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John / January 16th, 2022

When Kirsten Dunst was in her early 20s, the director Jane Campion sent her a letter proposing that they collaborate. It took roughly two decades, but the pair linked up—and in a turn of events they’d never have foreseen back then, they did so with Dunst’s fiancé, fellow actor Jesse Plemons. The end result is The Power of the Dog, and Dunst’s performance in it just might lead to what would somehow be a first for the 39-year-old actor: an Oscar. For W’s Best Performances issue, she reveals the secret to acting drunk and revisits that legendary Spider-Man kiss.

Had you met Jane Campion before The Power of the Dog?
She wrote me a letter when I was in my early 20s about working with each other on [an adaptation of] this Alice Munro short story called “Runaway.” It never came to fruition, but I kept the letter in my phone. Jane and I actually have the same birthday, so it was destiny, I guess. She’s always been one of my favorite filmmakers. When the script came in, it came to Jesse [Plemons], my partner, first. Before he read it, I was like, “You need to do this movie. You need to be in a Jane Campion movie.” So, that’s how it came about. First, Jesse got the role.

Did you have to audition?
No, I didn’t audition. [Campion] really loved [the 2011 Lars von Trier film] Melancholia a lot. She’d joke, like, “Just be as good as you were in Melancholia.” And I was like, “Okay, Jane. It’s a totally different character, but I’ll just try my best.”

Your character, Rose, quickly unravels. She begins to drink to cope with an increasingly difficult situation. Was it hard to pretend to be drunk?
There are a lot of different phases in her drinking. At first, it’s courage, and then it gets very bad. It takes her to this place of being this little girl who just wants to be loved. People who are drunk try not to talk drunk. It’s a little mix of music, a little mix of my own personal experiences with drunk people and how they are. For scenes where I had to be really stumbly, I’d spin a bunch in circles before action and close my eyes so I would feel off-balance. That’s a trick that Allison Janney taught me [on the set of] Drop Dead Gorgeous. It makes you feel out of control in your body, which is perfect for playing drunk.

It’s such an interesting transition, because Rose goes from being so capable to losing her bearings. To me, it felt like such a statement about how people can do you in.
Yeah. I totally understand that feeling. It’s a place where you’re feeling vulnerable, where people can influence you and infiltrate your brain in such a way that is so dangerous for your psyche. And that’s what happens to Rose. But, yes, in the beginning she runs her own inn. She’s a widow, and she runs it with her son. So, all those things of cooking and cleaning and making a beautiful table and keeping an inn running, that’s her pride and what gives her purpose in life. And when she goes to the ranch, she doesn’t have to do any of that stuff—those creature comforts that give you purpose are stripped away from her. She’s not doing the things she’s most comfortable doing, and then she’s slowly being gaslit by my partner’s brother [played by Benedict Cumberbatch].

Yes, that evil Mr. Burbank who calls your partner “fatso.” It’s so mean.
I know. He calls me “fat face,” too, which was not nice. [Laughs] That was an improvised line, though.

Were you always committed to acting? You started when you were so young.
I was committed, but there was a point where I was like, the way I’m doing this isn’t exciting to me anymore. My process [stopped being] fulfilling. And then I switched it up. I took a script to a bunch of different acting teachers, and I found one who I really love working with—who changed acting to something I do for myself rather than for anyone else. It made it personal, and it made it exciting. It was all about looking inward and satisfying yourself in your [own] creativity.

You were the first person I knew to join the Marvel universe, which I’ve always admired—I think it was brave at the time. Now it’s almost like doing Hamlet or something.
That’s really funny.

Was it a big decision for you to do Spider-Man?
Not at all. I auditioned, and then Tobey [Maguire] and Sam [Raimi] and all the producers came to Berlin to screen-test me at this hotel. And I just knew that Sam [the director] was going to do something special. It felt like an indie. Just these choices Sam was making, like casting Tobey—he had only been in Wonder Boys and The Cider House Rules at the time—and Willem Dafoe. He set the tone for hiring really interesting actors for these Marvel movies.

And of course, there was the famous kiss. Did you feel like it was going to be a famous kiss at the time?
I did not feel like it was a famous kiss because Tobey was… Water was getting up his nose because of the rain, and then he couldn’t breathe in the Spider-Man suit, and then… And it just felt very late at night. I didn’t think about it that way. But the way it was presented to me, Sam gave me this book of famous kisses, so that made me realize how romantic and special Sam wanted this to be. Even though it wasn’t necessarily feeling that way with Tobey hanging upside down.

And now it’s in every montage of famous kisses.
Well, I’m proud to be a part of that.

It’s a good kiss.
Yeah. It looked like a great kiss.

