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Q&A: Kristen Stewart, Rose Glass and Katy O'Brian on their ‘fun, sweaty, violent’ film

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kristen Stewart knows that not everyone should make movies. She also knows that Rose Glass should.

The 34-year-old English director and screenwriter is one of those rare original storytellers with daring things to say and the vision to do them justice. In other words, definitely not “everybody.” Glass' first film “ Saint Maud,” was a chilling picture of faith and madness. Her second, “ Love Lies Bleeding ” (expanding in theaters this weekend) is also kind of about madness but of different sorts – that of love, of power and of strength (the literal kind).

“I wanted to make something kind of fun and sweaty and violent,” Glass said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Moviemaking may be a risk-averse business, but Glass and her collaborators are not. Set in the American West in the 1980s, Stewart plays Lou, an introverted gym manager and daughter of a local conman (Ed Harris) who gets swept up in the fever dream of new love with an aspiring bodybuilder, Jackie (Katy O’Brian), who's passing through town.

“I loved that it felt a bit like mythology, like a comic booky, throwback ’80s,” said Stewart. “I can’t finish any of these sentences but the movie is good.”

“(Rose) made this audacious and singular, unique experience personal for us and let us be our own individuals and just, like, traipse all over her thing,” Stewart added. “It’s so fun to work with people who are like cuckoo birds but also really concerted.”

Glass, Stewart and O’Brian spoke to The Associated Press in an expletive-filled and slightly R-rated conversation about the twist on the idea of “strong female characters,” their aversion to a certain overused shorthand and “Showgirls.”

Remarks have been edited for clarity and brevity.

AP: What were some of the things that really excited you about “Love Lies Bleeding”?

STEWART: I guess, like, in your dreams, you don’t always do the right thing. And in movies, somehow girls are kind of expected to make everyone feel really comfortable. I think that’s a very default setting for women in general. And in this case, it was like, yeah, but what if I’m (expletive) and my rage is boiling out and bubbling over? And it also really turns me on to share that with another person?

O’BRIAN: It wasn’t like just about resilience or just about one thing. There’s so much that you can read into it if you want to, which I think is cool. Or you can just watch it and have fun.

AP: Why do you think it’s subversive to make a movie about female power that’s also literally about bodybuilding?

GLASS: Maybe it’s just something you haven’t seen. I don’t know many films which have female bodybuilders in it.

STEWART: You said something recently about looking at a female body like that, like there’s something kind of punk about it. Because when you think of feminine qualities, unfortunately, we defer to like demure, or soft or elegant or sort of like something languid. And you’re like, well, she’s a woman, so she’s inherently feminine. That’s just not the shape that you’re used to. But it is definitely female strength.

I think also just playing with toys that we’re not usually allowed to play with in a petulant way. I’m like looking at Rose and going, “because you’re a brat and you’re (expletive) hilarious that’s why you wanted to do this.”

The idea of the strength, it must have come from annoying conversations that you were having in rooms with people who fund movies. And I could be wrong, but that’s my take.

GLASS: Like, “Oh do something with a strong female character"? I’ll make her really muscley.

AP: It sort of makes me think about women being described as “kick (expletive)” which always makes me wince.

STEWART: Like “bad (expletive).”

O’BRIAN: The words “bad (expletive)” together.

STEWART: We’ve had it a lot today. And I don’t mean to diminish anyone who used it, because it was really nice for them to say and it came with good intention. But it makes my toes curl so far into my body that I no longer have an (expletive). AP! Let’s go.

AP: We’ll put a demure “expletive” in there. Katy, how did Jackie come alive for you?

O’BRIAN: What really helped me was everything else around: The wardrobes and the hair and makeup. Then getting to see Jackie next to Lou and see Jackie in the gym. I was trying to tell the costumers, I was like well people wouldn’t really work out in this. And she’s like, “Katy, people also don’t grow to be 35 feet…We’re going for the magazine vibe, the sexy vibe.” And it’s 100% what Jackie needed. Even the workout equipment that you got from the '80s, it’s made for men because women didn’t work out (that way). They did aerobics, Jane Fonda. You had to adjust your own height to try to figure out how to get the right muscle because it’s bigger equipment.

AP: I read that Rose had the cast and crew watch Cronenberg’s “Crash” and “Paris, Texas” and “Showgirls.” Were any of those new to you, or did you find different dimensions as they related to this?

STEWART: I had never seen “Showgirls.” I watched it in the trailer halfway through the movie and came out and was like ok, I’m not big enough. I’m not thrusting hard enough.

GLASS: Not walking away dramatically enough.

STEWART: Like ohh that’s why you wanted me to go bigger.

O’BRIAN: I wasn’t able to find “Crash” in anything other than French, which I don’t speak.

GLASS: That’s crazy!

STEWART: It wasn’t on MUBI.

AP: This has played at Sundance and Berlin and is now rolling out wide in the US. Do you feel like people are getting it?

GLASS: It’s great to be there in the audience in particular hearing people make involuntary gasping noises and laughing in all places you hope they would…

So far it’s been very nice and positive and for people who don’t like it, I’m like “fair enough!” It’s not for everyone.

STEWART: There’s a line in Chronology (“Chronology of Water” which Stewart is adapting) where it’s like, “I started weeding out friends based on their reactions to ‘Empire of the Senseless.’ It was like, the women who were grossed out and walked out of the room, I stopped being friends with. And the women who smiled quietly to themselves and touched themselves were the friends that I kept.” This movie kind of does the same thing … not to be alienating and sort of us and them-y about it. But it is like, hey, ready? I’m going to sell the movie: Not for everyone. But that’s why it actually should be for everyone!