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Kristen Stewart talks ‘Love Lies Bleeding,’ being an ‘annoying’ actor, and why not every director is up to the job

Getting a movie off the ground is hard. Just ask Kristen Stewart.

Her directorial debut, “The Chronology of Water,” has been stuck in development hell, struggling to find financing – to the point she took a stand in January, telling Variety she would not make another movie before she had made hers.

While the industry weighs this threat, audiences can enjoy Stewart’s upcoming performances in “Love Me” and “Love Lies Bleeding” – two very different stories in which Stewart’s characters fall head over heels and makes questionable choices to keep romances alive.

The latter, a pulpy slice of Americana written and directed by Brit Rose Glass, enters theaters in the US this month and sees Stewart take on the role of Lou, a gym manager smitten with aspiring bodybuilder Jackie (Katy M. O’Brian). The pair’s love affair is threatened when they become mixed up in Lou’s crime family, headed by a grizzled Ed Harris, who runs their small town in 1980s New Mexico.

The thriller – think “Bonnie and Clyde” by way of the Coen Brothers ­­– is both a throwback and a piece of forward-looking, muscular filmmaking; a queer love story with dirt under its fingernails that pulses with violent intent. As well as another showcase for Stewart, the actor told CNN there were plenty of takeaways from working with Glass. “What did I learn from this?” she pondered. “Not everyone should keep (directing). She should.”

Katy M. O'Brian and Kristen Stewart as Jackie and Lou in "Love Lies Bleeding." - Anna Kooris/A24
Katy M. O'Brian and Kristen Stewart as Jackie and Lou in "Love Lies Bleeding." - Anna Kooris/A24

Stewart knows of what she speaks. A former child star who successfully led a mega-franchise before pivoting to auteur fare (and the odd blockbuster), Stewart has experience to burn and more than a few war stories from life in the trenches of modern-day moviemaking. She’s worked with David Cronenberg, Pablo Larraín, Olivier Assayas, Woody Allen and Kelly Reichardt, earned an Oscar nomination and won a César, the French equivalent ­­– the first American actor to do so.

Glass was coming off her hit debut “Saint Maud” and only ever had Stewart in mind for Lou. “(‘Love Lies Bleeding’) was quite a big leap up in scale,” the director told CNN in a joint interview with Stewart and O’Brian, “but I was met with a lot of encouragement, particularly for the more bonkers aspects of it.”

Her screenplay marries pitch black humor and sexual abandon with occasional gore and phantasmagoria, in a plot partly driven by the effect of steroids taken by O’Brian’s bodybuilder. Stewart herself was all in for the shoot in Albuquerque in the summer of 2022. “I trust her choices, instincts, opinions, taste – all of it,” she said.

“I felt fully in her hands,” said Stewart. “I don’t always feel that way with directors. I think as an actor I’m becoming really annoying. I don’t trust everyone. So it was fun to fully trust fall with her.”

Writer-director Rose Glass and actor Kristen Stewart in discussion on the set of "Love Lies Bleeding." - Anna Kooris/A24
Writer-director Rose Glass and actor Kristen Stewart in discussion on the set of "Love Lies Bleeding." - Anna Kooris/A24

“There’s this delicacy and this open communication thing, that is really nice to see, that is ­– and not to be too binary about it – but is quite female,” she elaborated. “And it was just fun to see her run such a wild experience … very much in control of something that was also out of control.”

Her relationship with Glass is one she hopes to emulate herself one day.

“If I were to take anything from this (film), I would say find people who really like you. You need to find people that really want to be able to give (themselves) up … your thoughts, your body,” she explained.

“I wanted to give her everything so she could just take it and do exactly what she wanted to do, and it then had nothing to do with what I wanted to do,” Stewart explained. “But somehow those instincts get married and a movie happens. And I just want to be on the other side of that.”

One thing her crew shouldn’t expect if and when Stewart finds herself in the hot seat is much downtime. The conversation moves towards O’Brian comparing her experiences in the New Mexico desert with Marvel and Disney productions (the actor has had supporting roles in “Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” and “The Mandalorian”).

“We have so much more time on a Marvel set,” said O’Brian, “you just…”

“…expire,” Stewart interjected.

“It’s more laid back,” O’Brian offered.

“It’s boring,” her co-star replied.

Stewart doesn’t like to be kept waiting. Film industry, take note.

“Love Lies Bleeding” opens in select US cinemas on March 8 before going wide on March 15, and is released in the UK on May 3.

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