STE­WART DIVES INTO GRIEF

27-YEAR OLD AC­TRESS DI­RECTS SHORT FILM ‘COME SWIM’

Lethbridge Herald - - FRONT PAGE - Jake Coyle

Kris­ten Ste­wart hopes to turn film, which de­buted at Cannes, into a fea­ture-length film

Kris­ten Ste­wart’s di­rect­ing am­bi­tions go all the way back to when she was an 11year-old per­form­ing in the 2002 David Fincher thriller “Panic Room.”

“I was work­ing with Jodie Fos­ter and I was like, ‘I’m go­ing to di­rect. I’m go­ing to be the youngest di­rec­tor that ex­ists,’” Ste­wart re­called in an in­ter­view. When she, years later, told Fos­ter she was fi­nally mak­ing some­thing, Ste­wart says, “She was like, ‘Dude, the first thing you’re go­ing to re­al­ize is that you have noth­ing to learn.”

It took longer than Ste­wart ex­pected, but she has now made a short film ti­tled “Come Swim.” Fol­low­ing premieres at the Sun­dance Film Fes­ti­val and the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val, “Come Swim” de­buted Fri­day on the women’s en­ter­tain­ment and life­styles web­site Re­fin­ery29.

The film an­nounces Ste­wart’s film­mak­ing am­bi­tions and opens a new chap­ter in the fast­mov­ing ca­reer of the 27-yearold ac­tress. Ste­wart is al­ready de­vel­op­ing sev­eral other projects, in­clud­ing a script she’s writ­ing that’s an adap­ta­tion of a mem­oir (Ste­wart de­clined to say whose). She’s tak­ing two months off act­ing to write it, and she also hopes to turn “Come Swim” into a fea­ture­length film.

“It’s my first step into some­thing I’ve wanted to for a re­ally long time,” said Ste­wart.

Ste­wart spoke in a pair of in­ter­views — one on a bal­cony in Cannes in May, the other by phone last week. As to the re­cent sex­ual ha­rass­ment scan­dals that have swamped Hol­ly­wood, Ste­wart pointed to her speech last month at Elle’s Women in Hol­ly­wood event, where she spoke about the less­no­ticed ha­rass­ment of be­lowthe-line crew mem­bers. Ste­wart de­clined to add to those comments but ac­knowl­edged the in­dus­try’s gen­der im­bal­ances be­hind the cam­era have been on her mind.

“I’m so for­tu­nate to be able to have made this movie be­cause it’s ob­vi­ously tougher for women to be heard,” said Ste­wart. “I’m ob­vi­ously deeply proud of any­one who’s able to ex­press them­selves freely and it’s awesome that we’re liv­ing in a time where they can.”

“Come Swim” isn’t your stan­dard ac­tor-made di­rec­to­rial de­but. It’s an 18-minute metaphor­i­cal ren­der­ing of a feel­ing, of the over­whelm­ing op­pres­sion of heart­break and grief. A man is sub­merged, lit­er­ally, by wa­ter ev­ery­where. Ste­wart de­scribes the film as about “ag­gran­dized pain” and says its im­agery has haunted her for four years.

“You don’t re­al­ize when you’re trudg­ing through that wa­ter, you feel so alone,” says Ste­wart. “We’ve all been there. But when you’re in it, you feel like you can’t par­tic­i­pate in life.”

In many ways, “Come Swim” re­flects some­thing es­sen­tial about Ste­wart: she is hy­per alert to her sur­round­ings and her emo­tions. It’s a qual­ity that has prob­a­bly helped make her, in the eyes of many, a per­former of twitchy, alive sen­si­tiv­ity.

“I am so sen­si­tive it drives me crazy,” says Ste­wart. “It’s funny (that) the first movie I wanted to make was ba­si­cally just a movie about some­body who is like, ‘You don’t get it! It’s hor­ri­ble!’”

Get­ting be­hind the cam­era was also a way for Ste­wart to be the kind of di­rec­tor she her­self ap­pre­ci­ates — one who favours dis­cov­ery over heav­ilyscripted con­trol.

“The worst is when di­rect­ing be­comes cor­rect­ing,” she says. “It’s like: ‘Do it all your­self then. Why are you even mak­ing movies?’ I don’t want pack­aged and de­liv­ered ideas.”

“Come Swim,” ab­stract and im­pres­sion­is­tic, is cer­tainly not that. For an ac­tress who re­mains a con­sid­er­able boxof­fice draw, her film is lit­tle con­cerned with match­ing au­di­ence ex­pec­ta­tions.

Right now, she’s try­ing to carve out more time for di­rect­ing — a chal­lenge for a per­former drawn to jump­ing from project to project. Mak­ing “Come Swim,” she says, is the most fun she’s had on a set.

“I was mak­ing movies be­fore I was watch­ing (a lot) of movies,” she says. “So I knew how sig­nif­i­cant it was to pro­tect some­thing pre­cious re­ally young. I saw peo­ple do­ing it and it seemed like this hon­our­bound com­mit­ment that ev­ery­one shared and there was one per­son spear­head­ing it. When a movie’s re­ally good, there’s a sin­gu­lar, very par­tic­u­lar per­spec­tive that ev­ery­one is ser­vic­ing, and I al­ways just wanted to hold that.”

Associated Press photo

Kris­ten Ste­wart at­tends the LA pre­miere of “Come Swim” at the Land­mark The­atre on in Los An­ge­les.

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