Pablo Larraín’s Spencer, starring Kristen Stewart as the late Diana, Princess of Wales, screened at TIFF this week. In support of the film’s inclusion at the festival, Stewart appeared as part of the “In Conversation With” series (other actors featured in the series include Benedict Cumberbatch and Steven Yeun). Her interview was Wednesday morning, done remotely, and it’s the most engaged and available we’ve seen KStew since the Twilight days. She already brought her star power to Venice, site of many awards season kick-offs, and now she’s doing the kind of extended interview that can, if all goes well, set the tone for the never-ending parade of interviews and round tables and conversations and Q&As that define awards season.
But Stewart came to play, handling the awkward rhythm of a Zoom interview as well as one can, and providing thoughtful answers to questions ranging from mastering the English accent to embodying Diana when she looks nothing like her. Stewart specifically pointed out their height difference and how she compensated for being obviously much shorter than Diana, and what impact that had on how she carries herself on camera.
Stewart has been roasted in the past for her fidgety screen presence, but now she’s turning the tables, owning her twitchiness. As she was describing her physical effort to embody Diana, I started thinking about Keanu Reeves, another actor who has eaten plenty of sh-t in his day for his unique screen presence and how it feeds into his performance, for better or worse. With Keanu, it’s a stillness that can be slightly inhuman, even off-putting, and has often been read as a wooden quality on screen. But Keanu is not a wooden performer, he’s just very contained and interprets his characters through that lens of stillness. KStew is the opposite, a kinetic performer whose various twitches and spasms have been taken as distractions at best, but her tics are expressions of the words her characters don’t say, the actions they don’t take. Her Diana shrinks inward, hugging herself, and Stewart said she decided to do that because there was no one to hold Diana, so she holds herself. Maybe her performance won’t work for you, we can debate it when the film is released and everyone can see it, but that’s a choice made deliberately.
It’s also a deliberate choice to engage in awards season. As Lainey said, she is shaping an awards campaign and bringing big contender energy to the fall festivals. On the heels of Venice, TIFF is full of more rave reviews for her performance in Spencer. I won’t say she’s a lock, because it’s early and there is a LOT of competition and we’re still in for a glut of year-end films as the 2020 backlog, including West Side Story and Don’t Look Up and David O. Russell’s still-untitled film, not to mention Nightmare Alley which throws Cate Blanchett into the race. One name we can probably strike from the Best Actress list is Kirsten Dunst, only because The Power of the Dog is Benedict Cumberbatch’s film, and her role is truly supporting. (She is the female lead, though, so I guess Netflix could campaign her for Best Actress, but it would be a pretty blatant case of category fraud, something that annoys voters more every year). But early on, Kristen Stewart is definitely on the list, and she is working the circuit in a way we’ve never before seen from her.
Attached - Kristen out in New York with Dylan Meyer before the Met Gala.