Kristen Stewart is such a great person ~ a wonderful, talented actor...very friendly, funny, humble, professional, grateful to everyone - and she gives the best and biggest hugs too!
All of the actors on this set were such a lovely bunch to work with... Diane Kruger walked over and introduced herself to me right away on the first day, always a joy to be around - Laura Dern was a sweetheart, treating us all to Starbucks...Jim Sturgess, Courtney Love and James Jagger (Mick's son) were a lot of fun to be around as well as my buddy, Adam Jackson Hurtig, who is always a sweetheart on set!
So glad to be a part of this wonderful production - It's been a brilliant experience with a fantastic crew that are all so fun, lively and kind with genuinely caring, calm and gentle spirits even under pressure.
I've really enjoyed coming to set every day for the past several weeks to work with you all. And I'm so looking forward to seeing the final cut of this movie! ❤
When Savannah Knoop offered the director Justin Kelly the rights to her 2008 memoir Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT Leroy, it began a nearly decade-long development process to bring the story to the screen. The film chronicles Knoop's experience as she became swept up playing the mysterious alter ego JT Leroy, who was created by her sister-in-law, the San Francisco-based writer Laura Albert. In public, Knoop embodied the elusive gender-fluid teenage author who became a national phenomenon in the early aughts. Eventually, Kristen Stewart signed on to play Knoop, and Laura Dern took the buzzed-about role of Albert.
The story of JT Leroy is a saga worthy of the screen, and is one that still lives in infamy. Also the subject of last year’s documentary Author: The JT Leroy Story, the adventure began with an unknown writer called Terminator, whose acclaim in underground lit circles caused him to spiral into a fever dream of cult celebrity status. Revealed to be Jeremiah “Terminator” LeRoy (JT for short), the writer published a series of acclaimed magic-realist books chronicling his experiences as a queer, gender-fluid teenager, raised in rural West Virginia by his prostitute mother. Celebrities and the media devoured the novels, Sarah (1999), The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (1999), and Harold’s End (2005). Fashion and Hollywood became obsessed with the elusive author, who often appeared at photoshoots and events in a blonde wig, sunglasses, and black hat, hobnobbing with everybody from Winona Ryder to Asia Argento, Courtney Love, and Bono. But it was all a lie. Albert was behind the persona of JT, authoring the books and posing as him on phone calls and emails; Knoop became the public face, putting a person to the name for cameras and public audiences, while Albert tagged along as a brash, British woman named “Speedie.” When an explosive New York Magazine piece outed the two of them, Albert’s literary world came crashing down, and Knoop was left to pick up the pieces.
Now, with the film freshly wrapped, Kelly and Knoop (who co-wrote the film) are offering W an exclusive first look at Kristen Stewart in character as both Savannah and JT, and Laura Dern as Laura Albert. They also hopped on the phone to discuss working with the two A-list actresses, perfecting characterization through wardrobe and hair, and privacy and identity in a post-JT Leroy world.
You’ve been working on this project for a very long time. How does it feel to be on your last day of production? Justin Kelly: It feels amazing. Savannah and I started working together in late 2009. We’ve been writing, rewriting, developing and getting it off the ground for so many years that it feels amazing. It’s wild. Savannah Knoop: And it feels like it took as long as it needed to take. We just kept writing and working and thinking about it until it was time to go.
I know the casting process was a big element in getting the film made. Laura Albert, for those who know her, is kind of a larger-than-life character. And with Savannah, you’re casting yourself, which is also daunting. How did you end up with Laura Dern and Kristen Stewart in these lead roles? Knoop: We’ve always had Laura Dern in our earliest preconceptions of the character. Images of her were actually even in our first lookbook. Kelly: She’s obviously a genius, and it was very surreal that we were lucky enough to get to work with her. She got the layers of the part in a way we didn’t expect, and it became very exciting. I think people are going to be enamored at the complexity of her performance as this eccentric genius. Knoop: And she plays it with so much heart. Laura [Albert] is so dynamic and complicated as a character. It was always about merging her interior sense of self and her public sense of self. It felt like this total gift, because she could flip so fast into these different parts of the character. She’s a master of improv, which felt essential to capturing the essence of Laura Albert. One of the things that’s key to the character is how funny she is, and Laura Dern is hysterically funny. And when it came to Kristen, I didn’t have any preconceptions about who was going to play me. I didn’t have any idea. It’s a queer coming-of-age story, which is different from an ingenue coming-of-age. The character is a mix of being in control of her destiny, and letting life take her where it may. It felt exciting to think of Kristen playing the role because it felt like she could identify emotionally with that. Kelly: I first met with Kristen about two years ago, and she really truly understood the material. She asked a lot of questions I hadn’t even thought about. The nuances that she brings to this character are really incredible—it’s almost hard to talk about. She’s such a precise, detail-oriented actor, and she never stopped getting to know the character, just like you never stop getting to know a person.
