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Kirsten Dunst Actress

Kirsten Dunst

One of the leading actors of her generation, Kirsten Dunst made her name in teen films without succumbing to entrapment in the teen film ghetto. Skinny, blonde, and possessing a charmingly crooked Pepsodent smile, she has repeatedly demonstrated her talent and charisma in projects ranging from kiddie comedies to high school romances to towering summer blockbusters. Born in Point Pleasant, NJ, on April 30, 1982, Dunst first appeared in front of a camera at the age of three, when she became a Ford model and commercial actor. She continued to model and do commercials until 1989, when she made her film debut in Woody Allen's New York Stories. Her uncredited role led to a part as Tom Hanks' daughter in the infamously troubled 1990 adaptation of Tom Wolfe's The Bonfire of the Vanities. Three years later, Dunst got her first big break when director Neil Jordan chose her over 5,000 hopefuls for the role of Claudia, the child vampire in his 1994 adaptation of Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire. Dunst made a big impact on audiences and critics alike with her portrayal of a woman trapped eternally in the body of an 11-year-old, kissing co-star Brad Pitt, and gorging herself on human and animal blood. That same year, Dunst also appeared alongside Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon in Gillian Armstrong's adaptation of Little Women; the combined success of these two movies propelled Dunst to the top of the child-actor hierarchy, in terms of both bankability and exposure. Dunst followed up with a lead role in the Robin Williams action-fantasy Jumanji (1995), and lent her voice to a few animated features, including Disney's Anastasia (1997). She also had a brief but memorable turn as a refugee from a war-torn country in Barry Levinson's highly praised satire Wag the Dog (1997).

1999 marked a turning point in Dunst's career, as she began appearing in films that cast her as a young woman instead of a precocious child. She starred as a small-town beauty queen contestant in the satirical comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous and as one of two teenage girls (the other played by Michelle Williams) who unwittingly uncover the Watergate scandal in Dick, another satirical comedy. Dunst further lived up to her title as one of Teen People's 21 Hottest Stars Under 21 with her leading role as the sexually rebellious Lux in Sofia Coppola's acclaimed adaptation of Jeffrey Eugenides' novel The Virgin Suicides (1999). Her work in the film proved to be a critical breakthrough for Dunst, whom critics praised for her portrayal of the conflicted, headstrong character. Dunst subsequently did her bit for the high school comedy-romance genre, starring as a cheerleader in Bring It On (2000), and as another teen queen in Get Over It (2001); she also forsake makeup and a hairdresser for her role as the archetypal poor little rich girl in crazy/beautiful (2001), a teen romantic drama.

Subsequently cast as the actress Marion Davies in Peter Bogdanovich's The Cat's Meow, Dunst got her first shot at playing a grown woman. She garnered praise for her work in the period drama, but any notice she received was quickly eclipsed by the maelstrom of publicity surrounding her starring role as Mary Jane Watson, true love of Peter Parker in Sam Raimi's big-budget adaptation of Spider-Man. Playing opposite Tobey Maguire as the web-spinning superhero, Dunst spent a lot of the movie running around as a damsel in distress, but there was nothing distressing about the 110-million dollars the film grossed in its opening weekend, breaking new box-office records and catapulting both Dunst and Maguire into the rarefied realm of full-fledged movie stars.

 

Kirsten Dunst: Love on the Lawn

In "Wimbledon," Kirsten Dunst plays a feisty American tennis star determined to win England's storied Lawn Tennis Championships. Along the way, she puts the moves on a has-been Brit, played by Paul Bettany ("A Beautiful Mind"), inspiring him as he competes in his final tournament. At the start of their first date, Dunst's character tells him she believes a little fooling around on the eve of a big match to be good luck. Although she insists she could never be that aggressive in real life, Dunst did hit MTV News' Corey Moss with a powerful opening serve in an attempt to steer the interview toward music instead of movies.

Kirsten Dunst: All right, MTV! So can we talk about music instead of this movie?
MTV: Sure. What are you listening to?

Dunst: Right now, I like Rilo Kiley, so I'm listening to their new record. And I'm the biggest fan of Rufus Wainwright, so I always have him in. And Patty Griffin, I love her.

