(PART 2) Translation of Vanity Fair France
VF: It brings us back, not only to the rumours, which have always been part of the star-system, but also to the impact of Internet, of tabloids and online gossip sites, bloggers, of twitter, the millions of people who complain on the Worldwide web, you know. The film shows what happens when all those entangle themselves, when the young actress shows up in a restaurant with a married writer and that you, the personal assistant who knows a lot of things, you predict that "when it will get out, it will be like a tsunami".
KS: The best is when the character of Juliette says: "Oh yes, on what planete?" and I reply: "This planet has a name, it's called the real world." It made me feel good. Everything says that it doesn't matter, it's a really easy thing to say.
VF: It's compelling..
KS: No one wants to hear someone like me continuously repeat how hard it can be.
VF: You mean, repeat how much fame is hard to handle?
KS: Yes, exactly.
VF: Yes, it's really annoying to hear people whine about this subject. It's why people go crazy when Gwyneth Paltrow says how hard it is for her to reconcile her job and taking care of her children, because it forces her to take her children on set. It's no easy to sympathize with her when you compare her life to those of the usual women who go to work everyday.
KS: I know that. Believe me. There's no problem if you talk about it lightly. That people decide to say that it's not important or that it has nothing to do with reality, it doesn't bother me. I agree that all this media stuff, when you're in it, it shouldn't affect you physically or bother you and all that. Yet, technically, it has an impact on your life. Like in a dream. But in other people's minds, it's just stupid and that's how it should be perceived by everyone.
VF: You have found yourself on the other side of the tsunami a couple times. I remember that the last time I interviewed you, we were in Paris, at "Le Duc". When we opened the door of the restaurant to leave, shit. It was in the middle of the "Twilight" craziness, right before the 5th film came out and a huge amount of paparazzi were just standing there. We ran back into the restaurant. There were still there a few hours after. It's like a huge wave just fell on you. And when those pictures of you came out a while ago, it was absolutely crazy. So you're in the right place to know what it's like and that it is a real thing.
KS: Yes, that's true. i have obligations to maintain connections with the media, because no one forced me to become an actress. But it would be crazy to deny that this demon is different, nobody would sign up to live that way.
VF: It's a beast whose face is not the same as the one from the past. Let's say the 1930s or 1940s, when studios were controlling the press.
KS: I never fixed a plan of career for myself. I never tried to influence the opinion of people on myself, which is what a lot of other people do. Some artists, some actors, they do everything to fit into the image of a certain type of actor or artist, and I'm really not like that. I've lived through a lot of situations, a lot of experiences more or les creative, with instinct. So I can't let myself get overwhelmed by regret.
When it comes to what people take of you and remember of you to forge an opinion on you, nothing is ever totally wrong. It's some kind of collection of flavors that they grabbed in stores, theatres or online. I didn't make up that mix myself and it doesn't bother me more than that. But i'm not going to add anything to this pile of shit that is made up about me and that has nothing to do with reality. Ending up in the middle of all this is already weird enough without me making comments about it. But strangely, I feel capable of taking myself out of it and saying: "Isn't it a little too easy?" I mean, it's "funny", as Valentine says in "Sils Maria", the stories are funny, but you know that all of them, these contain people who play roles fabricated by the media and people who have their share of weekly gossip to post. It's nothing more than soap-opera. I'm trying really hard to not let it affect me, to preserve my real life. People might believe that they know everything, but fuck, who knows the truth? No one. You're going to die. You'll be lying down next to the person you know the most in the world, the person you're going to grow old with. And you'll be next to this person in the middle of the night and you'll be asking yourself a ton of questions because, shit, no one ever knows the fucking truth.
VF: What you just said reminds me of an extract from "Pastorale américaine" by Phillip Roth. The subject is "the others", he writes: "We are mistaken even before we meet people, when me imagine ourselves meeting them; we're fooling ourselves when we are with them; and then when we come back home, and we tell the encounter to somebody else, we're mistaken again. (...) The thing is that, understanding others is not the rule, in life. The story of life, it's to be wrong about them, again and again, again and always, with relentlessness and, after thinking about it, to be wrong again. It's even like that that we know we are alive: we are wrong. Maybe the best thing would be to meet one another and to be right or wrong about the other, and to keep going just for the ride." But let's go back to moment when you did those first auditions, a child, with your mother. I remember what you told me a few years ago, that the people who were making you audition for commericials were trying to make you smiley and that it felt overplayed for you. Or that they were complaining that you looked a little boy-ish. What do you think those first experiences taught you?