In a way, both Laura and Savannah are shapeshifters. So you have actors playing characters but then the characters are also playing characters.
Kelly: Right, you constantly have Laura Albert switching between playing a 20-year-old West Virginian gender-fluid person on the phone and this loud British woman, “Speedie”, in person. Laura Dern had to navigate those three roles. Knoop: And, for both “JT” and “Savannah”, Kristen really embodied her research into the dual characters. She’s a master at copying gesture—she would do this mouth thing, and I was like, “That’s me!” Kelly: We got to do a bunch of test shoots, and Kristen worked on this very particular kind of smile that Savannah does herself, but which becomes more exaggerated when Savannah is dressed up as JT. I remember sending a photo of that moment to Gus Van Sant, because he had met Savannah as JT, and he couldn’t believe that it was Kristen. He was like, “That is Savannah, you’re playing a joke on me.” So I was like, “Oh my god, we’re doing something right!” Knoop: One thing I didn’t think about until we were watching it was that it played almost like a fairy tale. To see JT and Speedie traveling through airports, these freaky people—their looks are so maximal. You enter this world where these people are their superhero personas; their secret selves, but in public. Kelly: Totally! And for me, it was the first film I’ve done where we had the time to develop their looks with hair, makeup, and wardrobe ahead of time. They both have these very iconic personas that involve lots of wigs and disguises. It was pretty exciting to build these characters with them. Knoop: And the looks are key because they change the way the characters were behaving and moving. What you put on makes you feel differently, act differently, and relate to the world differently.
In these behind-the-scenes images, you can see Kristen Stewart going through so many hair phases as Savannah. Was it weird to relive your own haircut history?
Knoop: She was a hair-hopper! That was one of the initial grounding points for her character. Kelly: Kristen has about five hair looks in the movie, because Savannah was in her twenties, a young queer finding themselves. And Laura Dern has six wigs for Speedie. If you Google Image search any of it from that time, it really was that extreme. The crew members would go, “How did anyone believe this?”
Last year, the documentary Author: The JT Leroy Story came out. Watching it and looking back on Speedie and JT, they look like such criminals. If you encountered them, you would probably know right away they were up to something.
Knoop: That was always a huge part of the original JT mystique. It was an Emperor’s New Clothing sort of a thing. The more excessive of a disguise, the better. Kelly: We did think about doing a softer version of the looks to make it more believable, but decided to go for it. And a lot of them are completely emulating the original ones. This is a project where wardrobe, hair, and makeup really got to use all of their talents and creativity.
Savannah, as a writer and producer on the movie, it must have been really uncanny to watch actors re-enact things that actually happened to you. Did you ever feel like you were experiencing déjà vu? Knoop: Yeah, I did! It’s intense. In a way, the project was an exercise in taking something you remember and layering it over, and over, and over. The only thing I can think to compare it to is where you look at a photograph and the photograph becomes the access point to your memory. In making this movie it’s like a snowstorm of transposing memories over each other. And a movie is a more compressed version, so you’re trying to find the emotional arc through all of the noise.
Now that shooting is almost over, how do you feel this movie takes that time in your life and relates to our current moment, in regard to identity?