Lynn Hirschberg, W Magazine

John / January 9th, 2022

Kirsten Dunst has been acting almost as long as she’s been alive. From early starring roles in films like Interview with the Vampire and Jumanji through Bring It On and Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man trilogy, she’s gotten to work with some of the best directors in the business: Brian De Palma, Peter Bogdanovich, Sofia Coppola, Jeff Nichols—the list goes on. However, one filmmaker who was at the top of her bucket list and has always eluded her was Jane Campion.

The opportunity to work with the Palme d’Or and Oscar winning force behind films like The Piano, In the Cut, and Bright Star almost passed Dunst by yet again. Her role as Rose Gordon in The Power of the Dog, Campion’s adaptation of the novel by Thomas Savage, was originally occupied by Elisabeth Moss, who had recently worked with Campion on the Top of the Lake television series. Scheduling conflicts with The Handmaid’s Tale caused Moss to drop out, and so swooped in Dunst to work with this dream director in what would end up being one of the finest roles she’s had to date.

In Campion’s film, which has been racking up awards recognition and topping myriad critics top ten lists, Rose and her son Peter (Kodi Smit-McPhee) find themselves at the mercy of menacing rancher Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) after Rose falls in love with and marries Phil’s brother George (Jesse Plemons, Dunst’s real-life partner). Secluded on a ranch in the middle of nowhere, Rose constantly feels the specter of Phil’s rage and jealousy looming over her. It’s a heavy character to take on, one who becomes increasingly isolated as the strain of this toxic environment becomes too much for her to take.

Dunst delivers a staggering performance, capturing not only the devastating weight that Rose is under, but also the humanity of the character, and the hope she feels when she first finds her connection with George. Her and Plemons have a remarkable chemistry on screen, a true gift for the film as Plemons coincidentally was also originally not supposed to be the one taking on his role—that was Paul Dano, who had to drop out due to scheduling issues with The Batman. It all worked out for the best, as Dunst and Plemons bring to life the heart at the core of the film, right before it all takes a major turn to wrenching terror.

As Dunst continues to pick up nominations and wins left and right during this awards season, likely on the way to finally netting her long-overdue first Oscar nomination, I had an incredibly pleasant and jovial conversation with the actress about one of the most grueling roles of her career.

Mitchell Beaupre: Hi Kirsten, how are you doing today?

Kirsten Dunst: Oh, I’m good. Chilling out in bed. Just taking care of babies. [laughs] I’m starting to work on this other movie that I’m going to do, so I’m watching some documentaries trying to get into a new zone, which is fun. I feel like I’ve got some purpose now other than just putting a bottle in someone’s mouth. [laughs]

MB: Sounds like a good way to ring in the new year. It’s like a fresh new start, right?

KD: Yeah, I started with some anxiety over getting back into the swing of things. I had to do this interview on camera and it was just like, “Oh, I’ve been relaxing and not doing anything. Can I say anything smart?” I don’t know, I just felt like I was in this Christmas bubble that suddenly got burst.

MB: How do the holidays go in the Dunst-Plemons household? Do you do it up big, or is it more low-key cozy?

KD: Oh, we drove all over Texas. Basically, my mom got into town and then my brother got into town on Christmas Eve. We picked him up at the airport, I rented a van, and me, the kids, Jesse, my mom and my brother all drove to Mart, Texas, which is just 20 minutes outside of Waco. Then the next day, we drove to granny’s house, which is in Ferris, Texas, another hour and a half away for like a huge Christmas. What we did not know was that my mom had COVID the whole time. We just thought she had bad allergies. And yet none of us got sick.

MB: Oh wow.

KD: She was totally fine, we literally all thought she had bad allergies. None of us even second guessed it. She was the most sick at Christmas, then she flew home to LA, and I guess my brother was like, “maybe you should get tested”, and she did, and yeah she had COVID the whole time, and none of us got it. We were in vans together for long rides and no one got it from her. Not Jesse’s parents, nobody. It’s very strange.

MB: It’s super strange. I had a similar situation happen. It’s wild how random it can seem, because then someone does get it without even having a clue where they got it from.

KD: Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s thanks to immune systems or whatever. I have no idea, but I haven’t gotten anything yet. Knock on wood. I’ve also loaded myself with every booster imaginable and everything. Literally, my armpit was swollen for days. It was so painful.

MB: You got to work with Jesse again on The Power of the Dog, several years after being together on Fargo. How was that process for you this time around? Particularly when you’re working on a film that’s as heavy as this one is, how does that impact your relationship off-set? Does it help to have a partner at home who you feel is right there in it with you, working on the same project?

KD: So, so much. Usually you’re on different films, you’re not always together, and you’re calling each other and trying to explain the dynamics or what’s happening in the film or how you feel like the day went. It can be tough. With this though, he knew everything already exactly, and vice versa for me with him. I feel like we’ll always find things to work on together. For us, it’s one of our greatest joys, getting to work together. That’s how we first fell in love, creatively on Fargo. It’s just like having your best friend with you, the person who you know is going to be the realest about everything, who will give you the best ideas, and who wants you to succeed. There’s no ego.

