Hangin' With Archives
Gets the “Message”
by Lynn B.
16-year-old actress Kristen Stewart first impressed us as a young diabetic girl trapped in her own home with “mom” Jodie Foster in 2002’s The Panic Room. In 2003, the teen was victimized in a spooky old mansion in Cold Creek Manor. In Catch That Kid, Kristen turned bank robber to help her ailing dad. She was a traumatized high school Freshman in 2004’s Speak and the frozen big sister to two precocious younger bros in the outer space romp Zathura.
This week, you can catch Kristen in The Messengers in which a family farm turns into a trap full of spooky kids and a suddenly evil dad. We chatted with Kristen about her role, her own frightfest experiences while filming, her writing, her college plans, upcoming films and being a 16-year-old actress.
AGW: What made you want to become an actress? You’ve been acting since you were 9 or 10.
Kristen: I was about 9 or actually I was 8 when I first started auditioning. I auditioned for about a year before I got anything.
AGW: Was it your idea to do it?
Kristen: Yeah. I mean I definitely agreed to it. I don’t even really remember. We got a call from an agent that was in the audience at my school for my Christmas performance and my parents were both in the business so they were like, ‘We don’t want to be stage moms.’ My dad was a stage manager and he’s like, ‘Oh my God. I don’t want my kid…’ but I just remember thinking ‘Actually that might be really cool. I might want to go on a few auditions. I might work.’ It took a really long time until I was totally over it and my mom said, ‘Well, this is the last one. You don’t have to go to anymore.’ And that was the first movie I got.
AGW: This movie has brother Asian directors. Was that a reason to sign on?
Kristen: I was really eager to work with them, Danny and Oxide Pang. I loved their movie, The Eye. It’s just heaven. It’s eerie and just totally wigged me out and I wanted to work with them.
AGW: So, you are a fan of horror films. Do you enjoy working in the horror genre?
Kristen: I love horror movies. My all time favorite movie, and I’ve been asked this a thousand times recently, is definitely The Shining. Excellent film.
AGW: What scares you in horror movies and what scares you about this movie?
Kristen: I like when all of a sudden you’re watching a movie and it slows down and you’re like, ‘oh my god, something’s definitely going to happen’ and you know it, but even when it does, it still scares you just as much. I like all types of horror movies. I definitely don’t exclude slasher movies. I love them also. There’s something nice and deliberate about this movie. The Pang brothers really take their time. There’s something about the pacing that’s just really unnerving to me, that’s kind of weird.
AGW: Have you ever had any real life paranormal experiences that you were able to pull from to get more into your character for this film?
Kristen: Not at first, no. But, ever since I’ve been a kid, I’ve been absolutely, totally scared of ghosts. Like whenever I would run around my house terrified when I was five years old, it was always because of ghosts. But I never saw anything like that. But it’s kind of interesting, when I was on the film about half way through, I had a really trippy experience in my hotel room which was an old hotel. I questioned the whole time I was doing the movie ‘do people really scream when they get scared?’ And one night, it was insane, I opened my eyes and this image of this woman just filled my entire view. It was like I let out the most gut wrenching scream. I mean people called the hotel room to see if I was okay.
AGW: Do you think part of that was your imagination from being in the spooky film?
Kristen: That was what I was thinking. I was on the set the next day and I was telling everyone, ‘now I completely understand.’ I wouldn’t talk to anyone about it before. I said ‘I totally get how you guys could think that I was just getting really into the movie and that this could be a reflection of what’s going on in my work and [projected] onto my real life but it’s not.’ Objectively, it was not. I mean it’s hard to explain. It was just there. It’s not like I’ve ever had visions before. I don’t see things that aren’t there.
AGW: How do you think teenagers will relate to your character Jess’s experience and her relationship with her parents in The Messengers?
