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Kristen Stewart: I never really think my movies are going to do that well... it's always a surprise

In new horror film Underwater, mysterious creatures terrorise the crew of a subterranean research station. Here, lead star Kristen Stewart discusses the role and her reaction to recent project Charlie's Angels flopping at the box office with Georgia Humphreys

Deep trouble: Kristen Stewart in Underwater
Deep trouble: Kristen Stewart in Underwater

By Georgia Humphreys

Kristen Stewart felt "very claustrophobic" on the set for her latest film, which is unsurprising when you consider it's a horror movie called Underwater that follows a crew forced to evacuate their research station seven miles beneath the ocean's surface.

The 29-year-old plays Norah Price, a gifted engineer who, in the aftermath of a devastating earthquake, manages to save herself and stave off disaster.

Unable to send a distress call to anyone on land, which is 5,000 miles away, she and a few other survivors face a harrowing journey across the bottom of the sea to get help.

It also turns out that mysterious creatures exist alongside them in the murky depths.

"Staring into the utter unknown darkness, whether it's the idea of your life ending or the idea of looking into the ocean, it's just undeniably scary," says LA-born Stewart, who rose to fame as one of the main stars of The Twilight Saga, the series of vampire romance films based on the hugely successful books by Stephenie Meyer.

"That's the stuff of nightmares, being stuck in a place where you don't know what's coming at you. That's just kinda like being alive, you know?"

Underwater was filmed in 2017, with Stewart shaving her head for the role.

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"It was a nice excuse to do it," she says when asked what it was like to have such a dramatic hairstyle change.

"I don't know that I'd ever necessarily commit to shaving my head if it wasn't for a movie."

She notes that the character she plays is a person who is "stripped a little bare".

"I play someone who, in the beginning, is a little bit uncaring of herself," she says.

"She seems like somebody who is very spartan and who gets in and out of a suit six or seven times a day as a mechanical oil engineer."

The suits in question, designed for all of the stars playing crew members, weighed between 65lb and 100lb (29kg to 45kg) and were made to withstand being submerged in water and strung up from a ceiling.

Kristen Stewart
Kristen Stewart

Backpack-style supports were built into them to help the actors manage the load.

Shoulder pads, straps and harnesses were also used to distribute the weight more evenly.

Even so, Stewart admits that the process of filming the movie was at times "awful".

"(I felt) super-stifled. Quite often we were in water. When we weren't in water, we were trudging through sand, and walking in sand is just difficult to do - imagine that in a 100lb suit," she says.

"And then they (the director and the crew) are like 'Run, something's coming after you', and you're like, 'I can't run'. It was uncomfortable, for sure, but that was the goal."

The award-winning actress has had an interesting career. Since the enormously successful Twilight franchise - in which she played a teenager who falls in love with a vampire - ended in 2012, she has chosen more indie projects and has proven her credibility.

Deep trouble: Kristen Stewart in Underwater
Deep trouble: Kristen Stewart in Underwater

She appeared in Clouds of Sils Maria, by French director, screenwriter and critic Olivier Assayas, becoming the first American to win France's prestigious Caesar Award, the country's equivalent of an Oscar.

She worked with Assayas once again on the well-received supernatural psychological thriller Personal Shopper.

There was also the coming-of-age comedy-drama Adventureland, with Jesse Eisenberg, and the devastatingly sad Still Alice, in which she played the youngest daughter of a woman diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, portrayed by Julianne Moore.

At the end of last year, she made a return to mainstream cinema as Sabina Wilson in the Charlie's Angels reboot, which was written and directed by Elizabeth Banks.

Unfortunately, the film was a box office flop. Then there is the matter of the critics' reviews, which, it is fair to say, were mixed.

Asked if she will look at the commercial performance of Underwater differently after her experience with Charlie's Angels, the usually forthright Stewart hesitates, trying to find the right words.

"I am really proud of Charlie's Angels. I like the movie. I like watching it. I'm glad that it exists in the world," she says.

"I'm glad that not as many people saw a good movie versus a tonne of people seeing something that I thought was bad and wasn't worth it, so for that I genuinely am thankful.

"Also, I think it's a weird time to release movies about women right now.

"Not to get into it or whatever, but it's a tough thing to promote.

"And then, whether or not Underwater does well... I never really think my movies are going to do that well. It's always a surprise.

"The only thing I've ever done that was very successful was Twilight, and that was such a shock. I've always been in the realm of small indie movies.

"I think that when things are done with good intentions... there's a group of people - big or small - for every impulse, artistically.

"I hope Underwater does well. Genuinely, I am pretty proud of it. It's pretty good, it's scary and it's worth it.

"I don't know... I've seen a lot of worse movies do better."

Underwater is in cinemas now

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