Our roles on this one were very reserved as well. I like getting a little more crazy, you know? I loved doing Fargo with Jesse. Getting to go crazier together was more satisfying. Sometimes on this one there are scenes where they’re communicating to each other, but they’re not actually communicating at all. So, it can be a little frustrating to do that with someone that you actually communicate with so well.

MB: The first act of Power of the Dog really centers on this lovely courting between Rose and George, which crescendos with that gorgeous scene on the mountaintop with the two of you. Jesse has that line, “How nice it is not to be alone”, which I think is probably the best line of any film last year. And Jesse’s delivery is phenomenal—

KD: It’s the best! I totally agree. Even thinking about it right now, I could well up.

MB: Same! The second he said it, I broke into tears. What was the energy like on set the day the two of you were shooting that scene together?

KD: It was very relaxing. We were there all day, but we were waiting for the light to be just right so that it would be really beautiful, so we had a lot of downtime. There wasn’t much to do in that scene, there wasn’t a ton of shoot setups or coverage or anything. So, we were on this really high mountain, and it was a very calm, sweet day. I feel like it was an important scene because it clearly shows how lonely these people were, and how you hope for their life to get better and to flourish. It’s so heartwarming. Then you can have the rest of the film to suffer. [laughs] But, you hope it’s all gonna work out.

MB: The film is a really tough watch, which I was somewhat prepared for going into it just from the way other people were talking about it. What surprised me, though, was seeing in the beginning that connection between Rose and George. It’s this achingly beautiful romance between two people who were in these miserable circumstances, and were able to find solace in one another. How did you view the connection between them in relation to everything else going on in the film?

KD: Yeah, I think when they first meet there’s this recognizing of loneliness in their souls, and a kindness and sweetness that surprises her—and a sense of humor. Then moving to the ranch, and the dynamics with the brother really messes things up. I mean, Jesse’s role was sleeping next to his brother before I came into the house. Phil, I think, is terribly jealous of what’s going on, and George is trying to remedy that, but he also has to go and work. It’s not a time where Rose feels like she has a voice, because Phil is George’s brother, and you don’t want to make waves in the family. I think there’s a politeness to Rose, and this belief that it’s gonna get better, or that Phil will get used to her, and see that she’s not just here for the money. There’s a hopefulness and a sweetness to Rose where she just wants to keep her chin up for as long as she can, until she can’t take it anymore.

MB: That’s when she starts to become really isolated. What was that like for you on a day-to-day basis, having to inhabit this character who is living under this aura of constant menace? Does that become tough to shake off?

KD: Some days were harder than others. It was harder on the ranch for the exteriors, because I didn’t work every day. I had to do these really intense scenes like once a week, but I couldn’t get into a rhythm when I was in the middle of nowhere and not working those other days. I was mostly taking care of my son, but then I had to come in with all of this gusto, so I was a bit overwhelmed. And of course, I wanted to do a good job because Jane Campion is one of my heroes, so I was pretty stressed.

MB: I know you and Benedict didn’t talk much during filming for the sake of finding that character dynamic. Did you have a lot of conversations with Jane during the shoot? Or was Rose’s isolation reflected in your experience on set?

KD: No, I really felt a little bit alone as Rose. Obviously, Jane was there to help me and give me ideas, but I mostly found myself listening to a lot of music. I was lucky to have Jesse to come home to and to talk to about anything that I was feeling. I also had Noriko [Watanabe] there, who did my hair and makeup. I remember her hugging me after the scene with the Native Americans, and me crying in her arms. I had worked with her since Eternal Sunshine. I met her on that, and then we worked together on Spider-Man, on the second one. So, I’d known Noriko for a long time.

I had my allies, but I also felt my own pressure. I felt a pressure to perform. I didn’t want to disappoint my other creatives around myself, but I think that pressure was also partly from the role. I don’t think I would have felt that same way if I had been playing Phil, for instance. It was because I was playing that kind of a woman that I felt a little bit more insecure about things that I normally wouldn’t be.

MB: There’s almost an osmosis there of you taking on the qualities of the character. It’s like the scene with the whole family around, and all that pressure is on Rose to play the piano and she just can’t bring herself to do it.

KD: Mhmm, and that scene I remember—well, actually, the scene before, when she listened to [Phil] play the banjo so effortlessly, and riff on it creatively and make it his own; it was like this feeling of someone trumping you in something that you can do very confidently. Rose can play the piano well, and then suddenly she can’t—she physically can’t do it anymore. It’s like when someone’s so much better than you, and so effortless with it, it just makes you not want to do it anymore.

