Last night, the Cinema Society and the Everlon Diamond Knot Collection hosted a screening of Welcome to the Rileys, a redemption story of a grieving father (played by an arrestingly tender James Gandolfini) who forms an unlikely union with a destitute teen (Kristen Stewart). On the red carpet before the screening, VF pal Stewart looked refined in Valentino lace, and towering—yet decidedly un-stripperish—satin pumps. She patiently responded to the handful of outlets who all, inevitably, asked about her hair color.
In order to prepare for the movie, Stewart did indeed learn to pole dance. And was apparently really good at it. She also meshed well with her adopted city: “I am really glad that we shot in New Orleans,” Stewart told VF Daily. “I was by myself on that movie. I did what [my character] does—I moved to a place I’ve never been and took it and made it my own— I just stomped around like I was really asserting myself. But it’s not the easiest town to walk around in, as a younger girl. I’d be scared now. But then I was like, ‘Bring it on!’ The city helped me do that.” The downside? Being under 21: “I was 18 when I was working there, so I couldn’t get in to get in to hear music anywhere,” she says. “But I did stand outside a lot of places and the street musicians are amazing.”
In fact, she spent a lot of time traipsing around the city, despite some very dangerous filming locations. Director Jake Scott had at least one disturbing story up his sleeve. While in a very rough neighborhood, shooting a scene that doesn’t make it into the film, the cast and crew noticed a crowd around a gas station. “We saw a teenage boy on his knees looking like he’s praying to Mecca,” says Scott. “And his head is on the ground and there’s a huge pool of blood. There was boy around the corner—blood all over the wall. It looked like there had been a shooting. Later we found out these two boys had smoked crack laced with formaldehyde. And they had gone nuts, and they had beaten their own heads out.”
It fell to Gandolfini to lighten the mood on set. “He likes to make animal noises,” says Scott, who then obliged us with a terrifying squeal. “Was that a pig or a llama?” we asked. “I don’t know!” Scott said.