in a drawing. But what really shocked me is how prolific he is. His capacity is really obvious. He's like an enormous vault of information. It's crazy. He told me, "You know my girls are very excited about you." I thought that was really sweet. The way it all came about was just really natural. It was very old school. But he instantly made me look 100 times cooler in one breath. When he was photographing me he'd walk over and just say, "Put your legs down and just relax a little bit and hold the toothpick like this, do this, move your finger up a little." The way he could identify cool was something I had never seen before.
VF: So it's a new day for you. Twilight has come and gone. In fact the sun has set on Twilight. Have you had any big thoughts about that experience now that it is fading into the distance, and people can, once again, see you in a different way? That was quite a ride.
KS: I may have said when I was in the thick of it that it wasn't going to last forever. It will calm down. But I didn't really believe it. [Laughter] I thought it might just last forever. Now it seems so far away. We are only two or three years out and I am fully, fully, fully at the bottom of that massive flight of stairs. I'm out of the building.