MB: You’ve talked about working with your acting coach, who you’ve had for a while—

I’m working with her right after this phone call! [laughs]

MB: You’ve mentioned the process you have with her, where you do a lot of dream work.

KD: Oh yeah, I dreamed big last night! I was so happy, because sometimes you don’t get a dream every night, and I got a great one last night. Got really good stuff to start with.

MB: When you were working on finding Rose, what were some of those things you drew out from your unconscious mind that really helped you in that process?

KD: I think it was that feeling of—oh, the baby’s awake. Um, [laughs] let me just send a text to say I’m doing an interview. [pauses] Okay, sorry.

MB: Not a problem at all.

KD: Okay, Rose. I think I just had to go back to a younger place of myself, of feeling insecure or less than. Of being on sets where I felt like I didn’t speak up. Being a young woman in this industry is enough to give you some good mojo for Rose, some good ideas and sense memories—or “as if”s I do as well. There’s a lot of things that you can use to try and create the scene, and make it feel alive for yourself, and not feel like you’re reaching for anything. That it—oh, he went back to sleep. Good. Alright, okay. Just let me send this text to say he’s back asleep. So sorry.

MB: It’s totally fine. [laughs]

KD: The baby’s in a closet right now because we don’t have any place for him. [laughs] He lives in a closet. It’s a nice closet. It’s a nice size. It’s like a nice car.

MB: [laughs] I’m sure.

KD: It’s just not a house with that many rooms is all, let’s just put it that way.

MB: That’s going to be the headline for the interview, by the way: “Kirsten Dunst Keeps Baby In Closet”

KD: [laughs] It’s a walk-in closet with a window. [laughs] But yeah, he’s a closet baby.

MB: [laughs] Okay, so pulling this back together. Something that sets Jane Campion apart from other filmmakers is the tactile nature of her work. The audiences really feel her films in a way you don’t get with other directors. The fingers on piano keys or banjo strings. The texture of grass or of the rope.

KD: Yeah, totally.

MB: Is that something that you feel on set working with her? Are there details you find her focusing on that maybe other directors wouldn’t be giving the same attention to?

KD: Yes, yes. The blowing out of a candle, and the shot of that. The way Peter’s hands are delicately creating a flower, and just to see a mother of that time encouraging her son to do that. It was a beautiful thing to see. Also just every day on set with her production designer Grant Major, you would open every drawer and find little messages, notes, poems, newspapers, magazines. Everything felt that it was authentic to the time. It was a really majestic set to be on. I was pretty blown away by Grant’s work. He’s one of the best. I mean, he did Lord of the Rings. He’s a genius. That house he built in the middle of nowhere—it felt sturdy. It felt like a real home. I mean, the interiors were done in Auckland, in a studio, but it never felt fake or weird. Everything was so lux. I’ve been on sets where everything just feels super cheap. Like, you touch some wood and realize it’s styrofoam [laughs]. Couldn’t afford the wood.

MB: Is that something crucial for you in getting into the character? Having that real environment where you’re not surrounded by green screens.

KD: I think you’re just like, “Oh wow, this is a real movie”. You know? People spent money on making these things look good. And then seeing Ari [Wegner]’s camera shifts, setups and everything, I was blown away. And the landscapes, the way they used the specific lenses, or the way she shot different scenes. There’s so many lead characters in the film in a way, and they had to really create these dynamics with the lenses that they chose. I’m still blown away by Ari and Jane’s relationship and what they did together.

MB: As the film is so much about masculinity, it really benefited from having that female perspective at its head. You’ve always been very director-focused with the projects you take on, and you’ve had a long career of films with female directors. Bachelorette, Woodshock, obviously your whole relationship with Sofia Coppola. Is that something you seek out specifically, or do you not even put that kind of thought into it?

KD: After I did Interview with the Vampire, I worked with Gillian Armstrong on Little Women, and so I think from a young age I never really differentiated between working with a female director or working with a male director. It really never mattered to me. I think nowadays everyone’s more conscientious of that, but for me it was a gift I was given young to never even question it. I’d already worked with some of the most powerful men, and then I worked with some of the most powerful women in this industry. To have that experience at age 12 or 13 is a huge lesson that you don’t even realize is getting into your head. To me, it was always a very natural thing to work with females and female directors.

MB: One of my favorite films of yours is Melancholia, which just had its 10-year anniversary last year. Looking back on the film now, its themes of accepting the end of the world and also those deeper meanings of grappling with depression and mental health struggles have only become more potent than they already were. What are your reflections on that film when you think about it these days?