MTV: Good taste. So getting back to the movie — your character makes the first move, and a rather forward one at that. Did you enjoy playing such an aggressive woman?

Dunst: It's probably all guys' fantasy to have a girl be that aggressive. Honestly, it's really difficult to be that person for me, because I'm not really like that. Maybe [I am] secretly somewhere [inside and] I'm trying to let it out. ... Working with Paul, who is so charismatic, is, like, off-putting sometimes, he's just way older than me — not way older, but you know, he just has a lot more experience — and so for me it was hard sometimes to feel like the one in control. It was difficult.

MTV: Did you play tennis before?

Dunst: I played a little when I was younger, but no, not really.

MTV: Wow, all the more impressive. Are you playing more now?

Dunst: Nope. As soon as the movie was over I stopped playing tennis. I hate to admit it. I really enjoyed it while I was doing it, but then afterwards I was like, "Now that I don't have to do it, I'll be lazy."

MTV: Did you and Paul ever play each other for fun?

Dunst: We never played each other in a game, but we'd always play against each other in our warm-ups and we'd set up little games.

MTV: Who was better?

Dunst: I was better at certain things and he was better at certain things. We each had our strengths, but ultimately he had more tennis than me in the movie, so he's probably more well-rounded, but I did really get a mean backhand, I have to say.

MTV: Did your interest in doing "Wimbledon" have anything to do with it being nothing like "Spider-Man 2"?

Dunst: I actually agreed to this three years before I made it and it just happened to fall in place after "Spider-Man 2." I personally like to have breaks in between movies, because it really becomes tiring after to go from one to the next, but I had a pretty light schedule in "Spider-Man 2," so I was OK.

MTV: There's talk of you making another movie with Sofia Coppola, who directed you in "The Virgin Suicides."

Dunst: All I can say, really, is that it's Marie Antoinette [the queen who lost her head during the French Revolution] and it's pretty awesome. It's gonna be really cool.

MTV: And you're working with Cameron Crowe now in a movie called "Elizabethtown." How is that going?

Dunst: It's been the best experience for me because I haven't worked in awhile, so it's been really nice to come to work. And I'm so happy to be there, and he's so great to work with, and it's so freeing on his set. And he plays music all the time. He knows how to set a vibe.

 

Kirsten Dunst Finds Love on the Court in "Wimbledon"

Kirsten Dunst stars as Lizzie Bradbury, a promising tennis talent competing in her first tournament at Wimbledon, in the romantic comedy, “Wimbledon.” Focused and driven, Lizzie finds herself falling for a handsome British player who doesn’t stand a chance at winning the prestigious tournament. Paul Bettany co-stars as Peter Colt, the player who steals her affection.

When director Richard Loncraine and the producers set about casting the film, the first consideration was making sure the actors in the lead roles made believable tennis players. And even though Dunst had very little tennis experience, her reputation as a one of Hollywood’s most popular young actresses made her the first choice to take on the role of Lizzie. “Kirsten is one of the leading American actresses at the moment and we were lucky in that she really like the screenplay,” says producer Eric Fellner.

Did you know anything about tennis before you started this?
I had played a little when I was younger. My dad's pretty athletic and actually,
because he’s German, they really are into tennis ad so I definitely learned a little bit when I was younger. And then I hadn’t played in forever. So when I started this movie, I didn’t watch tennis, I didn’t know that much about it. I didn’t know hardly anything so I had to start from [the ground up].

Was it important to look real?
Of course, yeah. I don’t want to look like a hack out there. I mean, a lot of it’s sold in the expression and the force. But then we also had experts there standing off-camera the whole time telling me to lift it a little higher and throw the ball more to the left, or whatever it was. They were constantly there making sure it would look authentic. We had good people like Pat Cash. I mean, hello. We had great people around.

Do you have a mean streak like your character does character?
Everybody has a mean streak in them, don’t they? I don't know if it’s mean, but she’s a very angry girl. She has this doting father. Her whole entire life, it’s probably one of the loneliest jobs to just be on the tour all the time and not have any friends. Your friend is your dad all the time and yeah, I’m sure it’s [frustrating], always training. There’s a lot of anger in her.

