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PARK CITY, Utah, Jan. 19 (UPI) -- Kristen Stewart said her role in Love Me, which premiered Friday at the Sundance Film Festival, allowed her to bring her personal foibles and past interactions to the character. Stewart plays a buoy powered by artificial intelligence who becomes sentient.
"There was no character there so you could play everyone you've ever met and then also all your fears and your insecurities," Stewart said after the screening.
The buoy finds the image of an Instagram influencer, Deja (Stewart), whose voice and appearance she assumes in a simulated realm. The buoy communicates with a satellite, played by Steven Yeun, based on the influencer's husband, Liam.
The buoy and satellite get to know each other in a simulated realm. First Stewart and Yeun's likenesses are animated and later they portray the buoy and satellite's identities in live-action.
Stewart added that in addition to fear and insecurity, she also incorporated arrogance and emotional indulgence. Stewart emphasized "how embarrassing it is to have all those [expletive] things and then show him all of that, not really know how it was going to be filtered."
Writer/directors Sam and Andy Zuchero said Love Me is more about human beings than artificial intelligence. Sam said the buoy and satellite struggle to figure themselves out, as they embark on this relationship.
"We were really excited about exploring self and presentational self," Sam said. "How we are in our bedroom by ourselves and how we are when we're trying to control how everybody perceives us?"
Stewart said she thinks people struggle to be honest with themselves even when they are alone.
"I think we are presentational to ourselves in our bedrooms," Stewart said. "That's the worst part."
Stewart said people try to talk themselves out of their wants and desires. Or, Stewart said, they feel guilty if they change their mind.
Furthermore, Stewart said she considers every interaction in life an acting exercise as much as her profession is performing.
"[Love Me] was like an acting exercise, just like the Internet is, just like talking to you right now is," Stewart said.
Sam said they filmed with Stewart and Yeun for three weeks, including motion capture for the animated sequences. Yeun said the motion capture footage included "so much cringe."
Then the directors filmed the buoy and satellites, which were animatronic robots, for two weeks. This, after five years of developing the idea and writing the screenplay, Sam said.
"We had this idea about a buoy and a satellite communicating, the two farthest things from each other," Sam said. "We thought it was funny."
Yeun said the idea of him and Stewart playing the influencers came late in the process too.
"Merging that required extra levels of layers and abstraction," Yeun said. "Deja and Liam are also living in their abstraction or their choices or whatever they wanted to do.
Andy said that the AI characters are ultimately reflections of humanity in the present.
"For us, it's not really a movie about AI but it's a movie about us as seen through the lens of AI," Andy said. "It allowed us as artists to look at the internet with innocent eyes and see everything fresh without all the lifetime of baggage that we usually bring to humanity."