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#CertainWomen interview + Portraits by ELLE Magazine

Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern Have Giving a F*ck Down to an Art: Spending a little time with the stars of Certain Women.

ELLE Magazine : “I fucking love your portion of the movie, by the way,” says Kristen Stewart, jaw-length hair freshly platinum, to Laura Dern, her costar in Certain Women. Even though both actresses star in Kelly Reichardt’s exquisite slice-of-life film, they don’t share any scenes. That’s why they’re only now—during their NYC press tour, with me as third wheel—getting the opportunity to exchange spirited praise. “Oh my God,” replies Dern, in emphatic kind. “I love yours.”

Neither is wrong. Based on a suite of short stories by Maile Meloy, Certain Women is a triptych, peeking through the seams at three characters as they attempt to stay afloat against the backdrop of pale Montana mountains. Beth (brought to weary life by Stewart) is a recent, unlikely law graduate who accidentally landed a shitty job. Then there’s Laura (played by Dern), a lawyer who gets caught up in one client’s desperate quest for justice. Laura is having an affair with Ryan (James Le Gros), whose brittle wife, Gina (Michelle Williams), is deeply invested in securing some local sandstone from an aging, hesitant man for the house they’re building.

The three women are connected only in the most tangential of ways, reflecting just how little we can sometimes grasp the contours of other people’s lives. Hence the whole ships-in-the-night thing for Dern and Stewart. But while the three storylines are totally distinct, there’s an emotional kinship among the trio. “The through line is that there are some women up against immovable objects that they can’t seem to dislodge,” explains Stewart, “and it’s kind of tiring to watch all three of them go up against that.”

Speaking of dislodging obstacles, Stewart’s electric performances in Certain Women and the forthcoming Personal Shopper—not to mention acclaimed films like Clouds of Sils Maria and Still Alice—are being lauded left and right, and the former Twilight star is currently facing some critics’ “realization” that she can actually act. (“Congratulations!” quips Dern.) “The thing is, I’ve worked so hard on every good and bad movie I’ve ever done,” says Stewart passionately. “And you can look at something and say that it’s not your thing, but nobody can say that I haven’t…like, I’ve just been gunning since I was like 10.”

Since both are veterans of the trade, what do they think about the recently passed California bill requiring entertainment sites like IMDb to remove actors’ ages if requested? “Thank God. It’s fantastic,” says Dern. “As a child of actor parents, I will just tell you, my mother’s age has been misprinted for many, many years, so she was always 12 years older in print than she actually is.” Wait, what? If even the legendary Diane Ladd can’t escape the tyranny of Hollywood ageism, what hope does anyone else have? “For years people were like, ‘Oh, I didn’t realize,'” Dern explains, “and suddenly the way they cast the person is…it’s just heartbreaking.”

After her revelation, Dern flips the question to Stewart, whose experience is a little different. “I’m fine because I don’t care, genuinely. It’s not like I don’t care what people think—I care what people think a lot,” Stewart says, “but some people think I look like shit and that’s fine.”

Equanimity is, it seems, a baseline requirement for not losing it among Hollywood’s messy yet exacting fray. When did the two actresses last decide they they gave zero fucks? “I am so grateful to be in my forties,” says Dern, “because that is the moment when, no matter what your friends or your family or social media—but most importantly the deep voices inside—are saying, you don’t give a fuck anymore and it’s great.” Apart from about her kids, of course. “When you become a parent you really care that you get that right, and you care about nothing else.”

Stewart hesitates before answering the question; it turns out it’s got complicated connotations for her. In the silence, Dern offers: “We don’t know each other, but my perception of you…the energy you put out is, This is who I am, and it’s a beautiful thing.” In response, Stewart says, “That’s really good to hear from you.” But she wants to clear something up: “I don’t like the idea of people thinking that I don’t give a fuck.” In fact, she gives a lot of fucks. “Nobody fucking understands or loves what they do more than me,” she says, “so it really kind of hurts. What I don’t give a fuck about is stuff that doesn’t matter. Don’t get it twisted, you know what I mean? Do not get that shit twisted.”

One other thing that Stewart does care about is the representation of same-sex relationships on screen. Her Certain Women character, Beth, unwittingly inspires an intense desire in one of her students, Jamie (newcomer Lily Gladstone, in a heart-crushing turn). “I think there [are] so many modern love stories that have not been told and I think it’s so exciting,” she says. “We are so standardized in terms of how we see people loving each other on screen…now we’re kind of acknowledging that we’re not all the same as everyone, that things are complicated and individual and unique and fluid.”