What were you good at and bad at? How long did your training take?
I was really bad at my serve. I wasn’t so good at that. Some days I was really good and then other days- - it was never a consistent thing, my serving. I was always trying to work it out. But my backhand was really great. Everybody was like, “Wow, you have a great backhand.” I had a two-handed. I don't know. It just worked well with the way your hips are aligned. I could get that really well.

How was shooting overseas?
Well, in England they’re much more team-oriented. It’s not so much… In LA, it’s very much like a hierarchy system. Like everyone makes a big deal and we have to go to hair and makeup now. It’s just much more of a big deal and there they’re just more relaxed, and it’s about the art and making a movie. I don’t mean it like “art” but it’s much more about the filmmaking and everybody as a team instead of the movie star and whatever. Everybody’s on the same page.

Were there tea breaks?
Not on this movie. They brought out tea and cookies and sandwiches, but we kept working.
How important is it to distinguish yourself from ‘Mary Jane’?
Well, I had made a name for myself before “Spider-Man.” It’s not like that’s it. But that fulfills me in certain ways and then you’ve got to venture out and do other things, too. So I mean, I love making that movie for the reason that I make it, but then you have to venture out and do other things too.

Do you have to make a different impact now?
I don’t really worry about what I’m putting in other people’s minds though. All I worry about is when I’m on the set, how [is] that experience. That’s what I love to do. I don’t really think about I have to change other people’s perspectives of me and do a really whatever, play a killer because this way people won’t think that I’m just cute or something like that. So I just do what I am moved by and then I think that if you’re honest about that and you give a performance that people respond to, then… I try not to be just one-dimensional in movies anyway.

What was your experience working in the Wimbledon stadium?
Well, [Paul] walked on the court with all the crowds from, you know, during the games. So he had a totally different experience from me. They were filming him step out and the actual Wimbledon crowd was there cheering him on. That’s something that’s lived in him his whole childhood. Like for me, I live here and so it hasn’t been ingrained in me like it has in him. But I definitely felt the weight of this arena and it was an honor to be allowed to step on it and shoot on it. It was kind of weird in the beginning. But for him…I mean, if I had gone out there with the crowd, I probably would have cried. It just overtakes you when a whole stadium is cheering for you. It’s just really overwhelming, for sure.

Do you use your own life to get into character?
I just used myself and my feelings, but I don’t say, “I remember that time when that happened and I’m pissed.” I don’t use my life. I try to be as present as I can, and all those experiences are there because they’re in me. But I don’t think about them to use for a scene.

Did you volley with Venus and Serena Williams? What advice did they give you?
Serena was supposed to come down one of the days but she was busy practicing. They’re busy girls. They are. I mean, what I really wanted to know, and I talked to her a few times, and it just seemed like a really lonely life. I watched a match between her and her sister and I can’t imagine how complicated that must be. I really felt a lot of, like, they’re just normal really cool girls and I can’t imagine the stuff they have to go through together as a family. It must be really hard.

Could you take them?
Yeah, right. I’d be afraid. I’d be so afraid. I’d be just crouching in the corner. They’d probably kill me with their serve.

Was it challenging playing without balls?
Yeah, we did that on the aerial shots where we had to be in certain positions or [with] the camera above us. Or there’s this one crane shot where they go from Paul’s court to my court and so we had to be in certain places. I don’t have the skills to put it in the spot every time or anything like that, but I definitely would hit it for any close-up, because it’s really hard not to make contact and make it look believable. So the only times we used that, or I used that, was when it had to be specific. But otherwise, it was really not satisfying. It was really hard to pretend that.

What sort of rumblings have you heard about “Spider-Man 3?”
Rumblings? (Laughing) Well, I agreed to do three when I did the first one, so I always knew I was going to do a third movie. I know we’re probably going to shoot it next fall, fall of 2005, but I don't know anything about it yet.

There were the rumors of a separation from your mother. How is your relationship now?
That totally got blown out of proportion by the way. It was totally about just any normal mother-daughter relationship, you’ve got to separate a little bit. And they made it like, “Kirsten Dunst is separated from her mother.” I’m 22 years old. All I’m saying is that I’m doing my own thing now and that’s healthy and normal.

