Kristen Stewart On Acting: “I Don’t Think I Can Ever Step Outside Myself Fully”
Kristen Stewart plays an actress helping her mother (Julianne Moore) cope with early onset Alzheimer’s Disease in Still Alice. In a new IndieWire interview, she talks about the role, its challenges, and how she’s choosing to play characters these days.
The star says she’s never had family afflicted with Alzheimer’s, but did have a “formative experience” when she was young with the mother of a family friend, “who was clearly in a severe state of dementia.” Stewart explains, “She had clearly lost parts of herself, and what remained was very desperate to connect.” She says the moment stayed with her and was something she discussed long before even getting the Still Alice script.
As for the movie itself, Stewart reveals, “I also knew I could do it with [Moore] because I’ve known her for a couple years. I knew I could be her kid. I just knew that everything was going to be honest and right. We weren’t making anything up, so it would be heavy.” As for what Still Alice gave her, Stewart says, “It gives you in the most basic sense a fundamental perspective. You want to go home and call your mom, or you want to stop being so petty. It gives you this massive jug of perspective.”
Alzheimer’s is terrifying, and Stewart was forced to grapple with it in making the movie with Moore. “The idea that that could happen to anyone – me, you, someone who you idolize, someone who is entirely in control all the time – it was not acting, it was so real,” she says. “Anyone, even if you don’t have personal experience with the disease, you have a mom. I have a mom, so I know what that experience feels like. I understand what it would feel like to lose her.”
What most scares Stewart? “I think we’re all pretty afraid of dying and the unknown,” she tells the outlet. “But I think the scariest thing about this disease and watching this movie is how alone you are before you die. You’ve lost your life before you’re dead. The idea that I might overlook something in my life and make someone feel that way scares me.”
Stewart plays an actress in the movie, but she says she tries to find common ground even with characters who are nothing like her. “I don’t think I can ever step outside myself fully,” she says. “It’s not the type of acting I want to do. I’ve been lucky enough to be allowed to do this. Everyone can tell me that I run my hand through my hair too much, and that’s fine because I’m truly there and very present in these moments.”
She adds, “With the roles I’ve been playing, especially recently in films like Sils Maria and Still Alice, the way to do those parts justice is to just really be them and to learn the things they’re learning. You got to walk in their shoes for real and experience what they experience. In that regard, I didn’t feel like I was playing characters. They were so there for me, I just wanted to live in them.”
Her Still Alice role “definitely resembles me because I didn’t try otherwise,” says Stewart. “There was no effort on my part to hide myself. All I tried to do with this part was to find myself and show myself. The best way to service this character was to be there honestly, so all affectations were meaningless. I could just have my own. It was selfishly a personal experience, but it had to be so that the viewer would feel it as well. I didn’t need to play a character who was outside myself.” What do you think about what Stewart has to say?