Recognizing the crucial importance of individuality is, ultimately, what drew both actresses to Certain Women, and to working with Reichardt, whom Dern calls “an incredible filmmaker.” “Often, actresses are asked to be emotional or harsh or sexualized,” says Dern, “or whatever this sort of idea of women is.” Our time is almost up, but Stewart is nodding along. “We’re asked to just be, and it’s rare that women get to do that.”

Yahoo! Style : In indie director Kelly Reichardt’s new movie “Certain Women,” Kristen Stewart and Laura Dern, along with Michelle Williams, make up a trio of intersecting women living in Montana facing quiet challenges in their professional and personal lives. Even though the characters don’t share screen time, Stewart and Dern have the chemistry of old friends. They opened up to Yahoo Style about women in Hollywood, Montana hipsters, and ghosts.

Yahoo Style: There is such a sense of place in the movie. What was Montana like?
Kristen Stewart: Oh man, I drove up from LA.
Laura Dern: Oh, you did?
KS: My character was spending so much time in a car and I just kind of wanted to do that. When it comes to physical beauty in the States, man, it might be the most impressed I’ve ever been.

What did you guys do when you weren’t filming?
Kristen Stewart: Oh man, I drove up from LA.
Laura Dern: Oh, you did?
KS: My character was spending so much time in a car and I just kind of wanted to do that. When it comes to physical beauty in the States, man, it might be the most impressed I’ve ever been.

Did you see a ghost?
LD: I didn’t, I just felt something freaky. And the whole crew, everybody was talking about it, the energy there. So I went to the front desk and I was like, “I’m kind of freaked out but I know it’s ridiculous, but people say this place is haunted.” And she was like, “Oh yeah, I see ghosts all the time.” This woman who is seemingly a traditionalist, not a woo-woo person.

What did these three separate stories have in common?
LD: One of the things that I think is so beautiful about Kelly’s work is that she’s interested in characters that have stripped away what the outside world is trying to project. So these are people who are choosing, not necessarily to be off the grid, but to kind of live a life within a system but not become the system. And very specifically these characters were dealing with the board of education, the world of law and trial lawyers, and, frankly, the dynamic in marriage. These three places where you’re having to negotiate with the men of the world.
KS: Look at you!
LD: I just figured it out, I cracked the code.
KS: There was one other one that was interesting too.
LD: Yeah! Go into that one.
KS: They all want something that they can’t have. They all sort of are up against immovable objects. There’s a quiet struggle. What I really love about it as well, like, she thinks that it’s worth looking at even though it’s not this grand, self-aggrandizing feat that these women have overcome.

Is that important for you, having strong female characters? Or do you get offered things where you’re like ‘oh god, not this again.’
KS: Yeah, there are bad parts for girls. I think I have a good agent, I don’t think he really sends me stuff that I would be like, “What the fuck are you doing? Why am I reading this?”

Do you look at the director first?
KS: I think it’s really important to give newcomers a shot. I need to meet someone. I have to see them; I have to know them. Because honestly, you might not like me. How could you possibly know if you want me to be in your movie if you’ve never met me before. I always find that really weird. Like straight offers to me are just really weird, without a meeting or a reading. I’m like, okay, cool, so what, I get your movie made? You don’t even know me.

What if he hates everything you do?
KS: Yeah, what if literally you just think I’m annoying? You’ve never met me!

That’s a lot of time to spend with someone that you think is secretly annoying. So you are both from LA.
LD: You’re from there too?
KS: Oh I’m from North Hollywood, babe.
LD: Where did you go to school?
KS: I ended up doing homeschool.

How was homeschooling?
KS: It was a trip. I really liked it because I got to sort of design my own curriculum. And all my friends were like reading stuff that was boring them to tears and I got to choose everything. Like, when I was a freshman I read On The Road. Where’d you go?
LD: Buckley. Which is shocking, because it’s so traditional and my parents were hippies. Which by the way, I’m grateful. Who knew I would end up doing sort of politically subversive movies and end up having to debate people on CNN.
KS: I worked with your dad.
LD: Oh, that’s right! He loved you.
KS: I loved him.

How old were you when you did The Fabulous Stains?
LD: 12. I started at 11, that was my first movie job!
KS: I love that movie.
LD: I left the seventh grade. I cut my hair off and spent four months with The Clash and the Sex Pistols. I had my 13th birthday, and when I came back, I was like, “I’ll never be able to relate to any of this again.” The reason I never became a drug user was that movie. When you think, like, how can I help my kid navigate all those questions, it’s like put them on a movie with the Sex Pistols. Not from what I witnessed, but because of them saying to me, “Don’t do this stuff.” I was like, “Okay!”
KS: You have to remind me to ask you about a story that one of your dear friends who I worked with and can’t remember who it is that I have to corroborate with you.
LD: I can’t wait!

What is it?
KS: Oh, I can’t tell you.[Laughs.]

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