Andrew O’Hehir of Salon sat down with Kristen to talk about On The Road, Adventureland, Twilight, her career and fame in a really wonderful, pithy interview. Here are some excerpts but be sure to check out Mr. O’Hehir’s full article at Salon.
AO: You’ve been incredibly loyal to this film, even through a period when you’ve been getting tons of press for other stupid reasons.
KS: It’s hard because we’ve been working on this since we were in Cannes [in May]. When you’re promoting something like this, that you believe in, you want to be honest and open and empathetic, but when you get asked the same question …
Like, 35 times.
Right, exactly. And you give the same answers, which doesn’t mean that it’s fake or rehearsed. It can be something that you’ve thought about and you, like, totally believe.
You know, I’ve encountered that, where I’ve interviewed someone and then I read some other interview with them in a different publication where they say exactly the same things, word for word. And yet I believed at the time that it was a totally sincere conversation. And maybe it was!
It probably was. I’m going to do the same thing right now! [Laughter.] And it’s not on purpose. It’s not like you sit and remember those things. If you ask someone the same question over and over, the answer’s probably going to be similar.
You know, among some of my movie-watching friends, we’ve established a convention where we always refer to you as “the girl from ‘Adventureland.’”
Aw! That’s really funny. That’s cool! I love that.
And, you know, it’s not entirely a joke. Because I do know quite a few people who loved you in that movie and have very likely never seen those other somewhat more popular films that you did. [Laughter.]
Yeah, I get that.
I think of your career as something out of quantum physics, where you can’t predict a precise trajectory for a particle, only probability. There was a probable trajectory for you that’s way more plausible than what actually happened. It definitely leads from “Adventureland” to “On the Road,” and in between it includes “Welcome to the Rileys” and “The Runaways” and some other hip little indie films that never actually happened. It does not include the wildly unlikely thing that happened where you made a strange little vampire film for teenage girls and became the biggest movie star in the universe. Do you ever think about that?
Yes. It’s funny. I guess the time I think about that is when I’m asked if I’m pissed about being typecast, if I feel like people hold me to one idea. I would definitely have a huge problem with what happened if it kept me from doing what I’m doing — things that have really challenged me. Which includes “Twilight,” by the way.
I’ve never really been able to project myself into — see, when people ask me, “Where do you see yourself? What type of actor do you want to be? What type of movies do you want to do?” I can’t answer those questions. I have not been able to step outside and think about what I want it to look like. You get the right feeling, and you just sort of trudge forward.
Part of the “Twilight” legend is that when you and Rob and the other actors who signed on were cast in the first film, Catherine Hardwicke was directing, and you had no idea what you were getting into and how big it would be. Is that accurate?
Oh, yeah. Even within it, while it was happening — to expect something like that to sustain would have been crazy. We had no idea. As far as we knew, it was a one-off. Catherine Hardwicke did smaller movies. We had no idea going into it that we would even have a sequel.
I was startled to realize, looking it up, that “Adventureland” came out less than four years ago. But a lot of stuff has happened for you since then! Does it seem like a really long time ago?
Actually, it does. I did that right before “Twilight,” so I was 17. It was right around the same time I met Walter Salles, who was already trying to make this film ["On the Road"].
So would you do [Twilight] over again if you could?
Yeah. Definitely. I mean, on a number of levels. I wouldn’t exchange the process of making the movies. Usually I’ve got five weeks, or five months tops, to go crazy and obsess about a character. If you had described the weight of it to me initially, I would have doubted being able to sustain the type of energy that it takes to make a movie. By the end of a movie, a lot of actors will go home and get sick; there’s a huge recovery period. It’s like, you expend all your energy. To find a project that allowed me to have that same feeling for five years — I would never, I can’t trade that. It’s mine! Obviously your experiences make you who you are, and that is such a huge part of me. I can’t imagine not having it.
And at the same time, I love movies, and I love having a strong foothold in this business. I definitely don’t deny the freedom that it’s given me, as an actor, to do whatever I want. To choose things that are really weird or things that are really cool and commercial. You know what I mean? Actors normally do what they can, and it’s great to not have to.
Do you hold out hope, now that the “Twilight” series is over, that the amount of ludicrous media attention that you’ve gotten at times will normalize?
Yeah. And, I mean, even in the most ludicrous times, I feel very normal. It’s hard to say in black-and-white terms, but on some level I suppose I have a unique perspective. I look through a really strange lens at the world because of all this. But it’s no less interesting. I’m not deprived of any bit of life, you know? It would be really stupid to deny how interesting it is to look at the world in this way.
I remember seeing you a couple of times, like across the room, at parties at Sundance when you were there with “The Runaways,” and it did seem like you were doing a pretty good job of having a normal experience — despite the fact that there were 80 photographers standing outside waiting for you to leave.
Yes. And at Sundance it’s really disconcerting. It’s like, “Come on! Let me have this!” That actually does bug me — situations like that, where it’s inappropriate. That’s what really pisses me off.
Well, you were the person that year who was bringing the star power. Because at Sundance, you can just run into people on the street at random. I once walked right into David Bowie, and no one was even paying attention to him.
Right, it’s true. And the problem at Sundance for me, at that point, was that you would show up at a place and people would go [exasperated sigh], “Oh, God. Great!” There’s all these people and it’s crazy. You’re like this cloud — you’re at Sundance and you smell. You’re not indie anymore, you know? You’re bringing the paparazzi. I’m like, “I fucking grew up here! What the hell!” [Laughter.]
Had you read Kerouac’s “On the Road” before taking this role? [She nods yes.] Because it is so much a boy’s story.
It’s a boy book.
I mean, the girls are there for sex, for sure. [Laughter.] But he’s not overly concerned with their individuality, their inward thoughts, their personal journeys. And somehow, you found a real person there, a very physical person, but a person who seems alive and present and at least somewhat in charge of her life.
It’s not their story, and I was definitely scared about playing a caricature, somebody who was just serving as ambience, setting the tone for the wild and crazy party scenes. Reading the book, there are all these little details that make Marylou seem just a little curious. You wonder about her for sure, but you do not know where she is emotionally or personally at all. To play the part, it put it on a completely different plane as soon as we got to know the people that these characters were based on.
In your case, you’re talking about Luanne Henderson, who became Marylou in the book.
Yeah. The reality of the situation is definitely not on the screen, but I think it’s felt, and more so than in the book. I don’t know — for anyone who might read the book and think that the women are used up, that they’re used and abused and taken from in a way that leaves them empty — you couldn’t do that to this girl. Like, it was impossible. She was the most formidable partner for him; it was such a push-and-pull. They knew each other until the end of his life, and he couldn’t stop going back to her.
Knowing some of those things and hearing the way she recalled her life — it was so personal to her, and she was so unaware of the movement she was part of. It was really rare to find a character who was that young, and a girl of that time — not to sound super-obvious about it — who was so proactively living her life as her own. She wasn’t crippled by the fear that comes with being a teenager and not knowing where you’re going and not really knowing yourself yet. She had this trust in herself and was so self-aware and so unself-concious. She lacked any bit of vanity, which was, especially for a pretty girl — she had no idea. She was literally the most empathetic, generous, awesome person….
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