Jules Stewart, mother of “The Twilight Saga” star Kristen Stewart, recently spoke with Phoenix Movie Examiner about her feature-length directorial debut “K-11.”
In “K-11,” which opens Friday, March 15 exclusively at Harkins Valley Art, Goran Visnjic plays a record producer who comes around after bringing on drink and drugs and finds himself in a section of the Los Angeles County Jail reserved for homosexuals, which is ruled by a transsexual named Mousey (Kate del Castillo).
Question: Tell me about the inception of this motion picture. Where did this idea come from?
Jules: I met a young man named Jared Kurt who knew about K-11. He came to me with the idea about writing a screenplay about it. Part of the allure was I didn't know anything about it. I didn't even know it existed. So after doing a little bit of research, I thought, “Sure, why not?” The goal was to write a screenplay and make a film that wasn't like any other film out there - something new, unique, different and original. That is quite a concept in Hollywood these days.
Q: That is too true. So what kind of research did you do in pre-production?
Jules: Well, we went to K-11. We got a tour. We met the people who run it. We learned what the rules were, what the schedule was and how it is laid out. Then we invented characters and put them in that situation.
Q: Speaking of inventing characters, you have quite a few fascinating ones in this film - none more so than Mousy. Tell me about her and the actress by which she is portrayed.
Jules: Kate del Castillo plays Mousy. She is a Mexican actress and I think that she is probably better known in the Hispanic community. She was referred to me by a friend of mine out of New York who does commercials. I was looking for a strong female character that could play a man turning into a woman so it was quite a unique request. But when I met Kate, I knew instantly that she was the girl.
Q: You are right. That is quite a unique request. What did you do as a director to help Kate and her co-stars get into character?
Jules: There are three girls in the film that play boys turning into girls. We asked these girls to step outside of their comfort zone and do something that they had never done before. In order to make them more comfortable doing that, you really want to supply them with whatever it takes. They actually wore prosthetics to help them to change their body language, the way they walked and the way they carried themselves. I think it was more of an internal thing but it seemed to work. In Kate’s case, it was mostly the makeup. She shaved her eyebrows and her whole face is completely made up and very mask-esque. I think that makes a big difference when you look in the mirror and do not see yourself anymore. You see the character.
Q: I understand that your daughter Kristen was originally attached to play one of those girls - Butterfly - before Portia Doubleday took on the role. Tell me about that.
Jules: She was working on “Twilight” when we were writing the script. I went up to be with her for a while and she read it and she really liked it. She sort of attached herself to play Butterfly and tried to attach her friend Nikki Reed to play Mousy. But, as an independent filmmaker, it is very difficult to get things financed. off the ground and actually into production. As time went on, her career skyrocketed and she had the opportunity to do “Snow White and the Huntsman” at the same time that we were going to make “K-11.” We just sort of decided that it would probably be better for her career to do “Snow White and the Huntsman.” That is when I found Portia, who I think is just an amazing young actress and really did a terrific job as that character.
Q: But Kristen does still have a part in the project, right?
Jules: She has what we call a micro-cameo, which is just a voice-over. She plays a secretary on the telephone. She actually did that for me as a favor because we were trying to find someone to do it and everyone seemed kind of funny in front of the microphone. You know, people get nervous. Finally, she said, “I'll do it.” And one take later it was finished.
Q: This is your feature-length directorial debut. Were you at all nervous about that?
Jules: To be honest with you, I was a little nervous. I had never thought that I would end up being a director. It is a huge responsibility and I never actually believed anyone would have that much faith in me. It is funny, though. You are put in a situation where you have no time to think about those kinds of things because you are faced with a schedule that you have to meet, actors that you have to deal with and characters that you have to develop. You are basically on a timeline so you just do what you have to do to get it done.
Q: So then would you say that you learned anything about yourself as a result of the experience?
Jules: I think you learn a lot about yourself when push comes to shove. Can you really do it? Can you deliver the goods? I was always afraid to talk in front of a lot of people. I was quite shy. I think that at some point you have to let all those things go because you have to do what is best for the film. And what is best for the film is to take charge and tell people what the story is and what they need to do and what their motivation is. You are basically driving the bus.