Did your mother push you into showbiz too early?
Obviously, I started at a very young age, but I totally enjoyed performing for people. For me, it was more like, “Well, why does a kid like performing for people?” I was really good at it, people responded to me and you love love and attention. It might not be the right love and attention, it might not be real love and attention, but I’m not angry with my mother for it. I’m compassionate and I see her side of things too. It’s different now for me and yeah, I look back and I’m like that movie, I probably shouldn’t have done it. But we were all learning. I had no strong people around me. We all were kind of naïve going into all of this stuff. It was not like we were super in the industry in any way. You’re going to make mistakes.How important is it to distinguish yourself from ‘Mary Jane’?
Well, I had made a name for myself before “Spider-Man.” It’s not like that’s it. But that fulfills me in certain ways and then you’ve got to venture out and do other things, too. So I mean, I love making that movie for the reason that I make it, but then you have to venture out and do other things too.

Do you have to make a different impact now?
I don’t really worry about what I’m putting in other people’s minds though. All I worry about is when I’m on the set, how [is] that experience. That’s what I love to do. I don’t really think about I have to change other people’s perspectives of me and do a really whatever, play a killer because this way people won’t think that I’m just cute or something like that. So I just do what I am moved by and then I think that if you’re honest about that and you give a performance that people respond to, then… I try not to be just one-dimensional in movies anyway.

What was your experience working in the Wimbledon stadium?
Well, [Paul] walked on the court with all the crowds from, you know, during the games. So he had a totally different experience from me. They were filming him step out and the actual Wimbledon crowd was there cheering him on. That’s something that’s lived in him his whole childhood. Like for me, I live here and so it hasn’t been ingrained in me like it has in him. But I definitely felt the weight of this arena and it was an honor to be allowed to step on it and shoot on it. It was kind of weird in the beginning. But for him…I mean, if I had gone out there with the crowd, I probably would have cried. It just overtakes you when a whole stadium is cheering for you. It’s just really overwhelming, for sure.

Do you use your own life to get into character?
I just used myself and my feelings, but I don’t say, “I remember that time when that happened and I’m pissed.” I don’t use my life. I try to be as present as I can, and all those experiences are there because they’re in me. But I don’t think about them to use for a scene.

Did you volley with Venus and Serena Williams? What advice did they give you?
Serena was supposed to come down one of the days but she was busy practicing. They’re busy girls. They are. I mean, what I really wanted to know, and I talked to her a few times, and it just seemed like a really lonely life. I watched a match between her and her sister and I can’t imagine how complicated that must be. I really felt a lot of, like, they’re just normal really cool girls and I can’t imagine the stuff they have to go through together as a family. It must be really hard.

Could you take them?
Yeah, right. I’d be afraid. I’d be so afraid. I’d be just crouching in the corner. They’d probably kill me with their serve.

Was it challenging playing without balls?
Yeah, we did that on the aerial shots where we had to be in certain positions or [with] the camera above us. Or there’s this one crane shot where they go from Paul’s court to my court and so we had to be in certain places. I don’t have the skills to put it in the spot every time or anything like that, but I definitely would hit it for any close-up, because it’s really hard not to make contact and make it look believable. So the only times we used that, or I used that, was when it had to be specific. But otherwise, it was really not satisfying. It was really hard to pretend that.

What sort of rumblings have you heard about “Spider-Man 3?”
Rumblings? (Laughing) Well, I agreed to do three when I did the first one, so I always knew I was going to do a third movie. I know we’re probably going to shoot it next fall, fall of 2005, but I don't know anything about it yet.

There were the rumors of a separation from your mother. How is your relationship now?
That totally got blown out of proportion by the way. It was totally about just any normal mother-daughter relationship, you’ve got to separate a little bit. And they made it like, “Kirsten Dunst is separated from her mother.” I’m 22 years old. All I’m saying is that I’m doing my own thing now and that’s healthy and normal.

