Kirsten Dunst on Her Emmy Nomination and Life After ‘Fargo’
As a child actor turned Hollywood star, Kirsten Dunst has done her share of soul-searching. So to play Peggy Blumquist, a beautician on the road to self-actualization who veers off course after committing a hit-and-run in FX’s “Fargo,” she turned inward.
“I work a lot with what I’m dreaming, so for me it’s kind of like making a little witch’s brew of stuff,” Ms. Dunst said of creating her character for the anthology’s second chapter. “The writing is so good, but to make a very full person takes a lot of self-exploration.”
In turn, Peggy — Ms. Dunst’s first recurring television role since playing the runaway Charlie Chiemingo on “ER” nearly 20 years ago — rewarded her with her first Emmy nomination, for outstanding lead actress in a limited series. The 68th Emmy Awards will be on Sept. 18.
In a recent phone conversation from Los Angeles, Ms. Dunst talked about the role that was meant to be, the expectations of Hollywood and where she thinks Peggy might have ended up. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
Congratulations on your nomination.
Thank you. It’s a tough category. I feel like there are so many great actresses and it’s an honor, but I wish they would just nominate and no one had to win. You know what I mean? Comparison is just the thief of joy.
In some strange way, the role of Peggy seems a natural for you.
It doesn’t happen very often like this, but [the writer and showrunner] Noah [Hawley] and I had our meeting, and as I left his office I was like, “I think that this is mine.” And on the way home I called my agent, and my manager called me, and they were like, “It’s yours.”
What do you think Noah saw in you?
I said something about style, like “a little goes a long way,” and he was like, “Oh, that’s Peggy for me.” And also my roots. My grandma, who has passed now, was from Minnesota. She didn’t really have an accent but she had a Midwestern quality about her, and she grew up on a farm. So it’s in my wheelhouse.
To quite a few viewers, Peggy was at once lovable and terrible. How did you see her?
Now that it’s over and edited and I saw the show, I think that she’s someone that just lives totally on her own planet. She probably should be on some meds. She’s a victim of the time and she’s trying to break boundaries, and I think she thinks she’s invincible.
A small-town woman trying to get out, or just plain unstable?
I think this situation of hitting the guy sends her over the edge. Because she’s just about to enter this precipice of going to Lifespring and doing all these things for herself, and then this happens and totally derails her plan. But she thinks she can still get away with it all — and she is getting away with it for a while, so I think it’s kind of a weird high. She just keeps looking forward and doesn’t see things very rationally.
In the final episode, Peggy speaks of her desire to choose her own path and not be defined by someone else’s expectations. Was there anything that resonated with your situation in Hollywood? You’ve said in the past that what people expect of actors is totally ridiculous.
I definitely put my own frustrations into what Peggy was saying. I don’t have a hard time with [expectations], I think, because I’ve been working for so long in this industry. But people put on different personas, and I could never do that, like on talk shows or in life or in meetings. I just have to be myself. I can’t fake it. But I do think that people want you to be a lot of different things as a female actress, and it’s up to you to navigate that and take care of yourself and not try to please.
Your coming movies include “The Beguiled,” your third film with Sofia Coppola, and “Woodshock,” written and directed by Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the designers behind Rodarte. What’s it like working with such close friends?
Now she’s a friend, but Sofia was always like an older sister to me — someone who I always looked up to. It’s so nice when you find a director that you’re their actress, and to work with your friends is always the best. Laura and Kate I met because I was the first actress to wear their clothing, and eventually we got to know each other. We’re very similar in our family values and living in Los Angeles in the Valley, and they’re very unique, fun women and soul mates of mine. You can create better things together when you know each other.
You know Peggy as well as anyone. What do you imagine she’s up to these days?
Maybe Peggy escaped, again, and lives off the grid in El Paso.
Kathryn Shattuck, The New York Times
Kirsten Dunst Is Happy People Are Seeing Her Work In “Fargo,” But Wishes Grandma Could Have Too
Kirsten Dunst and Patrick Wilson were on opposite ends of the law in the second season of “Fargo.” But Noah Hawley’s acclaimed crime-thriller had a common effect on their careers, putting them back squarely in the mainstream.
Dunst’s repressed Minnesota housewife on “Fargo” hoarded beauty magazines, owned grand dreams that sometimes turned into weird visions and acted out in strange, often scary ways.
“She’s nuts,” Dunst says, laughing.
The versatile actress visited The Envelope recently for a video interview to talk about “Fargo” and her career, part of our series of Emmy season conversations. We so enjoyed the conversation that we asked her to stick around a bit. Here are excerpts from what Dunst said after the cameras were turned off.
We hadn’t seen you much before “Fargo.” Had you made a conscious decision to take something of a break?
I’m someone who waits. And my manager will be like, “You need to work! Look at this script!” But I can’t do it. I physically can’t do it. I think it’s because I’ve been working so long that I’m kind of at a normal person’s retirement age.
