Kristen Stewart has signed on to portray feminist writer-political activist, Susan Sontag in Sontag, an upcoming narrative biopic that will feature a metafictional twist. The film will be directed by Kirsten Johnson, who’s known for helming the Emmy-winning documentary, Dick Johnson Is Dead, Variety is reporting.
Sontag is based on the 2019 biographical book, Sontag: Her Life and Work, by Ben Moser. The drama will be penned for the screen by Johnson and Lisa Kron. The feature will open with documentary footage of Stewart discussing her performance of the titular scribe before it moves on to dramatize the events of Sontag’s life.
Brouhaha Entertainment will produce the movie. The biopic will begin shooting at this month’s Berlin Film Festival, where Stewart is serving as the international jury president. Sontag will also shoo in California, Paris, New York and Sarajevo.
“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,” said Gabrielle Tana, who co-founded Brouhaha Entertainment and is serving as a producer on the drama. “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.”
Sontag who died in New York City in 2004, was a prolific essayist, novelist, cultural critic and intellectual who would often incorporate complex ideas about human rights and social justice into her essays. Her nonfiction work, which delved into such social issues as the AIDS epidemic and criticism of the Vietnam War, was often considered to be controversial. Her most famous works include 1966’s Against Interpretation, 1977’s On Photography and 1999’s In America.
Throughout her life, Sontag also broke down the barriers between criticism of so-called high and low culture. She also garnered controversy when she denounced U.S. foreign policy and supported Salman Rushdie after he was subjected to a fatwa. The writer also stirred up controversy for being open about her bisexuality at a time when that was uncommon.
Before being cast as Sontag in the upcoming biographical movie, Stewart starred in two high-profile biopics in recent years. Those films include 2019’s Seberg, in which she played actress Jean Seberg, and 2021’s Spencer. The star was nominated for the Academy Award, Golden Globe Award and Critics’ Choice Movie Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of Princess Diana in the latter feature.
Stewart will next be seen in the A24 romantic thriller Love Lies Bleeding. She’s also slated to make her feature film directorial debut with the biographical romantic drama, The Chronology of Water.
Sontag will mark Johnson’s first time helming a narrative drama. Besides Dick Johnson Is Dead, she also directed the 2016 critically-acclaimed documentary, Cameraperson. She began her career as a documentary cinematographer, and shot movies like the Edward Snowden documentary, Citizenfour, and the genocide chronicle Darfur Now. Sontag: Her Life and Work.