Knoop: I think we are in a different moment culturally now than when it all happened. Language is shifting and the conversation is becoming wider and more complex. It is a queer story. It is multilayered. Kelly: Agreed. In the eight years that we have been working on this, ideas of gender and queerness have shifted in a way that we weren’t even totally aware of. For example, Laura or Kristen would be talking about JT and say, “He’s not confused about his gender, he just likes to play with gender.” When your two lead actors understand that, and you realize your audience will understand that as well, it totally changes how the story could be heard and felt. Knoop: We’re trying to be honest to what the story is about, which is the messiness of intimacy. It’s about how you can get so close to somebody and it becomes so complicated, you know? It’s about queering relationships and it’s not necessarily about tagging an identity. It’s about identity being fluid and how that works within all human relationships.
Kristen Stewart is hardly a newcomer to the Chanel brand. The actress, 27, has been a brand ambassador for the luxe label since 2013, and has starred in campaigns such as its unisex Gabrielle bag spot earlier this year. So when the fashion house, headed by Karl Lagerfeld, set out to release its first stand-alone fragrance in 15 years, the edgy beauty was a natural fit.
Dubbed Gabrielle Chanel in honor of the label's founder, the late Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, the new scent will be available at chanel.com ($105 for 1.7 ounces) on Saturday, August 19. Ahead of its release, the brand debuted the print ad for the campaign, shot by photographer Karim Sadli, on Wednesday, August 16.
"The new CHANEL fragrance named Gabrielle celebrates the extraordinary personality of its founder and conveys a very modern message inviting all young women today to live freely, by and for themselves," the label stated in a Wednesday, August 16, press release. "Talented actress Kristen Stewart immediately came to mind as the obvious choice to incarnate this courageous, valiant, bold and impassioned femininity."
Later this year, Chanel will be releasing a short film, starring none other than the Twilight saga alum. The video, shot by Ringan Ledwidge as part of the campaign, is meant to evoke the rebellious spirit of Gabrielle Chanel before she found her voice as Coco (and Us Weekly magazine scored an exclusive behind-the-scenes look!).
"The feeling I wanted to express was . . . liberation," explained Ledwidge.
Added Stewart of the label's founder: "She was trying to do things people didn't necessarily view as beautiful, but she said, 'Look at things differently.'"
Check out the BTS images from the film at our previous post here.
Karl Lagerfeld often layers his collections with prescient commentary on the current state of affairs. At the recent Chanel Haute Couture show in July, he installed a partial replica of the Eiffel Tower in the centre of the Grand Palais. The original structure was built in 1889 to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution. The top of Lagerfeld’s tower, which disappeared into a cloudy mist, hinted at an uncertain and restive future. The clothes were also stylishly sombre and structural, with occasional feathered and sequined embellishments softening their severity. In his review for Business of Fashion, Tim Blanks opined that Lagerfeld was bracing for the end of the post-Macron high. “This lion is in winter,” wrote Blanks. “And a front row of Kristen Stewart, Katy Perry, Cara Delevingne and Tilda Swinton, hair cropped uniformly, militantly close, were like his shock troops for the turmoil to come.”
A few days after the show, I meet with Kristen Stewart to talk about her new role as muse for Gabrielle Chanel, Chanel’s latest fragrance. But first I want to know how she feels about being a member of Lagerfeld’s “shock troop” and if she shares his opinion that we’re on the verge of turmoil. “Oh, yeah,” she says. “I think we’re very much in the midst of it. If you look back through history, the most amazing artistic revolutions are in conjunction with crazy political turmoil. That’s the response to it. I think things go in cycles. I really do believe it will turn around. There are too many people feeling too badly for it not to.” She is less enthused by Blanks’s comments about her frosted-tip pixie cut. “I’m happy that people say things like that about my fucking hair,” she quips.
But hair—especially for women—is a powerful signifier, I suggest; it’s not just a flip comment about style. Stewart, who is clearly a thoughtful young woman, pauses for a moment. The 27-year-old actress then opens up about how she was surprised by her own reaction to her short hair. “I like it, and oddly I feel more feminine,” she explains. “I had it cut for an action movie I’m doing, and I wanted to be careful that it didn’t make me look like I was trying too hard to be a badass. I didn’t want it to harden me, but as soon as I took it off, I felt delicate. I felt very much like a woman because it’s revealing. You can see everything—all of our most feminine qualities—our neck, chest and collarbones. Nothing is hidden.”