You’ve been acting for 30 years …
I started when I was 3 and I just turned 34. I should be a retiree! I’m tired! I’m not hustling. I’m happy to spend my summer off and then work with Sofia [Coppola] in the fall. Do I need to squeeze another project in there? No!
The projects you have made lately have been independent films …
… which don’t pay much. And no one sees. That was what was amazing about “Fargo.” My mom’s saying, “I went to Bloomingdale’s and everyone’s telling me how much they loved ‘Fargo.’” It’s been awhile since anyone has said anything to her.
No Lars von Trier fans in her circle?
[Laughs] I remember I went to that same Bloomingdale’s at the Fashion Square mall in the Valley and I was perusing the shoe section and one of the women came up to me, sweetly, but also curt too, saying, “I miss you in film.” And meanwhile I had done “Melancholia.” I had done films, just not the kind normal audiences would ever seek out and see. So doing “Fargo” was such a relief. People were actually seeing my work.
You spent six months filming “Fargo” in Calgary. Allison Tolman told me Bob Odenkirk was a great advance scout in the first season, finding the bookstore and the good restaurants …
Oh, I found the good restaurant. Model Milk. Such an odd name. We also found the casino. I won a lot of money! I love gambling, but I’m not bad with my money at all. I will take like $300, put it aside and only gamble with that. I’m very conservative. If I win, I walk away for sure. And I won over $1,000 in under two minutes playing slots.
No wonder you don’t need to work. You can fall back on gambling!
[Laughs] I’m not that big of a gambler! I gambled twice over the course of the past year.
It sounds like watching “Fargo” was something of a family activity with you and your mom and your brother.
My only wish is that my grandma could have seen it. She’s from Minnesota and she passed away before I did all this. That was the most heartbreaking thing for me watching it. My grandma would have gotten such a kick out of “Fargo.” We were very close. I was born on her birthday.
Did you incorporate her at all in your work on the show?
Oh, I used everything. A little dash of my grandmother. My dreams. Things that annoy me. People on set. I used everything possible to give my character an inner life that felt grounded. But it’s not like I felt my grandmother’s presence on set. I did have one blatant moment with her though … with a hummingbird. I was driving home from a friend’s house and this hummingbird was in the middle of the street and it wouldn’t move. And it forced me to stop my car. I drove home and told my mom what happened because that’s not in the nature of a hummingbird to do that. They’re always dashing around. And my mom realized that it was the day my grandma passed. So I think it was my grandma saying “hi.”
Glenn Whipp, latimes.com
I’ve added a gorgeous pic of Kirsten taken by Los Angeles Times photographer Kirk McKoy to the gallery.
Kirsten Dunst Talks ‘Midnight Special,’ Making Her Directing Debut, Reteaming With Sofia Coppola, And More
For the last of our interviews with the key players behind this weekend’s “Midnight Special ” we finish up with perhaps the film’s biggest star, who, though crucial, actually has one of its smaller roles. But Kirsten Dunst, who plays the mother of the supernaturally-gifted boy Alton, who is reunited with him on the run when he and his father Roy (Shannon) escape from the cult (called The Ranch) that they all used to belong to, has always pursued a strange kind of stardom. Her emergence as a Hollywood player (breaking out in “Interview with the Vampire,” starring in Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” blockbuster series and more) never quite eclipsed her career as an indie sweetheart.
That parallel track really took off with Sofia Coppola’s “The Virgin Suicides” and since then, Dunst has worked with a wide range of independent and arthouse talents, like Michel Gondry, Cameron Crowe, Walter Salles and Lars Von Trier. It seems a very filmmaker-led strategy, so when we met her at the Berlin International Film Festival after the premiere of “Midnight Special,” that’s where we started.
Your role in this film is not huge, as your character is simply not the main focus. So why did you take it — was it the lure of Jeff Nichols?
That’s exactly it. I will do anything with a good filmmaker. I really didn’t even need to read anything, it’s really all about the filmmaker to me. You want to feel like you’re working, with the director and the other actors involved, towards a common, creative, meaningful experience. Not every movie is like that and I knew that I would get that this time.
So sure, I was the lead in my last movie and I’m not the lead in this one, it’s like, who cares? As long as you are doing something you think is good it doesn’t matter.
So in general your decisions are based on who you get to work with, rather than the project itself?
Well, you know I worked with Leslye Headland [on “Bachelorette”] who was a first-time director… I do take risks too. But I like finding things that I feel I can help my life in a way. And I could never be an actress that does that same thing over and over again — I would be so bored. I would hate this job!
You didn’t find working on “Fargo” season 2 to be too repetitious or boring then?