KD: I haven’t watched it since it came out, but I will say that working on that movie was one of the most joyful experiences I’ve ever had. [laughs] I really had so much fun making that movie. I just felt free with my creative people around me, and the way that Lars [von Trier] makes his films. I felt at home in the way he made that film. I feel like I’m drawn to a more European kind of aesthetic when it comes to filmmaking and the vibe on set. That movie is really special. I mean—hold on, I’ve got to turn off this baby sound. The machine is driving me nuts. [laughs]

Okay. Depression is a boring thing to film, and Lars made it extremely relatable and magnificent, you know what I mean? Even with the end of the world, and this subject matter, it was beautiful. He’s an incredible filmmaker, and I was so happy to be part of what is basically his Disney movie—when you compare them to his other ones. [laughs] Also, another funny thing to me is that me, Lars, and Jane Campion all have the same birthday. Which is very weird to me. It’s very witchy.

MB: That’s super serendipitous, right?

KD: Mhmm.

MB: I’ve got time for one more question, and I’d love to end with a fun one. I was watching this interview with you where you said that the one genre you’d most love to do is a musical.


MB: I wanted to ask you, if you could go back in time and be in any musical in the history of film, which would you want to be in and why?

KD: Woah! Huh… maybe All That Jazz. Hold on, let me just think. Hmm, I’m just trying to think. Yeah, I’d want to be in a Bob Fosse one for sure. I think All That Jazz. You know what, the other movie I loved is Hedwig and the Angry Inch. That was such a good movie. I loved that movie so much when it came out. I love the music so much. And listen, I know that there’s a Charlie Kaufman musical that he wrote that has never been made. It’s probably just a script and it hasn’t gotten made, and I’m so curious. I don’t think I would want to do a musical that we all love, because they’ve all kind of been done.

One of the movies that I watched over and over as a kid was Annie, and it was on TV recently with that special, you know? That was on TV, and I watched it with my son, and I was singing along, and he was kind of impressed that I knew the words to the songs. [laughs] He had never heard them before, and I just started crying because there is something so beautiful to hear someone’s emotions through song. I just love it. So yeah, being in an original one, that would be really cool.

MB: Well, you’ve got that connection to Charlie. Get Jesse to give you the hookup.

KD: [laughs] I wish! You know, I feel like with all of these creative people, you’ve just got to leave ‘em alone and hope for the best.

MB: I’ll keep my fingers crossed that we can see you in an original musical one day then. Thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me, and congratulations on the film and on your performance, which is absolutely tremendous.

KD: Thank you, I’m very proud to be in a good movie that people like. [laughs]

Mitchell Beaupre, AwardsWatch

John / December 18th, 2021

Here’s Kirsten being interviewed by Gold Derby editor Daniel Montgomery.

John / December 12th, 2021

Here’s a video of Kirsten being interviewed by Jazz Tangcay for the SAG-AFTRA Foundation.

John / December 5th, 2021

Krsten Dunst has been here before. The 39-year-old veteran has had one of the most expansive careers in Hollywood, and on the heels of a big, buzzy film release — this time it’s Jane Campion’s The Power of the Dog, streaming now on Netflix — she’s once again taken on a complicated role that’s brought her to the center of awards chatter.

In The Power of the Dog, Dunst plays Rose, a widow who remarries a gentle, wealthy man (her real-life partner Jesse Plemons) and is then subjected to the spirit-breaking abuse of her new brutish brother-in-law (Benedict Cumberbatch). It’s the sort of role she’s familiar with — and didn’t think she’d do again. “It wasn’t a role that I was dying to play,” she says. “It’s a really old part of myself — a very insecure woman — and not a fun place to rehash and try and psychologically frighten yourself in a way or make yourself feel so less than, and just live in a shallow place, self-esteem-wise.” But, as she says, “that’s also my job.”

It’s that matter-of-fact introspection, the sort that develops only after years’ worth of putting in the literal and figurative work, that makes this moment distinct most of all. As any fan of Dunst knows, her Oscars moment is long overdue, but Dunst seems concerned only with not getting ahead of herself or life and being content on her own terms. And as life would have it, at the Cut, we’ve been having conversations about the end of this year and all that’s happened or hasn’t that we wanted, so it’s refreshing to hear Dunst find validation in her abilities, her family, and her life outside of Hollywood and the awards and glamour.

Dunst sat down with close friends and collaborators Kate and Laura Mulleavy, the sisters behind fashion label Rodarte, to talk about being a child actor and growing in her craft, her biggest fears, and the legacy she wants to leave behind.

Kate: It feels natural to start with how we “met.” You had just done Marie Antoinette with Sofia Coppola, and I remember being completely floored by the film watching you play a misunderstood woman. I knew at that moment I was seeing something that was ahead of its time. I didn’t know if I had a vocabulary for talking about it.

Kirsten: Now we talk and hold each other like sisters, but it’s hard to think of when we were strangers — I remember I wore a few things of yours, three dresses in particular, for the Spider-Man press tour.