Coincidentally, those are also the areas on our body where we wear fragrance. The language used to market new scents can be flowery and poetic, but the press material for Gabrielle reads like a feminist manifesto: “Gabrielle Chanel fragrance invites women to have faith in who they are and what they are capable of achieving to find their own voice.”
We do associate emotions and memories with scent, but I ask Stewart whether a fragrance can also inspire a feminist sentiment. She tells me that she appreciates the narrative behind the fragrance but says it’s not important whether or not it has that power. What she loves about it is that it is “unabashedly feminine,” adding that there’s nothing worse than using masculine references or impressions to evoke feminist sentiments. “There’s nothing aggressive about this perfume,” she says. “It’s quiet, and that’s its strength. It doesn’t try too hard. Men and women are equal, but we’re not the same. Our strengths are different…. It’s nice that the fragrance’s unsubmissive nature is also purely girlie and that I’m not wearing a suit in the campaign.”
Although fragrance—which she describes as an indulgence—is evocative, Stewart concedes that it doesn’t have the same power as fashion over how a woman feels about herself. “I feel like it’s icing,” she says. “It’s the final touch.” Stewart adds that she’s not “incredibly into fashion” but credits Lagerfeld with helping her discover herself through clothes, pictures and the conversations they’ve had. “It’s like an embedded aspect of myself is brought to the surface by somebody who has the key,” she explains. “It’s like being a good director. There are a lot of people in fashion who don’t function this way, but the people I admire are seers. They’re like compulsive weirdos; they’re artists who can’t stop doing what they do. For me, it’s not necessarily about the clothes; it’s about the feeling.”
And that feeling is all about empowerment. “It’s crazy what an article of clothing can do for you,” she laughs, adding that she can show up wearing Chanel to present a movie at Cannes—“theoretically the scariest place in the world”—and feel invincible. “It’s not armour, but when I put something on and it’s absolutely undeniably and distinctly me, I feel great.”
Feeling authentic is something Stewart aspires to—whether that’s reflected in the parts she plays in films or her role with Chanel. It’s instinctual rather than contrived, and it’s about “being true to that feeling in your stomach and having the confidence and lack of fear to follow that and knowing that you’re not perfect.” Today she’s confident and composed, but the Twilight Saga star suffered from anxiety for years—to the point of being physically ill. Stewart says it resolved itself as she got older and learned to relinquish control. Her advice to anyone with similar struggles is to be kind to yourself and not judge yourself harshly. “If you have anxiety, it just means you’re a thinker, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Appreciate that. It’s a good quality to have.”
Stewart may be calm and cool today, but she concedes that if she were to have an encounter with Coco Chanel, it would be “as intimidating as hell!” She smiles when I ask her what questions she might ask Mademoiselle. “The first thing that comes to mind is: ‘Dude, do you know what you did? Are you aware of it? Years and years later, we’re still telling your story; I hope we’re doing a good job.’ I’d be like, ‘Are you proud? Are we doing it right?’” In the press kit for Gabrielle, it opens with this quote from Chanel: “I have chosen the person I wanted to be and am.” I think she would feel that Stewart is living her life with a similar sentiment.
Kelvin Harrison Jr., Courtney Love and James Jagger have signed on to join Justin Kelly-directed biopic JT, about the JT Leroy literary scheme orchestrated by Laura Albert and her sister-in-law Savannah Knoop. Kristen Stewart, Laura Dern and Diane Kruger also star in the film, which is currently in production in Canada.
Kelly wrote the script based on Knoop’s book Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT LeRoy. Knoop took on the boy-wonder-author persona of Leroy for six years, amassing a huge cult following from fans and celebrities. His public esteem led to high profile relationships and collaborations with Hollywood A-listers like Love, Gus Van Sant, and Bono.
The documentary Author: The JT Leroy Story from Jeff Feuerzeig bowed at Sundance last year and can be streamed on Amazon video.
