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INTERVIEW: KRISTEN STEWART and EDDIE REDMAYNE
on 'THE YELLOW HANDKERCHIEF'

Contributed by Michael J. Lee, Executive Editor for RadioFree.com
February 18, 2010

In the drama The Yellow Handkerchief, newly released ex-con Brett Hanson (William Hurt) hitches a ride with teen drifters Martine (Kristen Stewart) and Gordy (Eddie Redmayne) after a chance encounter. Despite being from two different generations, the three form a distinct bond, each of them emotionally damaged and running from something: Brett internally debates the merits of returning to the love he left behind (Maria Bello); Martine wants simply to hit the open road and escape her troubled family life; and Gordy hopes to conquer his social shortcomings and perhaps spark something with Martine in the process. As their impromptu roadtrip takes the trio through Louisiana, Martine and Gordy compel Brett to share his story, all the while learning about themselves as he uncovers the events that led to his incarceration.

Like The Cake Eaters, The Yellow Handkerchief is a movie that was made before Twilight, but was given theatrical distribution in the US only after Kristen was thrust into the center spotlight by the blockbuster vampire franchise. While that's a rather cynical commentary on the precarious fate of independent films, we're convinced Handkerchief is a solid example of why Kristen would have enjoyed a promising career even if she had never stepped into the shoes of Bella Swan. Also notable is Eddie Redmayne's contribution to the ensemble, which finds the eloquent British actor in his late 20s doing a complete transformation into a painfully awkward American teen. We're still somewhat uncharacteristically shocked that the person in this interview is the same performer we saw on the screen--but that's when these Q&As can be true eye-openers.

In this interview, Kristen Stewart and Eddie Redmayne talk about filming on location in post-Katrina New Orleans, from partaking of beignets and mules in the Big Easy to immersing themselves in the subtle drama of The Yellow Handkerchief's story. The two also briefly preview some upcoming projects--Eddie describes his Broadway play Red, and Kristen comments on The Runaways, K-11, and Breaking Dawn.




MEDIA: Have either of you experienced a roadtrip that's led to a profound self-discovery?

KRISTEN: [laughs] The only roadtrip that I've ever taken was back from Portland. When I was up there doing Twilight, I bought a little truck and drove home. It wasn't the most transformative experience, but it was fun. It gave me a sense of freedom. And [I was] going away from something that was a rather intense experience. [to Eddie] Have you ever had any roadtrip experience?

EDDIE: On this job, actually, prior to going down to start rehearsal, before we had met, I went and did a two week roadtrip from Northern Oklahoma down through into Louisiana and down into New Orleans, having started on a reservation--basically to get a sense of it, because quite rightly, the producers thought I should probably get some sense of the [country]. [laughs] And I went with a guy called Terence, and we had the most amazing time and met wonderful people. And we'd turn up at these motels, this massive guy and then this skinny English dude, with like a Crown Royal bag filled with money, which we would pay at these motels to spend the night. And they thought we were drug dealers, I think. So it was a great experience.

How long did you spend at the reservation, and what did you come across there?

EDDIE: I was there for about four days, and I went to the museums there. I spoke to this old man who was trying to keep together the idea of the indigenous language. Because it's a dying language, really, and the only way they can keep it alive is by persuading young kids to do it as an extracurricular thing. And it was sad, actually, in some ways, to see that it was a dying part of their culture. But geographically, it was a beautiful, beautiful part of the world, and I had an amazing time.

When you spend an extended period of time shooting on location, do you try to recreate your home, or do you prefer to immerse yourself in the local culture and lifestyle?

KRISTEN: I try to do that. I know actors who go on location and make their trailers like their homes--like they literally put pictures up and stuff. I don't do that. I really like being where I am.

EDDIE: One of our great benefits and bonuses of being on actor, particularly on Yellow Handkerchief--I found it more so than any other job I've done--is that...You know when you go and visit a town or a city, you're staying in a hotel, you're there for a couple of weeks or whatever? You get to scratch the surface of the city. [But] as an actor going to work in Louisiana, the entire crew were from New Orleans, so you have a whole group of people who you're introduced to and meet, and become your friends, who instantly give you access to the soul [of] a city they've grown up and lived in.

KRISTEN: Totally.

EDDIE: So rather than just turning up and getting the tourist opinion on it, you actually get this amazing access...It's one of the great upsides of our job.

KRISTEN: And you're like made to pretend that you actually live there. So it's like, "Yeah, this is where I live now!"

