Cake Eaters Director Discusses Kristen Stewart

Posted by: Sheila Roberts

MoviesOnline caught up with director Mary Stuart Masterson at the Los Angeles press day for her new movie, “The Cake Eaters,” starring Kristen Stewart (“Twilight”).

Kristen turns in a fantastic performance as Georgia Kaminski, a terminally ill teenage girl who wants to experience love before it’s too late. Two weeks from now, Kristen will begin shooting “New Moon,” the highly anticipated follow-up to “Twilight,” one of the most successful films of 2008 grossing over $300 million worldwide. We asked Mary Stuart for the scoop on what it was like directing the lovely and talented Kristen in “The Cake Eaters” and here’s what she had to tell us:

Q: Can you talk about the casting Kristen Stewart and how that came about?

Mary: Kristen was somebody Jayce (Bartok) and I were both interested in from the beginning. I flew out here and met with her about 4 months before we started shooting and was instantly struck with her tremendous intelligence and also her sense of herself. She was truly grounded and has a power and ferocity about her that is so perfect for Georgia and yet in this delicate body that was also necessary to play the role. I met her and I just knew. That was the process there. She said yes which was nice. She loved the role.

Q: Did the interest in picking up this film for distribution suddenly increase when Kristen was cast in Twilight?

Mary: Oh yeah, definitely, absolutely, without question. I don’t know if that’s 100 per cent but it certainly helps a lot because she’s got such a huge fan base now.

Q: What sort of work did she do on the character and how did you direct her?

Mary: Well fortunately we did meet months before. Jayce had met some people through curefa.org which is a really good organization that’s all about research and development of funds for Friedrich’s Ataxia treatment and for family of people with Friedrich’s Ataxia. There was this great culture out there of people who were willing to talk and I interviewed Mary Caruso and Sam and Alex Bode, her two daughters, both of whom have Friedrich’s Ataxia, at my home. We did long interviews and I sent those out to Kristen who was out here. I was in New York. She used those to study. And then, I introduced her to somebody through that same website out here that she could spend time with. But, all these people were far more progressed in the disease. They were all in wheelchairs and this man, Paul Conance, who is one of those people that we met through Cure FA, he had taken video of people at the FA conference so we could see people in different states of progression of the disease – people who are still walking, who just barely had a slur in their voice, all the way to people who could barely drink a glass of water. That was really, really useful.

But then, when it came to actually implementing all of this, Kristen was like, “I’ve never done this before, this kind of technical work,” and we just talked through it. My sense of it was, she has everything that she needs to play the role and that’s the important thing. I knew that it was right and that she was on it when I would check in with her periodically and say, “How’s it going? How’s the voice going, the walk, this and that?” and she said, “I’m starting to freak myself out.” So I said, “Great, great. You’re in good shape.” I just thought if emotionally she’s there and she believes herself and she feels that kind of sense of responsibility that you feel when you play someone with a real disability, that even if it didn’t look or sound just right, it would still be right for the film and then it just so happened that everything was amazing. I mean, every screening I’ve gone to, somebody says, “Where did you find this girl with this disease?,” until Twilight, and then they knew she was an actress. (laughs) So yeah, it’s amazing. She did a beautiful job.

Q: You used to be a child actress that grew into adult roles and she’s had a similar experience. Did you talk about the transformation?

Mary: We didn’t necessarily talk that much about it, but I think there was definitely an understanding between us because of it, because I do understand her experience. But at the time, all this crazy stuff that has happened lately hadn’t happened yet. She was a working actor who started very young like I did, so we definitely had that in common. I think she’s going to be fine. I think she’s strong and lovely and smart as hell and will choose her roles carefully and will do fantastically well for many, many, many years. In terms of the transition later into womanhood, God help anyone trying to do that. It’s really hard to do. So, I don’t know. I don’t know how anyone does it.

This is sort of an inarticulate thought but there was one moment when we were shooting Kristen and Elizabeth Ashley’s scene together in the car and we pulled over and got off the process trailer and we were just all three standing there. It was just this moment of, you know, there was Kristen, there was me, and there was Elizabeth, I just felt this…it was like a weird spiritual moment. I can’t even articulate it, but it was like “Oh wow, this is the life of an actress. This is right here like Darwin’s The Ascent of Man.” (laughs) It was really cool and it wasn’t anything necessarily being said that was passed along or any advice, but you could see we were all really soaking up each other’s experience and talent. It was kind of a privileged moment.

Be sure to check back later this week for our exciting full interview with director Mary Stuart Masterson and screenwriter Jayce Bartok where we’ll give you the complete scoop on Kristen Stewart and her new movie, “The Cake Eaters,” which opens in theaters on March 13th.

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