No — that was hard work. You don’t get a lot of takes, two takes and move on. The way they cram the schedule, you really do a lot in one day. It doesn’t look like that when you watch it, but… seriously the amount of money and time that we had, it looks like we had so much more than was given. It’s really amazing to me. Yeah, it was hard work that show, and I talked a lot. I hate having so many lines!
So you must have been happy to play one of those stoic Jeff Nichols characters here…
Oh yes, but this came before “Fargo,” for me, like a year before.
Ah, of course. So your voice was rested.
Exactly! I love movies where I don’t have to talk. I’m great at silent acting.
But you know, I think this movie isn’t really about the performances. I mean, when you watch a great movie you don’t think “He was amazing!” “She was amazing!” You just watch it and you’re like, wow, “That was amazing,” and I think that’s this kind of movie.
I think that’s very true here, and part of it is that no one is playing the standard archetype of their role. Your character, Sarah, for example, is a very unusual, relatively unseen take on motherhood.
Oohh, I like that… an unusual take. You have a good perspective! Are you a mom? I’m not a mom either, but I like your whole depiction of this role.
It’s just that she can be quite hard-headed and unsentimental, and has been separated from her son for some time.
You know what’s interesting, though — I think she got thrown off The Ranch [the name of the cult Sarah, Roy and Alton previously belonged to], because she wouldn’t let her child be taken. I mean, they lie and say she “abandoned” him, but really the head guy kicked her out because he wanted to raise her son as his own son. [This meshes with what Nichols told us about a prologue scene he conceived of but never shot]. And she can’t call the cops or anything because the kid’s life would be ruined, he’d be a science experiment.
So she lives with the love of The Ranch too. Jeff and I discussed how Sarah was probably into drugs or something, and The Ranch saved her, plus she met Roy there. That’s why I think she keeps her hair in that braid, there’s a love/hate with The Ranch. Even her house on the outside, where there’s barely any furniture — it’s not like she’d really cared about it, it was bare minimum, she was living such a sad life.
But also, I’ve met people before who have had such heavy trauma in their life that there’s almost something a little bit… angelic about them. They’re so kind and appreciative of every moment they’re living and I feel like Sarah’s like that, she’s a little saintly, like a Mary. That’s how I depicted her.
So you saw the film as at least partially a religious allegory?
Well, Jeff will say the movie’s very anti-religion! And I’m like, but your major characters — you’ve got Mary, Joseph, Jesus, and you’ve got the disciple, how can you say that? I mean, even if you’re not religious, something seeped through there. But he doesn’t take it as that. And I guess it also shows how The Ranch, being a religion too, can manipulate people and brainwash them — it’s just various different perspectives. And I think it’s cool that it raises the questions of what else is out there and that we can’t be the only things around.
I suppose as the writer/director it’s his prerogative to interpret it differently. And you yourself are primed to make your directorial debut soon, isn’t that so?
Not very soon — I would think that it could get rolling end of this year or next year. Next year would be better, but you never know. I’ve finished writing it, and I think they’re gonna announce it soon.
I’ve read that it’s a kind of dark comedy?
Well, hmm. It’s like, I just like movies that are funny when they shouldn’t be. So there’s a little bit of that. It’s not a dark comedy, though there’s an element of that — if you knew the thing that I was adapting, you might be like wow, that is absolutely nothing like a dark comedy!
But you won’t tell us what it is!
I know, I know! I can’t. But they’re gonna announce it soon, I think. And I will say that I don’t want it to be just some “little indie.” I want it to be a… bigger movie.
Quite a few — maybe all — of the roles you’ve chosen over the years have a dark element to them. Is that what draws you to them?
You know, it’s funny because I don’t watch movies like that — the movies I watch are like, “Trainwreck” and “Straight Outta Compton.” But I like being in the darker movies — I guess I like expressing myself that way, but usually my entertainment is different. Though, wait, I’ve watched pretty much every movie this year, so actually that’s not true at all.
Oh you have? So what have been your standouts?
I like “Mustang” a lot. Obviously there’s a ‘Virgin Suicides’ influence there, but she did it in her own way, a really beautiful way, I loved that movie. And — I couldn’t get through it all, because it was making me physically ill — did you watch “Son of Saul”? Oh my God. I mean, I was so impressed by it, but then I was like I can’t do this right now, this is a little intense for me.
So what’s coming next for you?
Next I did a movie with my girlfriends who do a fashion line called Rodarte, that will come out this year [This is Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s “Woodshock,” co-starring Pilou Asbaek and Lorelei Linklater]. They showed a trailer for sales here, and it is going to be something special, I think.
And then I’m probably going to work with Sofia [Coppola] again this year. [This seems a tentative confirmation of a report we ran back in August of last year] So when people say there are actors who won’t work with female directors… hey there! Hello!
And you’re going to be one soon too.
Yeah, and there’s a lot of good female roles in that movie too…
“Midnight Special” opens today.
Jessica Kiang; The Playlist