Kristen: I think so many girls are still living with their parents and are fighting for a little bit of independence which most people are. I mean like you’re 14 and you’re like ‘Come on! Leave me alone a little bit.’ I think a lot of people have a lot of animosity in their families and you really do treat the ones that you love the worst. I think what’s great about this movie is that they all come to realize that the people that they really, truly need are each other, that it’s their family. You have to learn to accept it. You do treat the people that you love the worst. I don’t know. I think a lot of people go through that.
AGW: Do you think the weird setting helps to bring the family together?
Kristen: Actually, at first, it’s the worst thing for them because they want nothing more than to get away from each other. It totally works against my character because there’s nowhere for her to run and especially when nobody believes her, you know, that all these things are happening and she has nowhere to go. No, I think it actually works very much against them at first.
AGW: How did you enjoy working in Canada?
Kristen: Canada has become like my second home. I’m there constantly. I love it there. The one thing is I’m very thin blooded and it gets a little chilly up there -- not my favorite thing. I’ve worked in L.A. once or twice. It would be nice to work here more but if we’re going to go anywhere, I’d really [like Canada]. It’s a pleasant place to be. I have a lot of friends there now.
AGW: You seem to choose roles where teens get empowered. Is that a conscious choice?
Kristen: I’m just drawn to stories that I can personally connect with. I never planned it. I’m not saying anything like, ‘Young girls, stand up and yell!’ It’s not that I consciously sought after these roles but I’m naturally drawn to them though so I get it is sort of a [choice].
AGW: A lot of your films are very intense and dramatic. Is there a screwball comedy anywhere in your future?
Kristen: I would be so down for that. I’d love that. The closest I ever came to anything funny at all was Zathura and I had a great time on that but I was sort of a straight man. I never really got to play comedy because even though that movie is sort of a comedy, I was always really scared in it or over the top. It was really fun working with John Favreau. It was awesome, but it didn’t really feel like a comedy. I would love to do one.
AGW: What was the most difficult scene for you to do in The Messengers film, either acting-wise or physically?
Kristen: It was really one of the most emotionally and physically strenuous movies I’ve ever been on and I wasn’t expecting that at all. I thought it was going to be sort of a break like, you know, sort of a one-dimensional horror movie. But it turned out to really not be like that for me.
AGW: What did you like about the script or your character?
Kristen: I thought it was really cool that it was set where it was and just the isolation of the whole movie. She’s really a desperate character and it’s nice because she really triumphs. It’s nice when you can see a young, teenage girl actually get up and kick butt and empower herself.
AGW: What was the atmosphere like on this set? Was it light hearted or was it scary to actually do it? I’ve heard horror movies can be really a hoot on set even if it’s a scary film.
Kristen: A lot of the film I shot by myself unfortunately. I got to work with John Corbett and Penelope Ann Miller, there’s a cellar scene and the whole cast was in it so we all got to be together. But a lot of the movie I’m by myself. But I never got scared on set. I loved the directors. They’re great guys. Both of them are really sweet. The whole crew was awesome. It was sort of a really typical movie on location experience. Everyone had a good time.
AGW: Were a lot of the effects just make-up or digital and what’s it like to work with things that might not be there on set?
Kristen: One thing that was really awesome was that a lot of the things were practical and I didn’t have to make believe. Most of what I’m responding to was really there for me, even the ghosts. We had someone standing there. Even though it didn’t look like it looks in the movie, I didn’t have to turn around and scream at nothing. I sort of liked doing that. At first you feel totally absurd and ridiculous but you get into it and you start to feel less stupid.
AGW: Do you have goals that you want to accomplish in the next couple years in terms of film projects you’d like to be involved with? Are you taking time out for college?
Kristen: Absolutely. I love what I do but it’s definitely not all that I want to do. I want to go to school. I’m about to be 17 so I have only a little bit more time before I’m off.
AGW: Is that tough thinking about that?
Kristen: Yes, a little bit. But not really though because I have a lot of freedom. The school that I’m involved in is an independent studies correspondence thing. You can move as far or as slow as you like. I want to be a writer. I want to major in English and just go to school for a while. I’ve lived in L.A. my whole life. I want to go to Sydney University in Australia. My mom’s from there. And maybe get a transfer back to the East Coast, live there for awhile. But that’s definitely the next couple years of my life.