KS: I attribute those first steps to my ability to do this job. It's asking you to be at ease despite the excessive attention. If I hadn't started that young, I don't think I could have done it after. It's not really my thing to just stand in the middle of a room. But I really wanted to be an actress and I wanted to be in movies. I wanted to do like my parents.
VF: There were working in the cinema industry, right? Your mother was a screenwriter and your father a producer, they sometimes brought you on set If I remember correctly.
KS: I used to look at them and think that they were doing the coolest thing that one can do in their lives. And as I wasn't really fitting the mould of the child star, that I didn't want to be famous or make the general public happy, I was cast by an incredible young director, Rose Troche, in a film called "The Safety of Objects", exactly for what I was, a tomboy. You could hardly tell me apart from my brother.
As a child, I was quite confident with myself, but in school, when you're not accepted as a girl who is supposed to look like a girl, it's hard. I hated when people told me: "Hum, you now, you don't really look like..." I was being called a boy and all that. For a short moment, it really affected me. And then it stopped because when I started working, I didn't think of it as weird anymore. I was cool. I was liking myself. I thought I was really lucky to be known in that industry as a child, because, if you're on the right path, it's the most open and welcome environment that I know. It's a magnetic field which attract the most diverse personalities. Tons of progressive and subversive agitators who love asking questions and express themselves. Shit, that's beautiful. It's incredible, I love it. I'm so happy and proud to be a part of this. Actors are strange people with a curious nature. They want to live other lives than theirs, even if it hurts, just for the pleasure of telling a story.
VF: Why do you think that starting acting at a young age mattered that much for you?
KS: The root of everything, as I said before, is that I loves the state my parents were in when they came back home after working sixteen hours on a set.
VF: Didn't you say one that you liked to smell them?
KS: Yeah. If I find a bag that I had on a set and that I havent used in a long time, I can smell the scent of the place or the smell of the set. I can literally smell all the olfactory fragments of this experience. My mom is a screenwriter and puts all her scripts in some sort of pack that always smelled of manual labor, coffee spilled on it and the smoke because of the special effects like the dust from an explosion. It's what attracted me at first. It's as if you had walked miles and miles all day. Where did you go, what made you get up in the morning and leave the house. I knew that it had to be interesting. I knew that if my parents got up and went to work for sixteen hours, that it had to be cool and enthralling. And then I knew what it was like to feel it and to share it. You don't fin it just like that, it's a feeling that you have to dig very deep to find, and then you can share it; it's fucking hard job and it's an act of faith. You have to make yourself available for something that won't necessarily happen immediately. And when it happens, it's the most exciting thing I know, and that's what keeps me going. I will never stop looking for that. I love this quest. It's what I love the most, Searching, finding, digging, digging and digging even more.
VF: What's funny, is that people who work with you never describe you as someone anxious who is always sitting down and standing up. But most portraits describe you like that.
KS: On set, there are actually moment where I'm vibrating, and I love that feeling. It's a different sensation. It's at ease with this awkwardness.
VF: You haven't worked in two years..
KS: Yes, an eternity.
VF: Sils Maria is your first film after this long break?
KS: No, there was "Camp X-Ray" first [By Peter Sattler, out soon]
VF: And before "Camp X-Ray", what did you do?
KS: Breaking Dawn, Part 2 [Last film of the Twilight Saga, the second part of the first Breaking Dawn film]
VF: Why did you wait so long before filming again?
KS: I was looking around myself. There was one or two projects that were supposed to happen, and then they stopped and never took off again, and I spent a lot of time on those projects that never saw the light of day, it happens. And after, and it says a lot about the state I was in, there had to be a spark. Who knows what would happen if I was reading now all the scripts I read during that time? I wonder if I wouldn't find things that would make me go "How could I let this one slip through my fingers?" Seriously, I think that after Twilight and Snow White, that where huge films, I didn't want to run to the next blockbuster. People who have known two huge successes think that it's their thing now: Make successful blockbusters and surf on that wave. I came down from this huge wave and I told myself that I would shelter myself a little bit. That I would come back later. It was a good thing in the end. I needed time for myself. To come back to my own life. To stay home, surrounded by my own mess, to play the guitar and write.
VF: It must have been a relief for you to go back on set and film "Sils Maria" in a bucolic environment, in Switzerland and in Germany... far from crowds. Even if the film talks about crows and other things, it's what makes it so modern. I want to go back to a certain scene: You, Valentine and Juliette Binoche/Maria Enders are in the mountaines. You're talking as you're taking a walk, you end up at a lake, you go in it. Something totally unexpected happens, right? Juliette runs in it butt-naked. You, Valentine, the exemple of perfect youth, you modestly keep your panties on.