What were some distinctly local things you enjoyed in New Orleans?

EDDIE: Beignets! Oh, God! I remember the first time I went to Cafe Du Monde. Someone had been talking about beignets. They showed me this thing, and it was like deep fried, and they'd pour more icing sugar on it than I had ever...

KRISTEN: "Powdered sugar." [laughs]

EDDIE: "Powdered sugar." [to Kristen] Thanks, translator! [laughs] But I sat there going, "It's impossible to eat that much sugar, are you insane?" And afterwards, I had one, and I remember going back the next day and saying, "Powder more! Powder more! Give me more!" That was my favorite memory. [laughs]

And Kristen?

KRISTEN: I liked petting the mules that walked around Jackson Street. [laughs] And they were like, "Come on, take a ride!" I was like, "No way! I just want to go pet them. I'm not going to be dragged around by this thing." [laughs]

You shot The Yellow Handkerchief before the whole Twilight franchise really took off. In retrospect, do you think you would have done this movie if it had come to you post-Twilight?

KRISTEN: I really follow--to put it absolutely lamely--"my heart." I don't think I would have made a different [decision]. I mean, it would be a shame if just one movie--and I know it's four or five or whatever, but it is one story, it's one project for me, it's like the same character, it's not like that changes--would then affect choices [going forward]. I don't have this scheme of how people are going to receive my movies in the order that I do them, and why I do scary movies, and why I do movies about "disaffected teens," which I get all the time. They're just people that I really wanted to play. [jokes] I don't know what the hell I'm doing. I'm just playing parts that speak to me.

So what was it about Martine that spoke to you?

KRISTEN: I could relate to her in that she's so sort of the typical girl that really wants to be "out there" and smiling and like totally in the middle of whatever's going on, but has been sort of embarrassed one too many times and has just gone, "I can't do that anymore." And I feel like she's also isolated herself in terms of, like, she's put herself above everyone else. It's like she can't talk to people because they've let her down too many times, and so she's suddenly, in reacting to that, [made herself like she's] better than them. And she realizes through this journey...I mean, it's a cool thing to see such a young person go through, to sort of go like, "Oh God, I never looked at you, and now I'm opening my eyes and I can see you, and I was wrong." So I liked that.



You both had to tackle unfamiliar accents for your roles. Did that require a lot of studying of the local dialect and its sounds?

EDDIE: For sure. I think some people you meet are those guys who can tell anecdotes and suddenly burst into a broad Scottish accent. And I wish I had been born with that gene, but I don't have it. And in fact, when I got this job, I said to Arthur Cohn, the producer, "We will need a dialect coach." And he was like, "Why would you need one of those?" I'm like, "Have you seen the part I'm playing?!" Because you can generalize anything, you know? You can try and give something that will sell as being of an area, but it's important that when you're playing someone that you respect the characters you're playing and you try and play them as truthfully as you can. So we had a guy called Michael Buster, who literally records voices--they go around the country and the area recording voices and work with you specifically on those vowel sounds.

KRISTEN: I think they go to school for it, too. I mean, I sound like I know nothing about this, obviously. But they break it down. There's like fifteen accents just within Louisiana, or something like that.

EDDIE: And the technical thing is a cool thing to start with, actually.

KRISTEN: Yeah, and then you can fall back on it and be like, "No, really, I have my accent!" [laughs] [Otherwise] it would be like me doing an English accent and just watching Mary Poppins and going like, "Okay!"

What did you learn about acting by working with William Hurt?

KRISTEN: We were talking about it all day, because we've been talking about William all day...You know, I had had roles in movies before that I took really seriously that I really liked, and I guess I learned that I was a fairly impulsive actor that... [laughs, pauses] Sorry. I wasn't aware of the fact that if I felt something, I didn't need to sit down and go, "Okay, this is why, this is why, this is why..." And it helps so much. Like I understand the story so much more because of William. And the thing is, like the whole rehearsal process...It's not like we stood up and did the scenes and tried to get them right. It was just about understanding.

EDDIE: And also, what moved us both when we read it [was that] there's so much space in it that it's about the actors fleshing out to make them real. Now, in a story like that, you can't just fly by the seat of your pants. You have to work out a grade at what stage what intimacies are going to grow. And so that was why this film, maybe more so than other films, really needed that time of us being with each other.

KRISTEN: Because so much is not said. I mean, it's not like there's a whole lot of events happening within the plot. The really dynamic changes in the story happen [subtly]. And a lot of people might not be into that type of movie, but this is just that movie. It is very much within the glances.

