Kristen Stewart Interview, Into the Wild

Posted by: Sheila Roberst

MoviesOnline sat down with Kristen Stewart at the Los Angeles press day for her new movie, "Into the Wild,” written and directed by Sean Penn. The film is based on a true story and the bestselling book by Jon Krakauer and features an award winning cast that includes Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Hal Holbrook, Catherine Keener, Jena Malone, Vince Vaughn, and Brian Dierker.

After graduating from Emory University in 1992, top student and athlete Christopher McCandless (Hirsch) abandons his possessions, gives his entire $24,000 savings account to charity, and hitchhikes to Alaska to live in the wilderness. Along the way, he encounters a series of characters that shape his life and transform this young wanderer into an enduring symbol for countless people.

While most of the people Chris McCandless met on his epic road trip were adults, he also encountered Tracy (Stewart), a young woman who had grown up most of her life in the unusual environs of Slab City, an RV camp in the California desert where free facilities draw all manner of vagabonds, renegades and non-conformists. Stewart won the role in an audition during which she played "Blackbird” on the guitar with all the soulfulness of a teenage troubadour for Penn.

Stewart became fascinated by Tracy’s unusual life. "She lives in this place that is totally about people who’ve gotten away from society, who are sort of like Chris, yet they are still rooted in one place,” she explains. "But when Tracy meets Chris, she just falls for him. He has such a love for life. All she wants to do is be with him. Of course one of the things about Chris is that he didn’t really have girlfriends or anything like that. It just wasn’t something that mattered to him.”

In addition to the challenge of embodying the mix of Tracy’s free-spirited lifestyle and romantic innocence, Stewart also had to do something she’d never done before in the role: perform as a singer before a live audience of actual Slab City dwellers. "I’ve never played music for anyone,” she confesses. "But they were a very warm crowd – they were clapping and stoked to be there. That made it a lot of fun.” Another highlight for Stewart was getting to work so closely with Catherine Keener, whose work she has long admired. "She had a few scenes that just gutted me, totally ripped me apart. Her performance is just so complete,” she muses.

Kristen Stewart was first introduced to worldwide audiences with her outstanding performance alongside Jodie Foster in "Panic Room.” She will follow "Into the Wild” with a starring role in the independent film "The Cake Eaters” for director Mary Stuart Masterson, the independent film "Yellow Handkerchief” alongside William Hurt and Maria Bello, and a supporting role in "What Just Happened” alongside Robert De Niro and Sean Penn for director Barry Levinson. She’s a sensational actress and we really appreciated her time. Here’s more of what she had to tell us about her new movie:

Q: Were you a bit jealous of Emile for getting to see all the awesome outdoors locations and doing a lot of physical stuff?

Kristen: I wasn’t jealous. I mean I would be down for most of that but not jealous that he got to do it, no. It’s definitely inspiring.

Q: You and Emile’s character have a very short relationship. Were there scenes cut out?

Kristen: Yeah. Sean shoots a lot. A lot of our stuff isn’t done in blocks of scenes. It’s like a montage. You have to create those moments from the beginning but there’s a lot of just me and Emile hanging out.

Q: I read that you auditioned for Sean Penn with a song. Was that fun or scary or is music another career you want to have?

Kristen: No. But it was one of the most creatively-freeing experiences. Music is one of the most emotionally expressive things you can do. If I’m not feelin’ it, I can’t sing. Those two nights [where she sings for a crowd in the film], something was going on. It’s not always you can give that much. But, yeah, it’s intimidating. I went in and played "Blackbird” for him. That’s a hard song to sing to. I’m not a singer. I can play it but he was really funny about it. He asked me if I didn’t want him to look at me. "Do you want me to turn around?” "No, you have to see it.” But, I’d never done anything like that. It takes a guy like Sean to make you come to it and pump out the words.

Q: Did you and Emile practice singing together or just do the performance on the day?

Kristen: We had met. I pre-recorded it with Emile and that was the only rehearsal time. But, once we got to set, Sean was like, "You know we have the mics set up and it’s so much cooler if you guys just do it.” But, no full out rehearsal. He’s not into rehearsal. That stuff should happen naturally.

Q: What was it like working together with Emile. Did you not hang out between scenes?

Kristen: We hung out. Where we were, it was very isolated so you kind of hang out with each other because there’s no one else around. We were really shooting at Slab City. I cared a lot about the scenes we had to do. It’s short and sweet but kind of packed. There’s a lot in it. Emile is one of the most confident actors I’ve ever worked with. He’s like "Don’t worry. Don’t think about it until he calls ‘action.’” Just let it happen, really impulsive. We had long conversations because we had so much time to kill but it wasn’t specifically about our little story.

Q: How is working with Sean as a director?

Kristen: He’s a man of few words but just the most communicative. There’s a very unspoken thing about him. You are all there for the same reason, all invested and it’s very clear that’s all a part of his grand plan. He always says that he doesn’t pull performances out of actors but he puts you somewhere where you are comfortable enough with yourself to be able to give that much. It’s not always like that on set. You’re not always too clear about the story you are telling or who you’re playing or the other actors that you’re with but it was very cohesive. He’s the most gentle guy. It’s easy to give him what he wants. You have a driving force. He cares so much about it. He told me, "I specifically want you.” He hires people that he trusts. You can’t lie to Sean. He was good at clearing your head.

Q: Are you the kind of girl who could live the Bohemian or vagabond lifestyle that your character does?

Kristen: I feel like my character has lived there her whole life. She’s never really been anywhere else. Those people don’t really live very differently from the way we do or I do. They are just away. I sort of follow from right here [she indicates her heart]. That’s sort of what leads me and the same with them. I don’t feel like I need to get away from something. I’ve always been given as much freedom as I need so it’s not something that I fight for but, under different circumstances, I have that spirit in me.

Q: Do you think that Chris in the film (Emile’s character) is admirable, pitiable, tragic, heroic?

Kristen: I think he becomes a lot of different things. I talk to a lot of people who have read the book who are just super frustrated or there are people who actually felt a strong connection with him and could relate to what pushed him to do what he did but, ultimately, they are frustrated with decisions that he made, what he could have done differently. What I like about the movie is it comes full circle. At the end, what pushed him in the beginning, he doesn’t necessarily agree with at the end. He’s brave, not just brave though. It definitely says something about the way he was brought up. I relate to him on many different levels. I just don’t know if I’d be pushed to do something as radical as what he does.

Q: Do you consider yourself rebellious?

Kristen: I don’t think I have to be rebellious. I don’t feel stifled in any way but I know so many people who are. It’s just such a basic, fundamental simple thing to be reminded of that all you have to be is yourself and human and live here and do what makes you happy. That’s why, you can talk to anyone from any country, any age or gender and you get this. You’ve lived this or felt this before.

Q: What do you have coming up next?

Kristen: I going to Pittsburgh in about a week to do a movie called "Adventureland.” Greg Mottola who did "Superbad” is directing it and wrote it. I play a young girl back from college. It’s about a mom and pop dilapidated theme park that are very common on the East coast. I play a girl who is dealing with a lot of grief and goes back to get her old job when she was 16 to get some stability. It’s a love story. Jesse Eisenberg stars in the film and now Ryan Reynolds is attached.

Q: Thanks, Kristen.

Kristen: Thank you.

"Into the Wild” opens in theaters on September 21st.

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