Kristen Stewart portrays fellow actress Jean Seberg in a new political thriller depicting how the FBI targeted the French New Wave star in the late 1960s because of her romantic and political links to an African American civil rights activist.
“Seberg” follows FBI agents as they tap the actress’ home to expose her affair with Hakim Jamal, played by Anthony Mackie, and try to discredit her.
Reuters spoke to Stewart, Mackie and director Benedict Andrews about the film and its relevance today.
Below are excerpts edited for length and clarity.
Q: Why do you think the film, set in the 1960s, is relevant now?
Stewart: “There is a real (basic) humanitarianism that is being denied that is just asinine, and it doesn’t feel like a political conversation, it feels like the most obvious answers that we should all be treated equally … I grew up thinking that was the case, that it was like ‘yeah of course, it’s like, racism is over, right?’ And, it’s just a ridiculous notion and it’s very clearly present and really prevalent and awful.”
Andrews: “It’s kind of uncanny how a story from 1969 speaks to us exactly 50 years later and I feel that in her story and in what happened to her, we are seeing a kind of embryonic form, the culture of surveillance that we now live in. We also see the culture of fake news; her life is destroyed by a lie. We watch the manufacture of that lie.”
Q: Do you think we will see more actors involved in politics?
Mackie: “Politics isn’t our job, politics is our individual preference … The problem is now there is too much celebrity in politics – our politicians are celebrities … Politicians and politics are supposed to be taking care of the people, and now, it’s about seeing if POTUS (President Of The United States) can get five million followers on Twitter … It should be two completely separate worlds, politics and entertainment.”
Q: What was it like working with Kristen Stewart?
Andrews: “She really identified with Jean and really understood her … The movie was not interested in just having the haircut right and the look right – she has that, that’s beyond good already. But it had to be someone who would be prepared to reveal the complexity of the character and share the same raw intensity that Jean had, and she was astonishing.”
Q: Do you think Hollywood is changing for women?
Stewart: “There are so many untapped resources and ways in which we can inhabit our own stories and repossess our narrative and it’s like fully doable right now, and, for the first time, like ever.”