Actress Kristen Stewart at the gala premiere for "On the Road"… (Marion Curtis / Starpix…)
When Kristen Stewart emerged from a large black car Thursday night in front of Toronto's Ryerson Theatre for the North American premiere of her new movie, "On the Road," the big-screen adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s classic Beat generation novel, flashbulbs popped, cellphones were raised, and then, in a moment of silence, one sound landed with a crashing thud.
A single boo.
It was an instant -- yet the seemingly only-- acknowledgment of the actress' recent role in the tabloids, where she's been a near constant fixture since news broke of a late-summer cheating scandal involving Stewart and filmmaker Rupert Sanders. The "On the Road" premiere was billed as her first public appearance since reports of her affair with the director of her film "Snow White and the Huntsman" emerged in July, sullying her relationship with her "Twilight" saga costar Robert Pattinson.
PHOTOS: Toronto Film Fest premieres
Stewart and her "On the Road" costars Garrett Hedlund and Kirsten Dunst stayed on the festival's red carpet for what seemed an eternity, moving back and forth between professional photographers on one side and fans on the other. Stewart, in a slinky sequined sheath, eventually kicked off her high heels and signed autographs in her bare feet.
When the program finally got started a full hour behind schedule, the festival's director and chief executive, Piers Handling, spoke of the novel “On the Road,” saying “poetry, sex and drugs was its currency.” He introduced director Walter Salles by noting that having previously made “The Motorcycle Diaries,” “he has the road in his blood.”
"On the Road" had received mixed reviews following its unveiling earlier this year at the Cannes Film Festival and has since been trimmed by some 15-20 minutes.
Stewart is first seen in the film lying topless on a dingy mattress, and throughout she displays, by turns, raw sexuality and more troubled reserve. The strength of her performance as Marylou -- and equally strong turns from Dunst, Amy Adams and Elisabeth Moss in small roles supporting Hedlund's Dean Moriarty and Sam Riley's Sal Paradise -- gives Salles' "On the Road" an oddly feminist bent.
After the screening, Salles recalled reading the book as a youth in Brazil -- it “embodied for me the possibility to invent a new future where all freedom was possible,” he said.
Stewart, who donned a pair of leather high-top basketball sneakers for the Q&A session, briefly noted the nudity required for the role, but quickly pivoted to speaking about her research into the real-life counterpart for her character, LuAnne Henderson. The first wife of Neal Cassady (Kerouac's inspiration for Dean Moriarty), Henderson, Stewart said, “even now she’d be this really incredible person.”
Perhaps tellingly, Stewart added that Henderson's relationship with Cassady was “not something she ever sold, not something she ever capitalized on. It was her first love.”
She praised Salles and Hedlund for always being there for her during filming, but she said all she really ever needed to do was think of Henderson and “look up. She was so … there for me.”