Did your mother push you into showbiz too early?
Obviously, I started at a very young age, but I totally enjoyed performing for people. For me, it was more like, “Well, why does a kid like performing for people?” I was really good at it, people responded to me and you love love and attention. It might not be the right love and attention, it might not be real love and attention, but I’m not angry with my mother for it. I’m compassionate and I see her side of things too. It’s different now for me and yeah, I look back and I’m like that movie, I probably shouldn’t have done it. But we were all learning. I had no strong people around me. We all were kind of naïve going into all of this stuff. It was not like we were super in the industry in any way. You’re going to make mistakes.

 

Kirsten Dunst & Mark Ruffalo Pair Up in "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind"

Written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry, "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is one of those terrific ensemble films where every character - no matter the size of the part - plays an integral role in piecing together the story.

Mark Ruffalo and Kirsten Dunst co-star with Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkerson, and Elijah Wood in this twisted romantic story of a man (Jim Carrey) who finds out his ex-girlfriend (Kate Winslet) has had him deleted from her memory and who decides the only appropriate action would be to follow suit. Ruffalo and Dunst play two of the employees of Lacuna Inc., the company responsible for erasing memories.

MARK RUFFALO ('Stan') and KIRSTEN DUNST ('Mary') INTERVIEW:

Are there any memories of your own you’d like to have erased?
KIRSTEN DUNST: I don’t think so.
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I’m only 21 and it’s not like I have a history of
horrible things that have happened, but I don’t think I would be where I am or have the relationships that I have if I didn’t go through all the other stuff.

Is there anything in pop culture you would like to erase?
KIRSTEN DUNST: Oh, I have a few movies I’d like to erase.

MARK RUFFALO: Commercials that are geared towards kids. I think they should just, like, wipe them out.

KIRSTEN DUNST: All those disgusting commercials telling you to take pills, like “The side effects are...”

There’s a scene in “Eternal Sunshine” where the two of you jump on Jim Carrey’s bed while he’s sleeping in it. What was filming that scene like for all of you?
MARK RUFFALO: Fun, seriously fun. There was a lot of improvisation that we were allowed to do during a lot of that stuff. It was really fun and free. Michel [Gondry] just kind of says yes to everything, kind of (affecting a French accent), “Yes, it’s cool, uh yeah, you uh go over there and take her top off.”

KIRSTEN DUNST: Michel’s always trying to get me to take my top off.

Has growing up in Hollywood changed the way you view your own physicality?
KIRSTEN DUNST: It’s hard to grow up and see yourself in movies, and sometimes it’s painful to watch a movie and know where you were at that time. And it’s hard to go back, but, I don’t know. Just growing up is hard, you know? Like growing into your body.

At what point did the roles get sexier?
KIRSTEN DUNST: (Laughing) As soon as I met Mark Ruffalo. You brought out the sexuality in me.

MARK RUFFALO: Oh, thank you.

Do you find that the older you get, the more directors try to get you to play roles sexier?
KIRSTEN DUNST: I wouldn’t work with a director who’s like that’s all it was all about. I steer clear of these people.

What director would you get naked for, if the part required it?
KIRSTEN DUNST: Oh my God. I always answer this question. I said I would show my breasts for Pedro Almodovar and that’s it.

How about you, Mark?
MARK RUFFALO: I’ve already played that card.
How much did each of you access personal experiences for your characters?
MARK RUFFALO: I don’t know. I try to tend not to use those things. That doesn’t work for me, but I know the nature of those things and I use that. Who I am is a conglomeration of probably all the things that have happened to me, so somewhere along the way that works its way into the work. I think we’ve all been kind of…everyone’s been hurt, everyone’s felt loss, everyone has exultation, everyone has a need to be loved, or to have lost love, so when you play a character, you’re pulling out those little threads and turning them up a bit. But I try not to delve too much. It’s already miserable the first time, you know, but to go through it again, I just think it’s remembering the nature of something, and applying it to where you’re at in a particular script at the time.

KIRSTEN DUNST: I agree.

"Eternal Sunshine" is a very romantic tale. Are there any romantic movies that have inspired you?
KIRSTEN DUNST: Well I always liked the movies where it was like real relationships, like “Annie Hall” and “When Harry Met Sally.” Like human beings and smart women, and not just like one specific version of the same thing. And that’s why I liked the script for this. It’s a real story, you know, about a real relationship, and not some boxed version of it all.

