Thursday, January 22, 2015
Kristen's interview with The Vancouver Sun for 'Still Alice'
Kristen Stewart didn't need to stretch herself into actorly knots to feel a familial bond with Julianne Moore in "Still Alice."
She had known Moore, who became a five-time Oscar nominee with her recent nod for "Alice," since her first starring role in 2004's "Catch That Kid," which was directed by Moore's husband Bart Freundlich.
That shoot was "very much a family affair," Stewart says, and she grew close enough to Moore that acting as her daughter in "Still Alice" felt almost too easy.
"It's hard to take credit for anything ... because I like her, and because we get along and we understand each other — and that was captured," Stewart
"As an actor ... you can't work with everyone, to be honest with you. The reason things affect an audience ... is because an emotion and energy like that is contagious, so if you're faking it, people know it.
"For a project that's so ambitious and so intimidating," she added, "I needed to know I would help and support her rather than take away from what she's doing."
In the disquieting drama, Moore portrays a renowned linguistics professor whose charmed life is brought to abrupt ruin with the diagnosis of early-onset Alzheimer's disease. Rapidly, the astute academic begins vanishing into the mysterious condition while her husband (Alec Baldwin) and three grown children stand by in helpless terror.
As aspiring actress Lydia, the 24-year-old Stewart portrays a character who is both at odds with her mother (over the daughter's refusal to go to college) and yet her closest confidante. She's the only family member brave enough to face her mother's deteriorating state head-on.
Stewart, so closely associated with the blockbuster "Twilight" film franchise, has won critical regard for her "Still Alice" performance.
The New York Times praised her "excellent work" in the film, the L.A. Times concluded that the film "wouldn't be nearly as emotionally effective as it is" without Stewart's presence, and Grantland heralded her "thrillingly natural" performance as one of the 12 most under-appreciated of the past year.
Sitting in the audience for the film, however, Stewart was mesmerized only by her co-star.
"I was present for a lot of her performance, but I somehow watched the movie and I got my head blown off," Stewart said.
"I knew she was going to accomplish something great ... that changed the face of the disease and revealed the fate of its people, but she let you into something that you normally wouldn't witness unless you had to personally experience it.
"Without the pain that goes along with knowing someone who has Alzheimer's ... it's like I've gotten a taste of what that's like.
"It's because of her. She's so ... smart," Stewart added, peppering in the F-word for emphasis. "She's such a genius."
Stewart identifies intensely with her character, "considering she's an actress, she's creative, she likes that grey area — she likes living in that ambiguity."
And yet, Lydia struggles against tepid parental support and an indifferent industry, whereas Stewart's parents drove her to auditions and her career ignited nearly instantly. (She made her screen debut at age 9, starred for David Fincher in "Panic Room" at 11, and landed the lead in "Twilight" at 17.)
Even if the details differ, Stewart — a frequent target of the unforgiving tabloids — explained that she understands an actress struggling with self-belief.
"I don't want to say it's been hard, but ... it's not like I've just had 'yes, yes, yes, yes' presented to me. In fact, it's quite the opposite," she said.
"It's weird because I love what I do and I'm, you know, insanely successful at it — but I started acting when I was eight, and there was a year of really botched and failed auditions. And then less literally, I know what it feels like to have people say no to you.
"I know what it feels like to sort of have to fight for what you want, and sort of revel in the isolation that it can bring and revel just as much in the closeness it can bring to others," she added. "I do know that feeling."
Moore claimed the film's sole Oscar nomination, for best actress, and she's picked by many pundits as the category's front-runner.
She recently won the best actress Golden Globe and in her acceptance speech said the filmmakers behind "Still Alice" had initially been told that "no one wanted to see a movie about a middle-aged woman."
Stewart wasn't there but of course paid attention to Moore's speech.
"I genuinely believe that if you reorient an audience's mind, they want the material," Stewart said of a gender tilt in film.
"I'm not crippled by that and I'm not scared of it. Women have always had to fight a little bit harder. It's how the world works."