Forget all those questions about who is the fairest of them all. Dressed in armour on the Pinewood set of Snow White and the Huntsman, Kristen Stewart looks more ready to do battle than preen in the mirror. Playing a warrior version of the classic fairy-tale heroine, it's a far cry from Twilight's Bella Swan, the character that propelled her to mega-stardom four years ago. Sword in hand, the 22-year-old has finally come of age.
Is it true that you initially didn't want to play Snow White?
No, not at all. I think that was perpetuated by the idea that I didn't see myself playing Disney's Snow White, from the cartoon. But we have stayed so true to who she is, classically, if you read the fairy tale. We're doing a really true rendition of who she is. So we're not taking the story and turning it on its head. We're not shying away from the parts that are gruesome because it makes the parts that are beautiful that much more beautiful.
What attracted you to her as a character?
It's cool to play a character that is able to step outside of herself and consider others in an almost supernatural way, but at the same time know that she's human and has those struggles and still fights for herself. She is just the essential leader. So many of our heroes find pleasure in hurting people. She doesn't. Yet she can seriously take care of business.
Did you dress up as Snow White as a child?
No, I honestly was a vampire. That sounds so stupid! But I was Dracula for six years.
Is this the most action you've had to do?
It is definitely the most action I've ever had to do. I really enjoy it and I love throwing myself into it. It's just frustrating when you can't actually take a hit or actually hit someone. Everything else in acting, you get to fully pretend that you're actually doing it. Sometimes there are very few things that make you aware you are on a set. But in that case, when you can't actually make contact, it's frustrating. But I've hurt myself so much, so it's probably good that that's the case.
How have you found the scenes battling the Evil Queen?
Getting the crap kicked out of me by Charlize [Theron, who plays the Evil Queen]? It's been good. She is not afraid to take a hit. She keeps telling me to hit her harder. It's been fun. We're fairly similar in that we do shut off when the cameras start rolling. Not to totally blow her cover, but we both go into a zone and it gets fairly dangerous.
It's quite rare to have a huge Hollywood blockbuster with two female protagonists.
I don't know why it's this way, but it is fairly common to have your story as a woman, even if you're the protagonist, facilitated by all of the male characters. It's so rare to have a lead character to be proactive, to push her own story forward, rather than be affected by all of the outside elements. Hopefully, we do that. I'm really proud to be a part of something like that. I think it's always good for women to feel empowered.
You're coming to the end of the Twilight franchise soon. How taken aback were you by its success?
Very. At first, we were aware of the cultish nature of the fans, but we thought that they were pretty exclusive. We thought it was a rather small, devoted fan base and it would be a cult movie! The first film, it was a quaint little movie. All of the effects stuff, it didn't seem like that would be a big deal. We did one day of green screen.
Your mother was a script supervisor. So were you always on set as a kid?
I grew up on a movie set. I was an extra in movies all the time. I did a little part in Flintstones II: Viva Rock Vegas. I'm at a fair and I'm totally Flintstoned out! It's quite funny. That was my first acting experience.
Did your parents try to convince you not to become an actor?
Absolutely. They didn't really understand why. And I didn't either. It was an arbitrary decision. It was just like: 'Yeah, I can do this. I can go on auditions.' And they were like: 'Do you realise what you're getting into?' My mum was like: 'I'm not going to be a stage mum!' And unfortunately, she was.
Your first big role was in Panic Room. Were you aware of who you were working with?
I was very aware of Jodie [Foster]. I didn't know who David Fincher was at the time. I wasn't a sheltered child. I think I'd already seen Taxi Driver and Silence of the Lambs. People always told me that I looked like her, too.
Snow White and the Huntsman opens today in the UAE.