MARK RUFFALO: I like some of the older [romantic movies]. “Splendor In The Grass” is one of my favorites. It’s just such a beautiful, bittersweet love story. I like “A Place In the Sun.” I just like these lovers who can’t, just can’t really get together, you know? I think there’s something beautiful about that.

This movie is about memories and growing up, what’s your memory of your worst summer job?
KIRSTEN DUNST: (To Mark: ) I bet you have some winners. I just know he has a good answer.

MARK RUFFALO: I had to work on a Marlin boat, like gutting fish, like as the bait boy. And I was just covered in fish guts and sh*t and blood and then I was sick all the time. Every time we went out I got sick. And I got beat up by like the first mate.

How old were you?
MARK RUFFALO: I was fifteen.

And you got beat up?
MARK RUFFALO: Yeah, for being a smart ass. I mean, it was a good thing for me.

How about you, Kirsten?
KIRSTEN DUNST: Well, I was working since I was so young, so it’s probably some movie or something like that. But yeah, I never had other summer jobs. I worked like my whole childhood, so no McDonalds.

MARK RUFFALO: They put her to work right away.
Kirsten, they’re already talking about “Spider-Man 3.” Did you sign on for all three?
KIRSTEN DUNST: Yeah, on the first, in the beginning we did. Yes.

Is anyone re-negotiating?
KIRSTEN DUNST: (Laughs) For more money?

MARK RUFFALO: You better get all you can…

KIRSTEN DUNST: I know, I’d better, but they won’t do anything. No, that hasn’t even started yet though. We have to go through the publicity for the second one first.

What can you tell us about the “Spider-Man 2” trailer?
KIRSTEN DUNST: Well, it comes at a very like intense moment between Peter and I, where it’s like all about star-crossed lovers and match-making, and the car...

Was there a real car?
KIRSTEN DUNST: No, it was all CGI. I'm sure they did something with real cars
somewhere in there.

After “Spider-Man”, the effects in “Eternal Sunshine” must have seemed old-fashioned.
KIRSTEN DUNST: We didn’t have them in our scenes so much, but [Michel Gondry's] pretty genius with some of the things that [he came] up with.

MARK RUFFALO: Yeah, it’s really his forte. I don’t know if you know, [but] the really fun one that we got to do was the long take where [Jim Carrey] brings Kate [Winslet] into Mierzwiak’s office in his memory, and he’s running around and the camera is circling the room. He had three quick changes, quick changes behind the camera, and then [he was] sitting down and doing the scene. It was all one take. The whole sequence is one take, and we rehearsed it like a play. Basically it was just a one-act play. It was like live television. It was really exciting and fun. I don’t know how audiences react, I don’t know if they think, “Oh, they must have cut away here, or they must have...” It was so much fun to do and so exciting because we got to watch it afterwards. So we rehearsed it like half the day, and then shot it six times, and that was the end of our day.

Kirsten, your character had more to do in earlier versions of the script. When did you join the project?
KIRSTEN DUNST: Yeah, they had [extra] stuff in it still and then I think they maybe thought it was too much with the other story, too. They wanted to just feel sympathetic for the main characters and not so much the other[s] I guess. My character was kind of too much, so they cut it down a lot.

MARK RUFFALO: They were going to cut our final scene.

KIRSTEN DUNST: They were, huh?

MARK RUFFALO: They tried cutting that at one point.

How did you develop your character, Mark?
MARK RUFFALO: I don’t know. I was reading it and kind of daydreaming about him, and I just had this image of this faux-hawk pompadour. That was the beginning of it and then, like, combat boots. It’s a throwback to the eighties music scene, although he’s like a technogeek. He listened to the Clash; he sits at home and plays his electric bass and plays the Clash, the “Rock the Casbah” bass line by himself. He’s just a geek.

I told Michel that [the character had a] pompadour. I was like, “I mean, we don’t have to go with the pompadour.” He was like, “Pompadour!” And he was like, “Eh, what else?” I said, “I think he’s into the Clash, you know, like Joe Strummer. He’s a big Joe Strummer fan. [Gondry said], “Ah, cool - eh,” and a couple days later he was like “Eh, it’s up to Charlie, tell him.” A [few] days later he called and said we want you to be in the movie. Charlie took some of that stuff and wrote dialogue around it. He’s a funny character.

