'Twilight' Countdown: Kristen Stewart talks about becoming Bella
While Robert Pattinson has been the focus of the media frenzy surrounding "Twilight," it's Kristen Stewart, the actress playing 17-year-old Bella, who truly is carrying the film. Bella not only narrates the love story, she also awakens Edward out of his 107-year stupor.
In our one-on-one interview with the actress, she talks about her first impressions of Stephenie Meyer's teen love story, answers for calling some of movie's dialogue corny, and talks about whether she's game to do the sequels.
As the movie’s premiere nears, are you starting to feel pressure from the fans? Are you nervous about what they'll think of your take on Bella?
I’m just as passionate about the book as the fans are, so it’s sort of weird to be addressed like, "Don’t mess this up for us!" Like, wow, I don’t want to mess it up for myself either.
What was your first impression of "Twilight"?
I read a synopsis of the story before I read the script or the book -- and I hated it. I didn't want to be a part of something that presents this really ideological idea of love to so many young people. The synopsis made Bella so weak, as though the only reason she wanted to be with Edward was because he was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen, because he could take care of her, because she didn’t have to be brave because he could be brave for her.
I don’t know who wrote that synopsis, but that is not the story. Once I read the script, I begged for an audition. The script showed completely different sides to the characters. It fleshed them out. You see that the power balance between Edward and Bella is actually really skewed and more interesting. We have a girl who is insanely naive and has no idea what she’s getting into, yet she trusts herself enough to put stock in what she feels and gives up the power to him. And he’s afraid and tortured and entirely conflicted, whereas she’s not. She becomes the assertive force in the relationship. It's an ambitious thing to try to portray the ultimate love story, and I thought it would be a good project.
You begged for the audition, but in Entertainment Weekly, you said that you had to say some of the “corniest” dialogue you've ever had in a movie. Director Catherine Hardwicke also said if you didn’t feel comfortable saying something, you wouldn’t. She encouraged you to improvise. How much did you change?
We changed everything. There wasn’t one scene we didn’t touch. There were many occasions, really quiet parts of the movie when it’s just Edward and Bella together, where I was like, "Alright, we’re not saying any of the lines. We’re just going to do the whole scene with no lines."
But, at the same time, some of those "corny lines," it was just me being self-conscious. Those wrenching fundamental emotions, I mean how else do you express them? How else do you say, "I love you"? How else do you say, "I want to die for you"? I mean, those are really dramatic lines, but when expressed in that context, there really is no other way to say it. Catherine really helped me with that. She put me in the right position and sort of forced me to go there. You have to be so exposed, so entirely cracked open and vulnerable to able to give like that. So on the page it was really corny, but we worked it out.
Edward and Bella are pretty intense the way you describe them. Was it an intense set?
(Laughs) I take myself way too seriously. Rob and I got in a lot of trouble every day because the studio would say we weren’t smiling enough and we weren’t happy enough and we weren’t having enough fun. But you have to keep in mind what Edward and Bella are going through.
How did the two of you prepare?
Everybody’s talking about the prep like we had so much research to do and so much work to do (laughs). We just wanted to understand the story the best we could because a lot of it is really hard to wrap your head around. There were a lot of things to justify. There was also a lot of vampire mythology to get straight: Our vampires have superpowers. Our vampires don’t breathe, but they can smell.
We wanted to keep the responsiveness between the two of us acute and specific, not just like he could be some guy and I could be some girl. This is excruciating, painful stuff. When Edward touches Bella, it hurts him, it burns him. For her, it’s the opposite, like she vies for it, and when he walks in a room it’s literally magnetic. The physicality of it is entirely different, so getting all of that stuff straight was a lot of our prep time.
We just read the story a lot and sat up nights talking about "Last Tango in Paris" (laughs). We talked about how to find similar dynamics.
You also have said that you don't want to do a "big movie" after "Twilight," but if "Twilight" does well, the sequels will be no doubt be bigger and more expensive. Do you want to continue playing Bella?
Yeah, I enjoyed playing Bella. There’s no reason why I wouldn’t want to follow Bella for a while. It's not like signing on to a TV series. That would be too much of a gamble because you don’t have control over how the content will turn out or how it will end. But with "Twilight," I get to tackle something for a really long time and there’s an end to it.
How are you dealing with the fans? You have a few stops on the "Twilight" mall tour this week in Virginia and New Jersey, where you’ll be the only cast member attending.
I’ve only had a couple of occasions where I’ve had to deal with the craze. Rome being one, Comic-Con being the other. At Comic-Con, we were entirely separated from them, and that’s how it should be. I know Summit’s trying to promote the frenzy, but I’m going to tell them, "Yo, you have to protect us from this." I’ll have big bodyguards.
In Rome, I was literally thrown into a van. I was being held by my arms by two big security guys, and they were getting pushed over by these 15-year-old girls, and they let me go for like a second, and I just got enveloped. The bodyguards had to pick me up and shove me into the van. But then the van starts rocking because the barricades had broken down and they swarmed the car. It was totally scary.
What do you love about acting? Why do you do it?
There’s really no way to put this: Because I have to. I’m not a performer, I can’t do a song and dance for you, I don’t like "entertaining" people, that’s not why I do it. Acting is such a personal thing, which is weird because at the same time it’s not. It’s for the consumption of other people. But in terms of creative outlets and expressing yourself, it’s just the most extreme version of that that I’ve ever found. It’s like running, it’s exertion. When you reach that point where you can’t go anymore and you stop and you take a breath, it’s that same sort of clearing of the mind.
And when you get to study something else and understand someone else and completely lose yourself in it, you feel a certain responsibility. Or at least I do, because if you don’t bring that character to life the right way, then nobody else gets to see them or experience what you did.
How do you think your newfound celebrity is going to help you? Are you worried about losing your anonymity?
This is going to make it so much easier for me to not be gutted every time a movie that I’m in love with is never getting off the ground. I never again have to sit around and wait for a movie to get money and then become too old for the role. That I don’t think is going to happen anymore, and that I’m very thankful for.
As for losing my anonymity, I think I’ll be fine. I keep a low profile. I mean, you’re asking for it if you’re at Le Deux every night. So stupid. Just don’t hang out in Hollywood!
-- Denise Martin