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Kristen Stewart on watching herself onscreen, ghosts, and her directorial debut

“I am deeply insecure, obviously, but [watching my films] completes a process.”

'Cafe Society' & Opening Gala - Red Carpet Arrivals - The 69th Annual Cannes Film Festival
Kristen Stewart and Jesse Eisenberg attend the premiere of Café Society.
Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images

CANNES, France — First things first: If you think Kristen Stewart is going to comment on Ronan Farrow’s essay criticizing the press and Hollywood talent for handling his father, Woody Allen, with kid gloves, you’re sorely mistaken. (Allen directed her upcoming film Café Society, and Stewart addressed the allegations against him in this Variety profile.)

Stewart is as candid as they come these days but says she's not wading into the topic. However, that’s not because she’s in love with Cannes at this exact moment.

Stewart attended the world premiere for Café Society in a gown and heels, then changed into checkered sneakers for the formal dinner afterward.

There was just one issue: Traditions are extreme at the festival, and women are forbidden from attending formal events without some sort of heel. (Men are not allowed in without a bow tie.) This has led to some major embarrassments, but seemingly no one is exempt — not even Stewart, the only American actor ever to win France’s version of the Academy Award, the César.

"I had a man physically try and bar me. Like, arm bar me," Stewart says during a lunchtime conversation the following afternoon. "There was a huge, massive gaggle of people trying to get in, and I am small, so people usually don't notice. But I stood up [and went under the rope] and literally had, like, an arm's length, and I was like, 'Oh, fuck. Can I just sneak in there?' And he was like [in a French accent], 'Yes, you can pass the line, but you can't wear the shoes.'"

The 26-year-old actor looks at me directly and notes, "Nowadays if we walked in together, and they asked, 'Why aren't you wearing heels?' I'd ask, 'Does he have to wear heels?' It's just archaic."

Why Kristen Stewart always watches her films

She’ll get to tempt fate again when she walks la Croisette next week for her second film premiering at this year’s festival, Olivier Assayas's Personal Shopper. The pair first collaborated on Clouds of Sils Maria two years ago, earning Stewart the aforementioned César Award.

In the meantime, Stewart is discussing Café Society. In the film, she plays against type as Vonnie an initially innocent and idealistic girl who has recently moved to Los Angeles from Nebraska but is also having a clandestine affair with a married man who just happens to be her boss.

Allen’s movies are infamous for their laid-back shooting schedules, and Stewart describes making the film as a "pleasurable experience."

"We shot typically six to eight hour days. Sometimes five, if that," Stewart says. "And I got to hang out with one of my favorite people in the world."

That person would be Jesse Eisenberg, with whom she also starred in 2009's Adventureland and 2015's American Ultra. When she was told Eisenberg was attached to the project, she jumped at the chance to chat with Allen about the role.

The Twilight franchise star has no problem watching herself on the big screen, but that’s not the case with her good friend.

"I am deeply insecure, obviously, but it completes a process. When I disappoint myself or when I haven't satisfied something that I really felt was necessary, it's debilitatingly painful. But I'm not embarrassed about what I look like or what I sound like," Stewart says.

"That's gone away. I could direct myself. I could make movies and watch it and analyze and fix it. Jesse can't watch anything. He can't stomach it. He always asks me many, many questions about the movies we've made together after the fact. 'Did this work? Did this work? Oh, so that stayed in.'"

Her next film is a ghost story

Kristen Stewart in Personal Shopper
Kristen Stewart stars in Personal Shopper, debuting at Cannes.
CG Cinema

Personal Shopper is more of a mystery. It’s been rumored that the film features supernatural elements — a first for the normally more earthbound Assayas — but until this conversation the genre aspect of the picture was still shrouded in mystery. Even after seeing it, Stewart admits she’s too close to it to completely know what it’s about, but confirms it features supernatural elements.

"It's definitely a ghost story. I play a medium, a person who genuinely believes herself to be clairvoyant," Stewart says. "I think the scariest parts of the movie aren't about the ghosts, but really more about how she's always questioning reality and what that is. And those questions that you ask yourself before you go to sleep at night that sometimes don't allow you to sleep."

Stewart’s character, Maureen, lost her twin brother at some point, and that is still, for lack of a better phrase, haunting her.

"She's half a person," Stewart notes. "She just can't put herself back together, and she's questioning living in general. So she's obsessed with finding him and making contact, and it never happens. It's really, really painful, so it's about so many things. Also, she's a personal shopper. So there is this other story that is about a girl who has weird identity issues and is very much drawn to something surface, shiny, and she hates herself for it.

"It’s about so many things, it's really hard to talk about. I have no idea if any of that comes through. I'm so close to it, I just can't."

Stewart adds, "I can watch the Woody movie and go, 'It's good; it's fucking good. I know what it's about…' With Shopper, I'm genuinely like, 'Tell me what you think?' Those are my favorite movies, the ones where everyone has a different answer and asks different questions."

Stewart will be making her own directorial debut soon

It also turns out that Stewart may have the chance to direct herself sooner than you’d think. She reveals that she’ll make her screenwriting and helming debut with a currently untitled short that will shoot sometime in June or July.

The short features just one actor. Stewart is "diligently resisting the urge to just do it" herself.

"I know I can do it. I want to cultivate that relationship [with another actor]," Stewart says. "I want to facilitate. I want to kick-start someone so badly to do what I want. "

She continues, "I think my short is written so fantastically. I wrote it a long time ago and now I'm like, 'Shit, it's gonna be deleted as soon as I make the movie.' It’s not a script anymore. It's just the realization of that. I love the words so much, and the whole thing is words. There is no dialogue at all. I want to just read it out loud to people."

Meanwhile, Stewart will continue to enjoy her time in the south of France before Shopper debuts, and she is simply adored. Even if she gives their beloved Cannes crap for their ladies' shoe policy.

"It's strange. I definitely cop a lot of shit from a lot of different people in a lot of different countries, and then I come here and it's like 'Oh, c'est perfect. Don't change! Don't change!' It's like, 'Okay.' I don’t interact like that so often."

Café Society arrives in US theaters on July 15. Personal Shopper has not been dated for its American release date yet.