What’s your role in ”Collateral”?
MARK RUFFALO: Undercover narcotics detective who’s hot on the trail of Tom Cruise, who’s a hit man. And my character’s really kind of a blue-collar street cop, and no one else seems to believe that Tom’s doing the killings. I kind of go out on my own after him, and I’m the good guy. Tom’s the bad guy.

Is it a big role?
MARK RUFFALO: I worked for about a month. It’s a nice, sizeable part. The entire hope of the audience is pinned on my character, and I’m in there until the very last part of the movie, figuring it out.

So it’s a big action movie?
MARK RUFFALO: Yeah, oh yeah. I mean, there’s crazy car chases, and car wrecks, and guns. It’s just Michael Mann in that genre, just doing what he does.

Can you compare it to John Woo or “The Last Castle?”
MARK RUFFALO: I don’t think I do as much as I did in “The Last Castle.” I never get to shoot my gun, which is kind of cool to be in a Michael Mann movie and never shoot.

Kirsten Dunst: Spider-Man

Kirsten Dunst is not one to shock easily as her often girlish demeanour suggests. However, on her recent trip to Australia where she conducted some early interviews for Spider-Man, she was appalled at the extent that the local media went to in prying into her private life. "One radio station DJ asked me if Tobey [Maguire] and I were bumping the uglies. I was shocked and disgusted, couldn't believe it. He thought I was prude because I didn't like the way he phrased that question." While more sedate American journalists aren't quite as candid, there remains an ongoing fascination when it comes to celebrities who feature in the kinds of blockbusters that Spider-Man clearly is. Dunst, a girlish 19, happily denies those pesky rumours about a supposedly hot affair with Spider-Man co-star Tobey Maguire, but concedes that the press has ITS job to do, and she accepts that. "They'll hopefully talk about the movie and I just look at it that way, and I know in myself what's true, so whatever, it's okay," she says, with a degree of nonchalance. Dunst remains equally ambivalent about the likely effect that Spider-Man will have on her status as a Hollywood celebrity. "I don't know what's going to happen, maybe nothing will; it's all about Spiderman, not me, so I'm very happy that it's not my face all over the billboards or anything like that so you KNOW I won't be on any cans of soda or anything like that," she adds laughingly.

It has been quite the year for the pretty former child star. She recently earned rave reviews for her very grown-up portrayal of Marion Davies in Peter Bogdanovich' s The Cat's Meow, which she is following up with Spider-Man, as the red-headed Mary Jane Watson. Both films presented the veteran young actress with varying challenges, she explains. "I was challenged emotionally with Marion Davies but challenged physically in Spider-Man and also challenged like I have never done this before like this." Not only was she challenged by the physicality of the film itself but its pre-media onslaught. "This is wild, like this much press and tours and all this craziness and if you are not getting enough good sleep and if you are sick it just drains you."

When we met at Beverly Hills' proverbial Four Seasons Hotel, Dunst, despite her seemingly good spirits, was already feeling the effect of publicising a giant Hollywood blockbuster. "I have to admit that I am pretty tired today," but with that exhaustion comes some surprising advantages, she insists. "Sometimes being overtired is a good thing because somehow you get this energy boost that is this overtired energy feeling." In order for Dunst to cope with the added pressure of starring in and promoting a big movie, means "drinking a lot of diet coke and coffee so I can stay awake for you."

Dunst has been making movies since she was 10 years old, and knew something of the strange world of shooting special effects films thus having "had a little bit of that acting-to-nothing experience before" thus she knew what she was getting in for. However she received very little training. "They gave me like an hour of training the day before I was going to do it, so it was pretty much a matter of jumping right into it. That is actually kind of a good thing because then you don't build up this thing in your head of: Oh God, and it just becomes more of a big deal."

