Kristen Stewart has been busy publicising her new movie J.T. LeRoy and opening up about the "huge responsibility" she felt to define her sexuality after finding fame in the Twilight movie franchise.
In an interview with the Associated Press on Tuesday April 30, Stewart expressed relief that young stars are no longer pressured to define their sexuality in the same way.
“It makes me so happy because being somebody who had been asked that question just over and over and over and over I felt this huge responsibility, like one that I was really genuinely worried about. If I wasn’t able to say one way or the other, then was I sort of like forsaking a side? Are people going to look at me and say ‘you’re not setting an example?'"
“The fact that you don’t have to now is like so much more truthful.”
“Now, if you were to have this conversation with someone like in high school, they’d probably like roll their eyes and go, ‘Why are you complicating everything so much?’… Just sort of do what you want to do.’”
“Whether or not you like girls or boys doesn’t even begin to describe who you are on the inside and for that vocabulary to be the only way that we can describe…I feel like we don’t even have the words to describe the complexities of identity right now," she added.
J.T. LeRoy, is based on the true story of a massive literary hoax in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Stewart plays Savannah Knoop, whose sister-in-law, author Laura Albert, (played by Laura Dern) chose her to play Albert’s literary alias Jeremiah ‘Terminator’ LeRoy in public.
From 2001, Knoop dressed in costume for appearances and photoshoots where she portrayed LeRoy, the supposedly reclusive author who was the teenage son of a truck stop prostitute and a drug addicted, transgender, HIV-positive prostitute himself.
As LeRoy, Knoop became a literary it-boy, mixing with stars like Winona Ryder, Courtney Love, Madonna and Bono and having an affair with Asia Argento. In 2005 doubts were raised about the authenticity of LeRoy and in 2006 Knoop was outed as an actor.
The movie is based on Knoop's 2008 book Girl Boy Girl: How I Became JT LeRoy, about the six years spent as an impersonator.
According to the Guardian, Knoop now identifies as gender-neutral, uses they/them pronouns and considers their time playing JT as pivotal to helping them “articulate” their gender neutrality.
Continuing to source diverse material that she connects with, Stewart is about to make her directorial debut with the movie adaptation of Lidia Yuknavitch’s 2011 memoir The Chronology of Water, for which Stewart also wrote the screenplay.
Yuknavitch’s book details her abusive home life, escape to a swimming scholarship at university and the self-destruction and addiction that derailed her promising swimming career.
Yuknavitch’s story also “traces the effect of extreme grief on a young woman's developing sexuality that some define as untraditional because of her attraction to both men and women.”
“She’s in my blood and I knew that before I met her,” Stewart said of Yuknavitch in an interview with womenandhollywood.com last year.
“As soon as I met her it was like we started this race without any sense of competition... my only goal is just to finish the screenplay and hire a really spectacular actor: I’m going to write the best fucking female role.”
“I’m going to write a role that I want so badly but that I’m not going to play.”
J.T. Leroy is in US cinemas now and will be released in the UK on August 12. It screened in Australia at the Melbourne Queer Film Festival (MQFF) in March. Further Australian screening dates have not yet been released.