Cassian Elwes is financing and producing with Gary Pearl, Dave Hansen of Buffalo Gal, Mark Amin’s Sobini Films, LBI Entertainment’s Julie Yorn and Patrick Walmsley, and Thirty Three Management’s Thor Bradwell. Exec producers are Fortitude’s Nadine de Barros, Sobini’ Cami Winikoff and Tyler Boehm, and Jeff Beesley.
Harrison can currently be seen in A24’s horror thriller It Comes At Night, from Trey Edward Shults, and next in Dee Rees’ Sundance period drama Mudbound, which was picked up by Netflix. He’s repped by WME and Stagecoach Entertainment.
Jagger, who starred in HBO’s short-lived series Vinyl, will appear in The Last Full Measure, starring Samuel L. Jackson, Ed Harris, Christopher Plummer and Peter Fonda. He’s with Framework Entertainment, ICM and Schreck, Rose, Dapello.
Love’s upcoming projects include ’80s drama The Possibility of Fireflies, and Lifetime original films Menendez: Blood Brothers and A Midsummer’s Nightmare. She’s repped by UTA.
The first cover is for the subscriber issue and the second is the newsstand issue.
Digital Scans (inc interview).
The digital scans are via Team Kristen Site
(as purchased from the Harper's Bazaar iPad app).
Please credit us if used.
Click on the images for full view.
In fashion as in life, Kristen Stewart has always challenged gender norms with her androgynous beauty – which makes her the perfect face of Chanel's new fragrance, Gabrielle, inspired by the legendary founder of the couture house. But she is also very much her own woman, as independent-spirited when it comes to fame and feminism as she has been in facing down Donald Trump.
Read highlights from the interview below:
On being in love:
"I've been deeply in love with everyone I've dated. Did you think I was faking it 'I've always really embraced a duality. And really, truly, believed in it and never felt confused or struggling. I just didn't like getting made fun of."
On dating men again:
"Yeah, totally. Definitely… Some people aren't like that. Some people know that they like grilled cheese and they'll eat it every day for the rest of their lives. I want to try everything. If I have grilled cheese once I'm like, 'That was cool, what's next?'"
"Fame is valued quite ridiculously. So then there's this idea that you're beholden in some way, and I resent that. And it comes across like I'm ungrateful or something but, actually, I just find it weird to talk to the general public as a whole. Like, you can relate to a person, you can relate to an individual, but addressing the world at large is something that just perplexes me."
On whether she suffers from 'Resting Bitch Face':
"Completely. I'm really not introverted - I'm just not acting all the time, which is what it would take to look like how people expect famous people to behave."
"Men cannot say bitch anymore, I'm sorry. Say something different. Say, 'You're rude,' say, 'You're a dick,' whatever. Just to say, 'Oh that bitch.' You can't say that because there's nothing I could say to you, there's no retort that would be equal to that, therefore it's demeaning and literally on par with... something homophobic or something racist."
On life as a woman in the United States, post Trump:
"It's obviously terrible what's happening but at the same time, it feels good to be part of a wider female community that is finally standing up for itself. I've never felt such a strong sense of community. So it's brought us together. The catalyst for this is regrettable, obviously, it's shitty. But at the same time I think that you need something to stir things up in order to get people to come together and define their opinions and force them to be heard."
On her tomboy style:
She used to dress as "a total tomboy" and it was only at school that she realised it was "not the most normal thing. Not all little girls are that way. And it actually really hurt my feelings, like badly. Like, I remember being in the sixth grade [aged 11] and [people would say] 'Kristen looks like a man. You're a boy', or whatever, and I was so offended, horrified and embarrassed. Now I look back on it and I'm like, 'Girl, be proud of that!'"
Everything shifted when Stewart hit puberty and grew her hair long. Suddenly she was accepted as one of the pretty girls "and I was like, 'Fuck all of you!'"
BTS Video Preview
Kristen wears Chanel. Photographed by Tom Craig inside Coco Chanel's apartment in Paris.
Styled by Leith Clark. Make-up by Christophe Danchaud. Hair by Ken O'Rourke. Manicure by Charlene Coquard.
You can order it online here (UK retailer that ships worldwide) or purchase it digitally.
Kristen's Harper's Bazaar UK editorial is also covered in Australia's Harper's Bazaar September issue.