Kristen's OTR Cannes Roundtable Interview
But most importantly Stewart was adjudged by most critics attending the prestigious filmfest to have given a bravura performance as MaryLou, the free-spirited young woman who is a central figure in the film version of the classic Jack Kerouac Beat novel of the fifties. Stewart invests her character with the requisite sensual abandon that supplies On The Road with much of its hedonistic appeal. As MaryLou, Stewart engages in a ménage à trois, gives road head, and jerks off co-stars Gareth Hedlund (Dean Moriarty) and Sam Riley (Sal Paradise) while all three are naked in a moving car.
"I wasn’t scared about doing sex scenes," Stewart says. "I love pushing and I love scaring myself…As long as you're being really honest, there's nothing ever to be ashamed of. People are too uptight when it comes to sex."
Q: Kristen, how big a leap does On The Road represent for you?
STEWART: I loved being part of the film and having had the chance to throw myself into my character. I thought of MaryLou as this fun-loving, adventurous woman who is enjoying this time in her life and just being herself. It was so beautiful for me to be able to express her wildness and try to capture that free-spirited side of her.
Q: You seem so natural in the role?
STEWART: Thank you. I don’t know any other way to play a part but to try to live my character and want to feel every emotion that my character experiences. I’ve grown up and spent most of my life playing characters that are specific instances in my own life. There’s this strange interplay between me and the movies I make that I can’t really explain but it’s something that drives me.
Q: So it goes beyond acting in some way?
STEWART: I think acting is about feeling the emotions of your character. To be able to play somebody else, to capture their essence, you need to become that person and get carried away in their world. I love the feeling that I have when I’m on the set, doing a scene, and throwing myself into the emotions and energy of my character. With MaryLou, I don’t know any other way I could have managed to portray her without losing myself in those kinds of emotions.
Q: Your portrait of MaryLou in the film seems more vivid that how Jack Kerouac describes her in the novel…?
STEWART: I think it’s a lot to do with realising who she was in reality. There was this really great story that she‘d always tell when she first read the book. And Jack Kerouac was so worried about all the details, LuAnne was like, “I’m just happy to be in it!” I think that says everything about her. I think we were privy to so much untapped information about LuAnne that to ignore it….it somehow had to find its way in. I mean, I think we stay very true to the scroll, but all of the history, all of the truths of who she really was and why she did what she did, we don’t know from reading the book. But because we knew (more about her real life), I think it found its way in somehow.
Q: One of the most interesting scenes in the film comes when you and Gareth are dancing and getting all hot and sweaty…
STEWART: That was one of my favourite moments in the film. I think we all love it when we can just let loose and have fun in that way and feel so alive and uninhibited. That was one of those scenes where you see how vivid and happy MaryLou could be and how being around her could be intoxicating.
Q: You were already a huge fan of the book when Walter Salles the director first approached you about the role several years ago?
STEWART: Yes. I didn’t really love reading until I had read On the Road when I was 16. Now I read constantly and something about the characters and the way they lived and their limits and priorities in life. I wanted to keep up. They keep pushing each other. They love each other so much and I want to find relationships like that in my own life that are so challenging. I want to live vicariously through them and learn from the music and the books they talk about and the artists they discuss.
Q: Was it empowering or enriching in many ways to play MaryLou?
STEWART: When I was there doing the scenes it involved a major transformation for me…MaryLou was so far and away a different personality from mine. I’m a follower and she was running ahead of everyone and to play her I had to lose all inhibition. I’m always fascinated by a character like her who is so self-aware and so unselfconscious at the same time and therefore so unlike me in real life! (Laughs) So it was great for me to be able to let it all hang out like her. When I was there I felt so comfortable on the set. Walter (Salles) makes you feel that you can do no wrong. He’s led you to this place where you can be very creative and free but you feel as if you’ve arrived there on your own. There are so many aspects of On the Road that you can learn from. It’s the spirit that you can learn so much from following their journey and how they discover the world. This movie really opened so many doors for me creatively.
Q: You’ve turned 22 last month. Did you celebrate in any special way?
STEWART: It was nothing big… It was kind of a relief not to have a party or a milestone. I liked it because it was a non-event birthday celebration. I went bowling with some friends. I’m a terrible bowler. (Laughs)
Q: A lot of celebrities feel like they live in a bubble. Is that your perspective?
STEWART: I’ve had that feeling but lately I’m not as bothered by the attention. I have a pretty easy life and I think I should be doing more to get out in the world sometimes. That’s mainly why I love my work because I get to experience how other people live and have to struggle in life. My life is very boring by comparison and when I’m acting I feel I’m learning more about the real world or at least different kinds of people who have very intense experiences. I love living in those different realities. It’s changed my life.
Q: Your parents are both involved in the film and TV business. What was that like for you while your were growing up?
STEWART: She works very close with the director, so I would get special treatment when I would visit her on set. I knew about the process (of filmmaking) before I ever made a movie. I was just comfortable on a set. It is a very foreign place to be if you're not used to it.
Q:. Did that make it inevitable that you would become an actress one day?
STEWART: I didn’t know for sure that I would be an actress. I was always hanging around film sets and I wanted to be part of that world in some way. But then I saw how directors worked with actors to create a scene and I just knew I wanted to do that.
Q: How did you first get into acting?
STEWART: I sang in a school play and some agent happened to be sitting in the audience because his own daughter was in the play. So he called my parents about my coming in to audition.
My parents were nice enough to actually run it by me, I mean instead of just, like, hanging up. They were, like, 'Do you want to do this?' They were not very enthusiastic. They are realistic about the business. It is not a normal thing to be successful at it.
Kristen Stewart is a long-time fan of the book, and it inspired her to write herself.
Although she’s nearly 40 years younger than Jack Kerouac’s book (which was written in 1951, but not published for another six years), Kristen Stewart is a longtime fan. The novel also helped introduce her to a wider range of authors. “I read it when I was 14,” the actress said. “I had read some Burroughs, I had tried to read ‘Naked Lunch,’ it didn’t get inside me as much as ‘On the Road’ did. I read Ginsberg’s stuff. It opened a lot of doors to different writers. Like, Henry Miller is not a part of the [beat generation], but he’s one of my favorite writers and I only know about him through these people.” Indeed, her reading of Kerouac & co inspired her to do some writing of her own, something she hopes to return to one day. “I wrote when I was younger. But I have such an outlet now, it’s not a compulsion and I don’t want to force it. I’m not a storyteller, it was really about words and what they could do. I’ll get back to it, I’m sure.”
Stewart became particularly attached to the ’49 Hudson in which so much of the film is set.
Every road movie needs a great car, and luckily there was one already specified in the book — the ’49 Hudson owned by Neal Cassady (the inspiration for Hedlund’s character Dean Moriarty). And given that so many of her scenes took place in or around the car, it’s unsurprising that the actress felt it to be part of the cast by the time the movie wrapped. “It’s so comfortable in there. Road trips now are not the same because our cars are not the same. It’s like a room. By the end of the movie, my last scene was in the Hudson, and I can’t even describe to you what it was like to get out of it and know that I wasn’t going to get back in. It was horrible,” she said. “My last scene was one quick shot in a rearview mirror, right before we got dumped in San Francisco. It’s perfect that it was my last scene as well, because you know it’s coming. And there’s this awesome picture that I will cherish for the rest of my life of me and Walter and Sam standing in the middle of the road, right after they called wrap and I definitely just wiped a full face of tears off. It so captures that moment because now I’m on my own road.”
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