Originally released as an award-winning Japanese film (directed by Yoji Yamada) back in 1977, remake rights for The Yellow Handkerchief were obtained by Oscar-winning producer Arthur Cohn in 2003 and the new English-language version was produced in 2007 (across an amazing 43 locations!). A small cast featured more award-winners in William Hurt and Maria Bello, but also two hotly-tipped up and coming young actors in Eddie Redmayne and a pre-Bella Swan Kristen Stewart. The film was first shown and well-received at the 2008 Sundance Festival, but this most independent of productions is only now getting a limited national release in theaters (perhaps in part because of the success of some rather sparkly vampires)...
Buzzine's Izumi Hasegawa sat down with Kristen Stewart and give her the chance to look back a couple of years to one of her earlier roles, her scenes working with Oscar winner William Hurt, and the singiular disappointments of being underage and in New Orleans...
Izumi Hasegawa: What was it like to play this character when you hadn’t done too many major roles at the time you did this film?
Kristen Stewart: Anytime you have to play a person who is not yourself, you’re stepping out of a comfort zone, but that’s what we do. If the role is bigger, that’s just more to chew on, and that’s always good.
IH: Did you know this film was based on a Japanese film, and did you see that original film? Kaori Momoi was in the original film…
KS: I love her in the film too, and so much is actually not even in it, ’cause the whole riff back and forth between William [Hurt] and her was so funny to watch. I knew it was based on a Japanese original but didn’t watch it because apparently it was starkly different. It was just a different movie completely.
IH: Did you talk to Kaori Momoi about the film?
KS: We couldn’t have a very long conversation because there’s a language barrier. My impression on working with her is she’s an insanely really good actress. It’s fun to work with her. But, to be honest, we really didn’t talk about the movie.
IH: What was producer Arthur Cohn’s involvement with the film?
KS: He had such faith in the material. He has a very old-school sense of, “I’m the producer and I’m going to take care of everybody, and the most important thing here is the movie, the performances, and chocolate and watches.”
IH: Your character doesn’t have any luck with guys, from her father who leaves to the guy who dumps her at the beginning of the film. What was it about Gordy (Eddie Redmayne) that you think appealed to Martine?
KS: She probably wouldn’t have needed to be won over, had she just opened her eyes and not been so affected by the other guys who’d hurt her. She’s the type of girl who really wants to let herself hang out. Every time she does that or puts herself out there, she gets disappointed by people. The journey they take… a lot of revelatory things happen.
For me, what made Martine re-evaluate Gordy was how Brett (William Hurt) looked at him. And then there’s this thing that happens when we hit a deer and he had this really emotional reaction to the deer. He helps her out earlier as well. She’s dropping prejudices that she didn’t really know she had. She’s becoming more open to people. She’s very closed off in the beginning and realizes that she doesn’t actually want to be like that at all.
KS: He is absolutely the most attentive, hard-working actor I’ve ever worked with. I say that about actors I like to work with. I say, “Oh, they’re really hard-working, I really appreciate them,” about a lot of people, but you don’t know more than him about basically everything. Regarding the story, he just makes you work so much harder to understand things. I wouldn’t understand this movie as I do if it wasn’t for him. I would have a completely different impression, I’m sure.
IH: Were there any particular scenes in this that stood out for you?
KS: That scene where we first kiss was the scene. It was a really big deal, especially the way it was written. My character was so explosive and so sensitive. You would never expect so much from this tiny little thing. It was like, “What is wrong with you?” And her problems are so completely far away from anything Gordy could ever understand. You just have these two things. It’s like opposite sides of a magnet — just flip them over. I can’t even watch that scene.
That was what I was most intimidated by, technically speaking. She’s so explosive and emotional in that scene, and so raw in that moment, and you don’t know her yet very well. It was a very defining moment for her, and it’s like if you do that wrong and if it seems out of nowhere…if I seem like an explosive, weird, emotional girl for no reason, that’s what I nervous about.
The characters were drawn so wholly and completely that, if we didn’t play them that way, they wouldn’t have made sense. It would have been a bit of a random story because it’s so quaint. It’s not like all these plot events happen, so all these little character things are unspoken.
I was nervous about that, but the last scene of the movie was what I really put everything into because it was written differently as well. We were in a car far away; they went down further. You drove away and wanted to come back to see something. We got there and we didn’t have a whole lot of time to shoot. It was raining and they were like, “Okay, we have ten minutes to get this.” The way it was written, she was so emotional. Everything affects her. She has such thin skin and feels everything so much. That moment where everything comes to fruition needs to be effective.
IH: What was it like to shoot in so many different locations?
KS: We were everywhere, but it was cool because it’s a road-trip movie, so we felt like we were on that a little bit. The set just went around everywhere.
IH: Did you get to have any fun in New Orleans at all, or where you working too much?
KS: We shot in the summer, so I had just turned 17. I love New Orleans. I’ve worked there since, also underage. I’m still underage! New Orleans is such a going-out town, but just walking around is awesome. It’s an amazing place to be. I can go see music, but I have to stand outside the club and be like, “That’s really great”...
Samuel Goldwyn Films is releasing 'The Yellow Handkerchief' theatrically from February 26, 2010.