Iconic: Queer Icon Kristen Stewart Playing Queer Icon Susan Sontag in Upcoming Biopic

After two successful forays into playing legendary women with two-syllable last names that start with “S,” Spencer and Seberg, Kristen Stewart — also a legendary woman with a two syllable last-name that starts with “S” — will be playing Susan Sontag in an upcoming biopic based on the biography “Sontag: Her Life” by Ben Moser. Director Kristen Johnson will be co-writing the script with legendary lesbian playwright Lisa Kron (2.5 Minute Ride, Well, Fun Home).

According to Variety, filming will begin this very month in the Berlin Film Festival, for which Kristen Stewart is serving as jury president. Kirsten Johnson, best-known for her critically acclaimed documentaries “Cameraperson” and “Dick Johnson is Dead,” said of the intent to begin in Berlin:

“We’re using Berlin as a moment to kick off the project and do documentary footage of Kristen as the head of the jury and talking to her about how she’s going to become Sontag. It will be a drama, but with a documentary aspect to it. Kirsten has a wonderful approach to storytelling, and this is reflective of that, so she will use documentary in it.”

To be honest I have no idea what that means, but despite the fact that Stewart is not Jewish and also does not remotely resemble Susan Sontag, I am absolutely thrilled by this casting choice!

Susan Sontag is a writer, philosopher and activist best known for her essays, including many that I am almost but not quite smart enough to fully understand. Sontag’s work is foundational to theory across multiple disciplines, such as her 1964 essay “Notes on ‘Camp” and her 1977 book On Photography. Sontag also published plays and fiction and is well-known for her political activism beginning with her opposition to the Vietnam War in the 1960s.

“Notes On Camp” was later used as a theme for the 2019 Met Gala, which Kristen Stewart attended:

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 06: Kristen Stewart attends The 2019 Met Gala Celebrating Camp: Notes on Fashion at Metropolitan Museum of Art on May 06, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – MAY 06: US actress Kristen Stewart arrives for the 2019 Met Gala. The Gala’s 2019 theme is Camp: Notes on Fashion” inspired by Susan Sontag’s 1964 essay “Notes on Camp.” (Photo by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images)

An accomplished bisexual, Sontag was married to writer Phillip Rieff for eight years (they married when she was 17, they had a son) before dating the legendary avant-garde playwright/director María Irene Fornés and then Italian aristocrat Carlotta Del Pezzo and then German academic Eva Kollisch.

Sontag’s romantic relationship with photographer Annie Leibowitz — which began in the late 80s and continued Sontag’s death in 2004 — aspirationally involved the two women living in separate residences in the same Manhattan apartment building. In 2000, Sontag told The Guardian that over the entire span of her life she had been in love with five (5) women and four (4) men.

Susan Sontag (1933-2004), American writer, France, on November 3, 1972. (Photo by Jean-Regis Rouston/Roger Viollet via Getty Images)

Susan Sontag (1933-2004), American writer, France, on November 3, 1972. (Photo by Jean-Regis Rouston/Roger Viollet via Getty Images)

Kristen Stewart has played queer parts before: in The Runaways (in which she starred as Joan Jett), Lizzie, J.T. Leroy and Happiest Season. Also in my opinion, she played queer roles in Charlie’s Angels, The Clouds of Sils Maria and Certain Women.

Many questions remain as this project begins its journey into the world, mostly “who will be playing María Irene Fornés”? Furthermore, will Kristen be summoning Susan Sontag’s gay ghost as research for the role? Hopefully these questions will be answered in due time.


feature image shows Kristen Stewart attending the Chanel Womenswear Spring/Summer 2023 show as part of Paris Fashion Week on October 04, 2022 in Paris, France. (Photo by Kristy Sparow/Getty Images)

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Riese

Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3200 articles for us.

4 Comments

  1. somehow despite knowing all about Notes on Camp this is the first moment I learned with my brain that Sontag was queer?? the world really is full of things that seem obvious as soon as you know them. Thank you for my fun fact of the day!

  2. This sounds brilliant!

    Also, little note: Kirsten’s character in Charlie’s Angels is canonically queer (stated by Elizabeth Banks), it’s just not super obvious unless you pay very close attention – I think she mentions an ex girlfriend.

  3. I am very much here for this film – I love Sontag and KS – even if I can’t yet picture her inhabiting this persona. On the other hand, the notion of writing as performance (or criticism as performance) that Sontag describes feels very aligned with Kristen’s general sensibility. Also, I simply refuse to accept that Kristen’s Valentine in Sils Maria is not queer.

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