Kate: And that was all you, by the way; we were just starting and weren’t sure how you knew what Rodarte was. And we realized that you’ve worked with more female directors than most actresses, Sofia Coppola, a very iconic one with whom you’ve done three films. What’s your relationship like with Sofia now, and how have your female friendships informed your work?

Kirsten: Working with Sofia and having her look at me for the first time as a young woman, putting me in a space to have more sexuality and blossoming into womanhood, changed everything.

Having that done through her eyes set me up to not feel like my beauty, and my womanhood or how I felt about myself, was weighed by what a man felt about me or what a director felt about me, or what I wore on the carpet. So I never felt like I had to dress sexy because I had a Sofia to look up to.

I also have a very Jersey mother, who’s very, like, matter-of-fact, funny and free and so welcoming and nonjudgmental, and just protected me. So I had a very family-oriented strong base and unit of protection and love that has sustained me throughout my career because no one’s career is perfect. Everything goes up and down. Everyone ebbs and flows. So if you don’t have your life and normalcy and the people who love you no matter what, this industry can be very difficult to navigate.

Laura: What was it like being a child actor while still trying to have a life? Especially when you’re starring in a movie like Interview With the Vampire alongside such big-name actors.

Kirsten: Still to this day, I have not been on a set of that magnitude. But I felt very supported and very loved. And Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt were so sweet to me. They just treated me like a little sister. I remember the worst thing I had to do on that film was suck this person’s blood from their neck. And the person was sweating so badly, and I was dying. I was like, “Oh my God, please don’t make me. How am I going to do this?” They were just sweating so badly. And I put my mouth on their neck, and I was dying. You can see that even my funniest memory is something very normal and very kidlike.

Laura: Did Tom give you advice?

Kirsten: Well, we’re both from New Jersey. And we had this screen test where he had to pick up each little girl. I was the tallest one, and he was like, “Tuck in your legs,” so that I looked really tiny in his arms. He was trying to help me out since Neil Jordan, the director, wanted to see how each girl looked when Tom picked us up because they wanted the character to look like a bit like a doll, a little girl. Jersey got Jersey’s back.

Laura: If you had to start your life over again, would you still choose child acting?

Kirsten: I would, but I’d say a lot of it was because my mom was so protective of me and a crucial part of my creativity. I remember on sets, like Little Women and Jumanji, she’d bring along stuff like pasta makers to try to make everything feel cozy even though we weren’t home.

But this is the gift I’ve been given. And I feel like I’ve learned to grow with it, and hopefully, just keep growing and becoming better. Because that’s what all of us want to do in our jobs. It’s just like, keep pushing and keep getting better and taking risks.

Kate: You can go deep into a part, doing the work it takes to give a great performance and giving over that part of yourself, but you also have made a space that keeps things for you, without putting all of your value in one area of your life.

Kirsten: Once you put all your heart and soul in and you don’t know how everyone’s going to perceive it … maybe it felt so right, but then it’s like, “Did we miss something? And was it my fault in my performance?” I think that’s a very young thing to feel in your 20s. I took that on then, which I wouldn’t do now.

Kate: Most people that have created something that ends up being great, or memorable, or necessary, probably at some point in the process, ask themselves, “Did I do something wrong?” But I’ve seen your unwillingness to compromise — how do you make the choices you’ve made in your career?

Kirsten: Well, firstly, I’m director-driven — I’m not dying to play a specific person or a particular part because, ultimately, your performance is in the director’s hands; that’s all you have.

But I have worked with a lot of first-time directors. Like, at the time, Sofia, or the woman I’m confidentially working with on a film for next year, is her first time as well. Female directors and I are attracted to each other because there is a realness that women want from a female performance that I don’t always think men understand. It’s a different light.

There are still things that are unfair to us women or that we’re still really working against. But great strides are being made, and we have a long way to go; and because of Time’s Up and Me Too, these things help push forward huge changes on problems in the industry that felt like they were never going to be brought to light. I just feel lucky to be a part of this time in the industry that I get to see that change happen and be a part of that change.

Kate: There is 100 percent different artistry coming out when you work with a female director. And even the storytelling — how important is it to you when you get a project where you connect to the story on some level?

Kirsten: I read this script recently, and it was, Oh my God. It’s so well-written about what it’s really like to be a mother. But there was part of me that was so overwhelmed by the idea of playing it because it just felt so raw. And I’m going to have to give it my all in a way that I’m like, Oh, God, it’s so close. It’s so emotionally there how this woman wrote the script that I was sobbing on the airplane after I read it. But there was part of me that was so overwhelmed by the idea of playing it because it just felt so raw.

