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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?
KS: I kind of sat in my cabin, on this massive bit of property in the middle of nowhere, around the fire.
LD: It was winter into spring. I’ve never been that cold. The town, Livingston, where we were, is incredible.
KS: Kind of Hipsterville in the middle of Montana. You go into the grocery store and you see guys in beards and boots buying almond milk.
LD: I stayed at the Murray Hotel, which was a major experience. It’s haunted.
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.]