KS: In fact, I'm wearing two pair of panties.
VF: Is it because, you, Kristen, your wear this hat of the puritan American, and that you wouldn't shoot a naked "European" scene or is it because the role asked for it?
KS: It's another example of Life imitating Art/Art imitating Life. We never talked about it with Olivier, he works a little by orchestration. Once he cast us, we had a very vague preliminary discussion on the film and he gave us our dialogues only when we started shooting the film. Everytime I asked a question, he always replie to me. He said: "It's really just depending on how you're feeling it." I was going to him with an important question and he was all: "Whatever you want" as in "That's why I hired you". He wasn't very at ease when he told us to throw ourselves into the water. He is like that. He started filming and he just said: "Do whatever you want. You'll see once you're going down towards the lake, go in it, don't go in it, talk to each other, shut up, everything is fine with me. Do what you have to do." Of course we were going to throw ourselves into the water. I knew while I was going down that I would do whatever she did. When she started taking her clothes off, and me too, I told myself: "My God. Fuck, I can't get naked in front of her." I felt uncomfortable, as Valentine. I was embodying this Puritan, American awkwardness perfectly. and she breathed freedom one hundred percent. I decided to assume completely and said: "Fuck it, I'm keeping the panties on."
VF: The sexual tension could be cut with a knife.
KS: When she takes her clothes off, it's a challenge that Valentine can't rise up to. When you work with someone who lets a lot of room for freedom, to fluidity, to improvisation, it's so interesting to watch and play: there are only surprises.
VF: Well, you're just as full of surprises when it comes to wearing - or not wearing - clothes. I'm going to seize the opportunity to talk about clothes with you. You've never stopped making up your own rules to define yourself as an actress in Hollywood. We can't really say that you've played the game on the red carpet. When you got closer to a certain fashion brand, it had to make sense. A few years ago, you were the face of the Balenciaga fragrance, when Nicolas Ghesquière was the designer. A year ago, when we learned that you were going to be the face of the Métiers D'Art collection by Chanel, I remember that i was sitting behind you in Dallas, where the fashion show was taking place and I told myself, "How did it happen?"
KS: I have a certain relationship with fashion by default, because as a young actress, You have to bend to the rules of the red carpet, and I've been doing it since I was little. As you remember certainly, I met Nicolas Ghesquière on a photoshoot that I was doing for you at Montauk with Bruce Weber. It was the first time I was seeing for myself, the inspiration that surrounds an artist whose work has nothing to do with mine. By then, I had only seen this inspiration with directors or actors. With Nicolas, it was beyond everything. It was: "My God, I understand everything." I knew what I liked. Before, I was annoyed just by having to wear heels to please people that wanted me to talk about said heels... Suddenly, it turned into: "It's cool, arty, fun and amazing!". That awakening to fashion was really exciting. And I started wearing Chanel very young. It's a whole other thing than wearing simple clothes. When it's exciting, it reveals hidden treasures of your personality that you would have kept on ignoring if you hadn't put those clothes on.
VF: Thankfully, there are still brands like Chanel who don't treat celebrities like a piece of meat, a live publicity that you sell at every price.
KS: Yes, it's disgusting, I wouldn't want that to ever happen to me. The difference is striking. I had the chance to meet the family which possesses Chanel, and Chanel is really like a family. I'm not saying this as if i were their publicist. You could expect them to be haughty and pretentious, but they're calm with no particular demands. I met the girls who are working there. They were looking for someone who could represent this Métiers d'Art collection that was surrounded around America and she told me: "Girl, why not you?"
VF: And then you got the job and met Karl Lagerfeld. You're both workaholics. I can imagine that it made you tighter.
KS: This man is incredible. When you say Karl Lagerfeld, you almost see the silhouette before the man. He's like a a shadow. But what really shocked me, is his productivity. He's a huge mine of information. It's crazy. He told me: "The girls here are very excited to be working with you." I found that really cute. Everything happened in a very natural way, very old-fashioned. And he made me so much cooler in one second.
VF: So it's a new era for you. In fact, the sun went down on Twilight. What do you remember of this experience now that it's far behind you? Can people see you in another way?
KS: I got the chance to say, while I was in the middle of it, that it wouldn't last forever. That it would calm down. But I wasn't really believing it [laughing]. I thought that it would last forever. Now, it seems far behind me. It's only been two or three years and in reality, I'm at the bottom of these huge stairs. I've barely gone into the building.