In a new interview with Deadline, Kristen Stewart is right to say that she wears her feelings. With each of her performances, from Olivier Assayas’ Gen-Y ghost story “Personal Shopper” to Justin Kelly’s “JT Leroy” and, now, Benedict Andrews’ “Seberg,” it feels like the actress is revealing another facet of her real self.
She’s currently at the Venice Film Festival to promote Amazon Studios’ “Seberg,” where the film will have its world premiere. In the politically charged thriller, Stewart plays ’60s New Wave icon Jean Seberg, complete with blond pixie cut, best known as New York Herald Tribune girl Patricia in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless.”
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However, Seberg was equally notorious at the time for her association with Black Power advocate Hakim Jamal (played here by Anthony Mackie), turning her into a target of the FBI, which already had tabs on Seberg illegally in the Hoover days through its surveillance program COINTELPRO. Rattled by paranoia that was merited yet abetted by increasing mental illness, and haunted by the death of her child, Seberg killed herself at age 40.
“I really only knew her as the Herald Tribune girl as well. I hadn’t seen anything other than ‘Breathless.’ I knew the dégueulasse moment (at the end of that film). I always found her to be iconically cool,” Stewart said. “I thought it was rad that this actress had been ingratiated into this culture that I also am really interested in, but I really never went into it any further than that. I read the script and was really shocked, I had no idea about the story about her sort of tragic end. I was interested in the complexity of her life, but I only knew her as an image before.”
Stewart, who has rarely skewed commercially since wrapping up her “Twilight” chores with the fifth and final film in the vampire series in 2012, said she related to Seberg’s own choices in projects, which ranged from Godard’s form-shattering “Breathless” to Otto Preminger’s wistful “Bonjour Tristesse.”
“Jean was really committed to telling not the most commercial stories, it was why she was attracted to the people she was attracted to creatively,” Stewart said. “It was why she was drawn to the causes that she was as well — they weren’t digestible in the country that she was living in, they weren’t something that people wanted to hear both creatively and politically. So I think it makes total sense that she found a more sort of welcome home in France.”
Stewart added, “Everything that I do, every conversation that I have, the way that I vote, the projects that I’m drawn to creatively — I think that I wear my feelings and my stance and my politics.”
But the actress also reminisced about her stint on the Cannes Film Festival jury in 2018, which was led by jury president Cate Blanchett. “t was such a good year for me to be there. I’ve attended the festival a couple times with films and, oh man, I don’t know, it digs up feelings that I hold in such reverence and ones that not everybody does, quite rightfully, because that would be strange — the world is a lot more than just movies,” Stewart said, referring to her instrumental role as a female jury member in bringing gender parity to the often limited perspectives at Cannes.
“Cate (Blanchett) was the president of the jury, and honestly I think that if we had to represent the earth and send one of ours out to an alien race and be like ‘Hey, this is us,’ I think it would be Cate,” Stewart said. “So I was just so completely activated that whole time, I went home so inspired and turned on. My on switch was just slammed, so it was wonderful.”
This year’s Venice Film Festival caught heat for having just two female-directed films in competition — Haifaa Al-Mansour’s “The Candidate” and Shannon Murphy’s “Babyteeth.”
“Obviously I am a huge proponent of having more women and making films that are accepted,” Stewart said. “I guess if they asked me to be on the jury in Venice, it would be a step in the right direction. Sometimes if you act selfishly, your intentions and your politics sort of are in tow, so selfishly I would want to do that because I have everything to learn from that experience — and I think it makes a really solid statement.”
“Seberg” world-premieres in Venice on August 30, before heading to the Toronto Film Festival in September.