I was almost a little bit scared because I knew how close it is to being a mother. It kind of freaked me out. I’m going to do it, but there was part of my instinct that was like, Oh, no. I can’t protect myself. This is too vulnerable of a thing to do. And then it’s like, Well, what are we, what am I supposed to do as a performer? That’s what you’re supposed to do.

And even playing Rose for Jane Campion, it wasn’t a role that I was dying to play. It’s a really old part of myself — a very insecure woman — and not a fun place to rehash and psychologically frighten yourself in a way or make yourself feel so less than, and just live in a shallow place, self-esteem-wise. But that’s also my job, too. And maybe there was a part of me that needed to relive certain things, to feel better about things, because acting can be very cathartic. I like to use these experiences almost as if I’m purging something, or like therapy between the person I’m playing and myself.

Laura: How does the wardrobe play into these roles and help you project the character, and what’s the tension like between your own wardrobe versus costumes?

Kirsten: There were significant moments of wanting Rose to look a certain way. I wanted Rose to be in pajamas or a slipping robe most of the time because when you’re that hung-over or drinking or you’re in this psychological state of being terrified of leaving your room. So, I think that shows you mentally where Rose is, and the color palette was fragile and pale like a rose. It was rose-colored.

What’s funny about fashion in real life, though, is I went from Birkenstocks and sweatpants to high heels and lashes. It’s like there’s been no in-between. When I first put on high heels for press, I was like, “No, I can’t do it. My foot doesn’t know how to do this anymore.”

Kate: We went to one thing recently, and I told Laura, I was like, “Everyone keeps saying they’re so over wearing sweatpants and they can’t wait to be dressing up.” I was like, “How long is this hair and makeup thing?” I was like, “I got to get back in these other things.” I was like, “I don’t want to stress anymore.” But we did it to see you in this film, so it was worth it!

Laura: The other day, I was just thinking about the script we’re working on together and knowing what I knew you could do, especially after seeing Power of the Dog, but also leaving room for you to do more. Kate and I also have that dynamic because we have this partnership where she surprises me, but I also know what she’s capable of. And it’s that interaction that leads to our creativity between each other and with you.

Kirsten: It takes my girlfriends to give me an opportunity that I will never get necessarily from someone who doesn’t know me. After Melancholia, I got offered all these depressing roles, and that’s kind of why I did a comedy, because that’s not exciting to me to just play the same kind of person. That’s not who I am.

I think a lot about how you don’t make many new friends after a certain age, and we hit each other in our 20s, in our early 20s. But I did think I was like, “Oh.” There are very few times, with you guys and Jesse, that I knew I would know you for the rest of my life. Laura would sleep in the bed and spend the night and help me with the babies when Jesse was gone, for the people reading this. When Jesse was working with Scorsese, no big deal; Laura was helping me on the home front.

Laura: Since you brought him up, can we talk about the dancing scene between you and Jesse? Because I know how hard it was to do that and make it not your typical version of that.

Kirsten: I feel like it was funny that I was teaching Jesse because I remember learning that simple waltz. I think when you have a new child — I have a 2-year-old — your brain just doesn’t compute; it’s half with them, somehow. It’s just, sometimes it’s harder to learn things. I had to learn the piano for this, and I put them to bed, and I’d just do it over and over.

So, learning the waltz, I felt like Jesse was somehow better than me, and I had to be reminded just when we were practicing that I could waltz as good as him even though I’m the one teaching him, which, again, I think plays into being Rose and feeling those feelings of insecurity. A love like that, it’s very old-fashioned the way they fall in love very quickly. I think they recognize loneliness in each other.

And I also felt like it’s such a delicate scene that you have to try hard not to make it too mushy or corny.

But to do a scene with Jesse, I honestly just had to look at him and the beauty of the way he says that line, “It’s just nice not to be alone.” I was just like, Wow, I better step it up. Because he’s so good; I just was so moved by it. Rose is there to open up to this man, too, in this way and to share. It was big; it was the only time you get to see their love before she goes to this house of horrors. It’s The Shining bad houses for her.

Kate: What is your biggest fear in playing roles like Rose or really, any other roles you’ve taken?

Kirsten: As an actress, or creative person, I feel like I could go to a place of feeling pretty worthless in my creativity, which is to me the ultimate, the worst feeling I could ever feel. That feeling of I will never be the artist that I truly want to be.

Laura: What keeps you in that headspace of having to make something, having to get something out of yourself?

Kirsten: I can’t settle for anything less. Within yourself, there’s a bar, and if you don’t meet that bar, especially playing someone like Rose, you just feel terrible about yourself.

Laura: You end up having a competition with yourself.

Kirsten: Yes. That’s exactly what it is. There’s a reason why they say “healthy competition,” because it’s something that drives you. So you just keep going, keep motivating you and your art and what you can push yourself as a performer or as a designer or whatever that is.