Eddie, you've had numerous roles in period pieces. Was there a certain comfort in getting to play a contemporary character?

EDDIE: Absolutely there is. And it's a bit like what Kristen was saying about playing disaffected teenagers--for some reason, the way you look, the way you speak, something about your personality, pulls you to doing [certain types]. And I have a sort of bipolar career of either playing incestuous Americans with parental issues or British period dramas. [laughs] And it was wonderful for me. One of the greatest things about this script was that when I read it, I thought they were insane to even ask me to audition for it. And that stayed the whole way through--I thought, "I'm so far from this character, let's have some fun with it and see what happens." And it was a joy. An absolute joy. And the contemporary side if it was also wonderful.

What is your upcoming Broadway production about, and what are your thoughts on bringing your stage performance stateside?

EDDIE: Well certainly, it's a dream. It's a play about [New York artist Mark] Rothko, it's called Red, and it's with Alfred Molina, who's an actor I absolutely admire. It's just the two of us in the play. And we've had a great run in London. It's gone fantastically well. So it's nice to know that you're going with something that people appreciate. How do I control my excitement? Kristen's already had to spend all morning dealing with my excitement. [laughs] But no, it's great. She came to London recently and I forced her to see it.

KRISTEN: The show is amazing. I've seen it. He's incredible in it.

EDDIE: She has to say that. [laughs]

KRISTEN: He's going to Broadway! I mean, that never happens. They would [usually] just recast, you know what I mean?

EDDIE: It's exciting. Although that being said, this is playing Rothko, who is a New Yorker, and the character I play, the assistant, is a New Yorker. And you sit there going, "Is there something a bit cocky about two British actors bringing an American play by an American playwright to New York, where it's set?" And the answer is yes. Will I be working with Michael Buster, our dialect coach? You're sure as hell I will! [laughs]

Kristen, did you enjoy taking your movie The Runaways to the festival circuit via Sundance?

KRISTEN: We all knew if it did well that it would be like a Sundance movie. But now it's being released, and it became a bigger deal than we thought, which is always just very exciting...Sundance was awesome. I love Sundance. It's one of the only places that you can go and show your movie, and then talk to 300 people who just saw it. It's just a different experience.

EDDIE: There's an immediacy.

KRISTEN: Yeah, exactly.

Are you still collaborating on K-11 with your mom? Is it a simple matter of her just saying to you, "I'm going to direct a film and I'd like you to be in it"?

KRISTEN: I wish it was like that. We're trying to get it off the ground. I mean, if she called me right now and said we're making the movie, I would be really excited...I mean, we're really close, and then at the same time, we're creatively very, very different. And so I feel like it would be cool. I think that we could actually leave the family thing at the [door]. I feel like we both like what we do so much that we could actually work on something and do something pretty cool.

EDDIE: And you respect each other...

KRISTEN: Yeah, that too!

Now that you presumably have a lot of job offers in the wake of Twilight's success, what do you currently look for in a role?

KRISTEN: Ummm...As much as you can say, "Well, I'd like to do this because it's different from what I've done before," I can't really plan things out like that. Because despite whether or not a character fits my description and the script is good, what actually drives me to do something--which is a really bizarre thing if you think about it, to play a part in a film for more reason than just to be in a movie, [to] want to live out [a character's] life...It has to speak to me in some way, and that's always hard to describe. So I don't know what I want to do. And this is the first time I haven't had one of my next jobs lined up. So I have a totally clean horizon, and that's actually pretty exciting.

Are there types of projects you, perhaps, look to avoid?

KRISTEN: It's such a weird thing to talk about in this capacity. You know, you sort of don't look at scripts that are very clearly just framework, and they just want to put a dollar sign in the picture frame. I only want to do work that I find to be moving, and that's something that I can't be specific about. So I'm totally lucky. And I'm not saying that I can do anything, but I definitely have more opportunity than I've ever had. So you know...It's awesome.

Do you know when you might be starting on Breaking Dawn?

KRISTEN: Probably in November, but I don't know if it's going to be one or two [films].

It seems like a no-brainer for the studio to split the story into two movies. Are they contractually restricted from doing that?

KRISTEN: I don't know, actually. [laughs] I can't imagine that they wouldn't want [to]. I mean, the story so completely warrants two films, and it would be really disappointing to have to just go, "Okay, we have to lose this sequence, and this scene, and this sequence, and this scene..." So I would like to do two movies. But I really--to be perfectly honest--don't know what they're going to do.


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