AGW: What kind of writing do you want to do?
Kristen: My family has always been involved in films so I really feel like making movies. I want to make movies. I’m not as much of a storyteller as I am just a lover of words, putting them together, so I think I’d rather write short stories and maybe, who knows, I would love to write a novel.
AGW: What are the best and worst things about being a 16-year-old celebrity?
Kristen: I’m not really a [celebrity]. I just work. My life has really not changed a whole lot. I just sort of go away every couple months or for a month or two and then I come back. I have brothers and I have best friends. I don’t know. Ask a celebrity. I mean people don’t recognize me on the streets ever. It hasn’t changed.
AGW: Besides writing, what kinds of things do you do in your off time if you have any?
Kristen: I do have a lot of off time. A lot of people are like, ‘Ah, you must be so busy. What do you get to do in your rare minutes of alone time?’ I have so much time off. I’m such a home body. I’m pretty boring. I read a lot. I watch a lot of movies. I hang out with my brother.
AGW: Do you ever want to get behind the camera? Do you ever want to direct or take your own product under your wing like that?
Kristen: When I was little, I would have been, ‘Absolutely. For sure. I’m going to direct a movie by the time I’m 16.’ And I obviously did not. I changed a little bit. It’s so much work and it’s so much more than just standing on set and making a movie. I don’t know if I would want to do any of that. I’m way more into just the creative… I would write movies. I think that’s it. Ask me like in a few more years and it may be a completely different answer.
AGW: What kind of music are you into now?
Kristen: I’m into a lot of different kinds of music. It’s funny. Recently I love forties Big Bands like swing music and I started taking swing lessons and I go to Arthur Murray dance studio and learning how to swing which is awesome. I love music. That’s why I’m doing it. But I don’t know, I listen to a lot of different music. But my favorite band? It’s really hard to say.
AGW: What director would you love to work with?
Kristen: Well, Jodie [Foster] directs films. I would die to be in a movie directed by her. I’m trying to think. There’s so many. I’m actually really excited. I just found out I’m going to do a movie but I’m probably in the movie for about 7 minutes. I’m going to play Robert DeNiro’s daughter in the Art Linson movie that he wrote based on a book that he did called “What Just Happened”. I can’t wait.
AGW: How about actors? Any you would die to work with?
Kristen: There are a few young actors – one of them I actually got to work with. I worked with Emile Hirsch on a movie called Into The Wild which was really a great experience. I think Evan Rachel Wood is phenomenal. She blows me away. There are so many others. I love Natalie Portman.
AGW: As far as upcoming projects for you, who do you play in In the Land of Women?
Kristen: I play a girl who I can absolutely relate to in every way. Her story is really a triumphant coming of age. Something crazy happens to you when you’re 13. All of a sudden you have these really bad, weird, foreign insecurities and you’re like, ‘Where did this come from? Why do I feel this way?’ You just go a little crazy. I think you’re really your true self when you’re a little kid and then you kind of get that back in different stages and I’ve just gone through that. I turned 16 and I was like ‘Wow! I feel so good. Why have I been feeling so stupid and insecure?’ I think everyone goes through that to a certain extent and in her case, that’s what the story is about. It’s really just a triumphant little coming out.
AGW: What is The Cake Eaters about?
Kristen: The Cake Eaters is a movie that I did with Mary Stuart Masterson. She made her directorial debut with that movie. It’s great. It’s about two families that are sort of intertwined very unknowingly and I play a character who has a disease called Friedreich’s Ataxia which is a total deterioration of your muscle control so it’s a very debilitating disease. She’s just about to be in a wheel chair and she’s just fighting for that last bit of independence from her mother and she wants to do one thing on her own before she dies and so she picks a guy. It’s a really nice, optimistic, triumphant story for her. I love it. Mary Stuart really did a phenomenal job. I love her. She’s amazing.
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