Laura: When I saw The Power of the Dog, I realized that if your performance hadn’t done what it managed to do, then I wouldn’t have left that movie completely shaken. I remember asking what you gave up to play that role and what you felt when the film wrapped?

Kirsten: I was so relieved to be done, in a way. It was so great to have Jesse there, to know exactly what I was going through with the dynamics of how the set lived, which was Benedict and me not talking to each other. My instinct was to say, “Good morning.” And I’d stop it sometimes. I was like, “No, never mind.” It was good for making the movie. And I just want to be part of making great art, and that was working with Jane.

But I’m not going to lie: At the end of the day, I was happy to go home and put on my pajamas and watch some TV and zone out. To not think about feeling bad anymore. I just wanted to fill up the tank. That’s why I also can’t work back-to-back, because I like to marinate in something.

Kate: Even though you haven’t done films back-to-back, you’ve done so much: from Interview With the Vampire to Melancholia to Virgin Suicides to Bring It On to Drop Dead Gorgeous — I could go on! A lot of these films have come up in Oscars conversation … as has Power of the Dog.

Kirsten: You mean shrimp conversation?

Laura: Yes! Our secret language is that we refer to awards as shrimp.

Kate: When we saw this film, we said, “Give Kirsten some shrimps, come on.”

Laura: I’m just curious, how do you navigate that? Because you’ve dealt with so many performances in your career that people probably look back on and they’re like, “Why didn’t Kirsten get the Oscar for that or get nominated?”

Kirsten: I got to make this film with my person, with Jesse. When does a couple get to make a movie together? That was the thing of the bygone era where couples make great films together, like Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. That’s a thing of the past.

I just am personally in a good place, so if it happens, that would be amazing. But if it doesn’t, it’s given me opportunities to have even better roles for myself and make choices that will hopefully sustain my career until I’m old.

In my mind, when I was younger and learning about film, my goal was to be part of movies that could be in the Criterion Collection. All I know is, Jane Campion, working with her is the shrimpiest thing I could have ever done. It’s like literally being part of a jewel in her crown. I’m good. I did something important to me.

Laura: We have to have one fashion question because we could talk about your movies forever! First, tell us about the costume designer you worked with on Power of the Dog.

Kirsten: Kirsty Cameron was fantastic, and there were significant moments of wanting Rose to look a certain way. I didn’t want Rose to show up at the house and look like she was spending money on new clothes. I wanted it to have the same feelings as her old clothes did, just a notch up. There’s one scene where I wear a pink shirt, a blouse, and try and look like a fancy cowgirl, but that’s also her putting on a face because she’s now become such an alcoholic, and I think that’s more about dressing up and putting on some makeup to hide what’s happening.

Laura: In watching you, when you weren’t in a scene, you were missed and it’s so there, when you miss something, I feel like it tells you a lot as a viewer about what kind of a performer is put into a film. And it’s a testament to Jane to weave and craft such a beautiful story with characters that flow in just the right way where when you take someone out, that emptiness, you’re left wondering about that person, and they come back.

Lindsay Peoples Wagner, The Cut

John / November 20th, 2021

Kirsten will be a guest on Mondays (November 22nd) edition of ‘The Kelly Clarkson Show’. The show was recorded last week & here’s a clip from it.

John / November 20th, 2021

Here’s Kirsten being interviewed by Grazia UK entertainment reporter Ogo A.

John / November 18th, 2021

Here’s Kirsten on ‘The late late show with James Corden’ last night. Part 2 is a must watch!

Part 1
Part 2

John / November 17th, 2021

Here’s Kirsten on ‘Jimmy Kimmel Live!’ last night.

John / November 16th, 2021

Here are videos of two interviews Kirsten & Jesse gave during the press junket for ‘The Power of the Dog’.

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Welcome to Kirsten-Dunst.Org, the original and largest Kirsten Dunst fansite. In a career on film and television that spans the last four decades Kirsten has made herself a name with performances in Fargo, Interview with the Vampire, The Virgin Suicides, the Spider-Man franchise and Melancholia. Online for over 20 years, we have been lucky enough to meet Kirsten in person and she is as warm, kind and beautiful as you see on screen. The site is home to over 65,000 photos. John, Jess & Marc will continue to update you with all things Kirsten Dunst. Enjoy your visit and check back with us soon!

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Next Up for Kirsten
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On Becoming a God in Central Florida
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Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos
A recently widowed, impoverished Orlando water park employee schemes and cons her way up the ranks of the multi-billion dollar pyramid scheme which ruined her financially in the first place.
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The Bell Jar
Kirsten's feature film directorial debut
Starring: Dakota Fanning, Jesse Plemons, Bel Powley
A young woman finds her life spiraling out of control as she struggles with mental illness.
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