Sundance Reactions to Kristen Stewart's Lesbian Pic Love Lies Bleeding – The Hollywood Reporter

The official description for Rose Glass's Love lies bleeding on the Sundance Film Festival website describes the A24 film as “an unusual, wild lesbian love story” that “culminates in a family drama of the darkest kind in this powerful thriller.” It is also cited for “violence, graphic sexual content and other adult content.”

That's a pretty apt description — plus a few surprise scenes best saved for the film's March 8 release — and the sold-out audience at Park City's Eccles Theater greeted the world premiere Saturday night with an enthusiastic response and, in some cases, a standing ovation. A man sits next to it The Hollywood Reporter passed on a single adjective to a friend after the credits rolled: “Crazy.” At other times as the action unfolded, there were cheers, wows, fidgets as a character's face was destroyed by an act of violence, and maybe a few laughs in unintended moments.

Written by Glass with Weronika Tofilska, the film follows reclusive gym manager Lou, played by Kristen Stewart, who falls in love with Jackie, an ambitious bodybuilder played by Katy O'Brian, who hopes to make it to Las Vegas for a competition to accomplish . After domestic violence erupts between Lou's sister, played by Jena Malone, and her husband, villain Dave Franco, the plot kicks into high gear as Jackie's violent tendencies bring out the worst in her.

The cast also includes Ed Harris as Lou's father and Anna Baryshnikov as a local woman obsessed with Lou. The A24 and Film 4 picture was produced by Andrea Cornwell and Oliver Kassman. Glass previously aligned Saint Maudwhich premiered in the “Midnight Madness” section of the Toronto International Film Festival.

The Sundance world premiere was also the first performance for the actors, and festival veteran Malone took a moment to offer her opinion during the question-and-answer session. “It's hard for me to just act normal. “I’m just still so incredibly touched by the film,” the actress said. “I think it’s crazy [me] away. It's so beautiful and powerful. It was the best script I've ever read – it really was. I mean, hands down. I know things change, but it's such a beautiful film. You will really feel it and it will take a while [because] I am overwhelmed. I’m in awe.”

Harris used the same word as Malone to describe his reaction, even going so far as to single out Stewart and O'Brian. “I'm just in awe of you two and what you've accomplished,” Harris said of the two twisted lovebirds. “Damn beautiful. I'm just very proud to be a part of the film.” He also worked on lengthening the film so that it reached halfway down his spine, a decision Glass approved of. “I had these extensions put in and thought I'd just show up on set and she'd tell me how long it should be. And she said, 'That's fine.'”

Glass praised her actors for taking risks while working on the film. “I’m glad you enjoyed it,” she said to the audience before turning her attention back to the talent. “In order to do some ridiculous things, I knew they had to be based on performances that just felt very real and lived to balance out the insanity. Everyone just went along with it and never looked at me and said 'Really?', which is a nice feeling.”

That's certainly true for Stewart, as the role offers something audiences have never seen from the 33-year-old star. Not only does her character Lou fall head over heels for a bodybuilder, but the two also have some passionate and intimate lesbian sex scenes, including oral sex, brief toe sucking, and an encounter in which Lou instructs Jackie to masturbate while she watches just inches away. She is also seen cleaning a toilet with her bare hands for the first time in the film, and she ends up covered in blood more than once. Needless to say, this isn't Hulu's Happiest seasonthe last time the openly gay actress played a queer role on screen in a Christmas dramedy of sorts.

“The script is completely different,” Stewart said, describing Glass as a sculptor. “I definitely trusted her when she said, 'Go in, get crazy,' or like, 'Be authentic in that moment.' I think it all comes from a place of discovery and love and telling yourself whatever story you want to justify loving something. We all have these horrible little monsters here.”

Glass said she originally wanted to set the film in Scotland, but when the setting changed to the United States, she had Stewart in mind early on. “I was really hoping she would say yes, and thank God she did.”

The final question of the Q&A session was directed at O'Brian, who made her acting debut in the film and came to the role after competing as a professional bodybuilder. She was asked about her training program. As a participant, she said, “It wasn't that hard.” If anything, she explained, it was easier than doing it on her own thanks to the production's hired help.

She had a nutritionist and a trainer and even the support of one of the producers to ring the bells with her. “What was really cool is that [Oliver Kassman] sometimes came and trained with me and my buddy George. I also had support from the set because they wanted to come and train with me. One of our prop guys was kind of a crazy powerlifter,” she explained. “It was really cool to have people who [were] I work just as hard as I do, if not harder, on set, come and train too. It was a really cool, supportive environment. I didn’t do it alone.”

It's been a big Sundance for Stewart so far. The festival veteran has already premiered and promoted her work alongside Steven Yeun Love me for husband and wife team Sam and Andy Zuchero, and she was honored during the opening gala with a Visionary Award for bringing ten previous films to Park City. At this event she told THR about why she was so absent from Sundance.

“My biggest advantage is that I am overjoyed when I hear that one of the films I have appeared in is accepted here,” she said. “There are so many ways to reach an audience. There are so many ways to get to other people. Reaching out to people here is really tangible and tangible, real and personal. The first time I came here I was about 14, and I’ve been here a few times and it’s never been like this.”

She continued: “Sundance is just cool. I wish I had a better word for it, but I always wanted to be in the country [Evan Rachel Wood], Jena Malone and Natalie Portman. I always thought if I could hang out there I would be so happy. And I've been able to do it so many times. I fucking love this place.”

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