As we creep closer to Spencer’s November 5 release date, Kristen Stewart continues the press blitz that started at the trifecta of fall film festivals: Venice, Telluride, and TIFF. Now, she’s on the cover of Entertainment Weekly for what might be the first time since the Twilight days. That can’t be right, but an admittedly cursory scan online comes up with a lot of Twilight-related covers, but only an illustrated group cover for the 2020 Pride issue, and a digital cover for Charlie’s Angels a couple years ago, so…yeah, Kristen Stewart is really roaring back into the mainstream with Spencer. And she knows it! This interview, conducted by Leah Greenblatt, is full of self-aware quotes that show Stewart knows where she’s at in her career, and what Spencer could mean going forward.
Note that self-aware does not equal self-conscious. KStew does not seem self-conscious at all. This has been her energy over the last few years, but she has clearly hit a new level and is here to play the game. And this IS a game, which she admits: “You want to win, we're all animals. […] Artists want to engage with the world and have larger conversations. Even though it doesn't seem like I'm somebody who wants to be extremely famous, I still want this conversation to be expansive…”
Is she talking awards? Box office? The general perception of her as an artist and person? The inherently competitive nature of metric-driven celebrity in the post-social media landscape? Yes! Because with Spencer, all those things are entwined. It’s a prestige film about one of the most famous women of the 20th century, starring one of the most famous women of the 21st century. It is, by its very nature, going to be a Spectacle, worth its weight in potential box office dollars, plaudits, and social media engagement. And Stewart isn’t stupid, she knows that. As this profile reminds us, she grew up in an industry family, with parents who worked on set. She started acting young. She had one of the more interesting and successful non-Disney child careers of the 2000s before Twilight launched her into the stratosphere. She understands her own celebrity and how it is sometimes at loggerheads with her privacy, but also sometimes helps fuel those “expansive conversations” she is trying to start through her work.
People have dismissed Kristen Stewart as a twitchy nervous disaster for years, but I don’t think you can do that anymore. She is still recognizably “Kristen Stewart”, that vulpine quality that has always defined her is still present, but she’s sharp, on topic, engaged. She’s not stuttering or plucking at her hair or doing any of the things that have rendered her an easy target for low-grade impressions. She’s clearly passionate about Spencer, and she’s equally clearly prepared to discuss it. And she needs to be, because as we have mentioned before, awards season this year is hella competitive. You bring your A game, or you’re going to get left behind.
The field is too open to call anyone a lock just yet, but momentum is on Stewart’s side. Spencer is going from strength to strength on the festival circuit, and KStew is in the press, the face of the film, recontextualizing not only her own persona, but her superstar past. She is now self-possessed enough to be separate from that younger version of herself who never seemed comfortable in her own skin. Like Robert Pattinson, she won that game, evolving past that time and that person. In a way, it doesn’t matter if she actually does win an Oscar this year, because Kristen Stewart has already won the stuff that matters. She emerged from the crucible of teen superstardom a more interesting artist, making challenging films with challenging filmmakers, and now she’s center-stage in what is going to be a bananas, balls-to-the-wall awards season. A trophy would be a nice capper, sure, but the important thing is just that she’s playing the game, and she’s playing it well. There was a time when I didn’t think we’d ever see Kristen Stewart come back to this place, but here she is, owning it.