Clouds of Sils Maria’s director, Olivier Assayas talks about Kristen and her role in the movie during an interview with Le Mauvais Coton.
Q: When you have chosen Kristen Stewart, have you opted for the actress or the phenomenon she represented?
Olivier: Both! The specificity of this movie is that there’s a fictional dimension and a dimension completely documentary in the sense that we never forget that Juliette Binoche is Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart, Kristen Stewart and Chloë Grace Moretz, Chloë Grace Moretz. What we know about them resonates within the movie, it becomes an additional dimension. The reason I chose Kristen originally is not that one, it’s simply because she is the perfect incarnation of the character. But it’s true that I needed Juliette to be face to face with a character who is her equal, not someone who is in blissful awe in front of her but someone representing a strength, also threatening, for the actress Juliette Binoche. Kristen is a young girl who is at the peak of her fame, she is intimidating and she also has a kind of hardness, severity. It happens that I’ve crossed paths with her several several times because Charles Gillibert, the producer of the movie, had also produced On the Road by Walter Salles (2012) and that my previous movie, After May, was traveling doing festivals over the same period. What I saw of her showed that she had a singularity, a force, something very different from actresses I had known. There was something about her that cinema had not yet grasped… What is courageous, is her act of coming to do this movie, at this stage of her career, in the depths of Switzerland and no possibility of return to Hollywood on the weekends, amid a team from European cinema that works very differently from what she knew before. And I also think she had the modesty to go to Juliette Binoche by pure desire to learn, because she felt that it could open her new space…
Q: On the contrary, did Juliette Binoche know what Kristen Stewart represented?
Olivier: She knew pretty much. But she expected to be in front of her someone so talented and intense? I do not believe… The scenario gravitates around this troubled character of Kristen and I think that has stimulated Juliette.
Q: Precisely, because of the relationship between these two characters, we feel that the movie could have taken a lot of different directions. How did you work to maintain a linear and quite simple balance?
Olivier: Lets say that the nuances between the two women belong to a relationship built on the set. I actually wrote a stripped scenario. I like to leave some space to my actors. We haven’t exactly shot in chronological order, but still, we started with the train scene which helped to lay the characters, then we shot everything that did not take place in the mountains to finally finish in Sils Maria. Basically, to shoot without a break has made that the two actresses had become accustomed to each other, they were ready to embark on what was the main issue of the movie. Day after day, scene after scene, I could feel they took liberties, reinvented the scenes, twisted them in a way I had not necessarily anticipated. For example this moment where the two women talk about their meeting with Jo-Ann and laugh together at the hotel. This scene was not written as you saw it on the screen. It’s just what happens after the last fight. What happens at that point, is in a way already the separation. But the actresses have decided to make of this moment, the moment of complicity the most intimate of the movie, and that brings a strange density at the scene. I hesitated because I felt they wanted that and at the same time that they were afraid of losing track. This relationship has really been established during the filming. A fantasy was being set up between them and we had to use it. So I had to constantly adjusted the dialogue, or even left them to do it themselves.