Kristen Stewart in Personal Shopper; Jean Seberg in Breathless
Photo: IFC Films, Criterion

How’s this for apt casting? According to Deadline, Kristen Stewart has been cast as Jean Seberg in Against All Enemies, a “political thriller” about the American actress and French New Wave icon whose ties to the Black Panther Party and other groups made her one of the most notorious victims of the FBI’s COINTELPRO program, which sought to discredit prominent supporters of civil rights, Native American rights, women’s rights, and protests against the Vietnam war. (They also infiltrated white supremacist groups, but somehow their most significant action on that front involved publicly smearing a civil rights activist murdered with the help of one of the FBI’s informants in the KKK.) COINTELPRO targeted a mind-boggling array of activists, artists, and public figures (see: last year’s publication of the phonebook-sized James Baldwin: The FBI File), but the campaign against Seberg is considered one of the creepiest and most nightmarishly effective, involving everything from tapped phone lines to smear campaigns orchestrated with the help of prominent tabloids and gossip columns.

An FBI memo authorizing a campaign to spread rumors that Seberg was pregnant with the child of Black Panther Party member Raymond Hewitt. The story got as far as Newsweek.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons


Seberg, who first came into the public eye as a miscast ingénue in Otto Preminger’s 1957 film Saint Joan, was dogged by bad press from the beginning of her career, though she was able to get a second start in France (sound vaguely familiar?) as the female lead in Jean-Luc Godard’s groundbreaking Breathless. She’s also been involved with civil rights groups her entire career, beginning with the NAACP, which she joined as a high schooler in the early 1950s. COINTELPRO’s strategy of surveillance and defamation is generally considered a major factor in her worsening depression; it was only after Seberg committed suicide at the age of 40 in 1979 that proof of the FBI’s campaign against her came to light.

Against All Enemies, which is being directed by Una’s Benedict Andrews from a script by Race writers Anna Waterhouse and Joe Shrapnel, is set to start filming this summer. Anthony Mackie will co-star as the black nationalist Hakim Jamal, with whom Seberg had a brief affair in the 1960s, while Jack O’Connell will play “the ambitious young FBI agent assigned to surveil” the actress.