When we spoke last October during the New York Film Festival, Kristen Stewart had not yet become the first American female actor to ever win a Cesar — France’s equivalent of the Oscar — for Olivier Assayas’ “Clouds of Sils Maria.” But she was still ecstatic about it. In the film she plays Valentine, the harried but cucumber cool personal assistant of Maria Enders, a Juliette Binoche-like superstar played by Juliette Binoche. That allowed her to mock the film industry and the gossip machine from a safe remove. The two actresses paired together to talk about their rapport, and, in Binoche’s case, to whip out one hell of a laugh.
Juliette, your breakthrough, 1985’s “Rendez-vous,” was written by Assayas, and you reunited for his 2008 film “Summer Hours.” You instigated this project. What was your original concept?
Juliette Binoche: I wanted him to deal with the feminine. I didn’t know exactly what it would be, but I was imagining these characters exchanging roles. I talked about Bergman. I said, “C’mon, you love Bergman! You made a book of interviews [from 2008]!” And I was a little frustrated on “Summer Hours,” as an actress. I thought he was shy and hiding. I said, “I was missing you!”
Kristen Stewart: It’s like, “I want to know you!”
JB: “I want to know you,” yeah! And he said to me, “Give me two weeks and I’ll tell you whether I like it or not.” Then he called me and said, “I have the subject.” A year and a half later he gave me the script
It’s pretty honest about what goes on in the life of a middle-aged actress. What was your reaction to it?
JB: I was shocked! I didn’t expect it to be that way at all. I was provoking him [big, hearty laugh] and I got slapped back!
Kristen, you were supposed to be Jo-Ann, a younger actress ultimately played by Chloe Grace Moretz, but you insisted on taking Valentine instead. Why was that?
KS: That part is fantastic, but it’s just not for me. It was something I knew so well that it wasn’t interesting to me. I know Valentine so well, but I’ve never done it before. It’d be more interesting to say I gravitated towards the project because of the statements it made and the commentary that it is. But it was the emotional part that I really loved. And there’s more irony and more layers steeped in her dialogue if it’s coming out of my mouth. It’s just the way it is. I’ve been there, I’ve been smack-dab in the middle. To directly address the media and talk about what precarious bulls— it can be sometimes and how we starvingly consume people — that was fun. I had to erase the glee from my face while saying those lines. [Laughs] I had to try to not look so excited about it.