In Spider-Man, Dunst plays Parker's seemingly popular next door neighbour, who comes from a tough home and brutal father, and who has idealistic ambitions to be an actress and better herself. Dunst has always felt that the character was something of a role model for young girls, arguing that in her own way, she wanted to create a superhero "in her, because she is really not that, but starts out in the beginning to not really accept herself but rather accept the things that are happening to her. So she puts up a lot of masks, pretending she is happy when really she is having a hard home life. The only person she is really vulnerable to is Peter Parker and I think he brings that out in her even while she dates a lot of guys that aren't really good for her. I am kind of disappointed in Mary Jane for that but she learns her lesson and I think that by the end she is going to be on the right track and accept becoming a woman and secure in who she is." Dunst understand Mary Jane, she says, and to some extent, identifies with the character's struggles. "I was much more open with my friends than she was; If I was upset I would be upset. I didn't really have a hard home life like Mary Jane but I could relate to making bad decisions with boyfriends and learning this and that," she says amidst a nervous laughter. As to relating to Mary Jane's struggles to be an actress, Kirsten says "I would rather have started out when I did, than to start out now because I think it's a little more ruthless and competitive as you get older, so I think that I'm happy that I got that done in the early days."

In those 'early days' Dunst was one of Hollywood's most appealing child stars, having appeared in the likes of Interview with the Vampire, Little Women and Jumanji, before seguing into young adolescent roles from Small Soldiers to Strike and to recent, mature work in Virgin Suicides and the acclaimed crazy beautiful. It seems like it was a seamless transition. "I've obviously been pretty lucky with the movies that I've done. Even if it was a teen film, people seem to have gotten more out of it than other ones, so I've been lucky and blessed; it's about making smart choices and being proud of what you're doing which I think shows and shines through. So even if you're in a movie that's not that successful, like Crazy Beautiful, at least that helped me a lot within the industry and people really respected it. Girls really like loved the film and that's what really matters to me."

Dunst is equally passionate about Cat's Meow, hardly a blockbuster, but the perfect career move for the actress who plays a character older than herself, admitting "that it's definitely my first grown up role". Playing William Randolph Hearst's much younger mistress meant kissing her much older co-star Edward Herrmann. "It was really gross. I mean Ed's a wonderful man, but it was like kissing my own dad; it was really uncomfortable." Clearly kissing young Tobey Maguire - even upside down - was more pleasurable. "I'd kiss Tobey any time", she laughingly adds.

Kirsten Dunst stars in "Spider-Man 2"

Kirsten Dunst looked delightful as she arrived to talk about Spider-Man 2, the sequel to the original box office hit. Arriving in a short, black, mini-skirt, the perpetually good-humoured actress, begins by emphasising that after she wraps Spider-Man 3 early next year, as far as she is concerned, it is Spidey no more. "The next one will be it. I'm only contracted to 3 and don't see myself signing for a 4th or a 5th," says Dunst, emphatically. Asked if she would love to see her Mary Jane character killed off in Spider-Man 3, Dunst laughs. "It would actually be really interesting if SPIDER-MAN died. Why doesn't the superhero ever die? I think if Mary Jane was alone, pregnant and he died, she could give birth to a spider baby and carry on the series with another young boy or something like that. I doubt Tobey would come back for a 4th or a 5th either." She's only kidding, really! "I don't know what will happen in the third movie. I hope she doesn't die. I just think that's kind of an obvious way to go; we have to end it, so let's just kill her. I just think three's a good number. Mary Jane is a huge, important piece of this film as it's all about the love story. How many movies can you really make about it before you want to stop it while it's still great? You don't want to keep going."

Though Dunst was already an established star prior to Spider-Man's release two years ago, Dunst says that she has changed to some extent. "It's been two years since the last movie so of course, when anybody goes from 18 to 22, you change a lot." Dunst says that the huge success of first movie did not impact on her personally. "Now, I'm known worldwide, I guess. I can finance movies - money, and production when you think of it that way, so that's changed a lot for me. Now, it's not a question whether I can get whatever people to come and see a movie that I'm in, so that all helped me and I get paid more now too," she adds laughingly. There is also the recognition factor that Dunst has had to contend with. "More people recognize me and I live in LA where everybody's too cool to come up to you anyway, but talk about you behind your back and gossip about you in Los Angeles." Dunst says that she deals with her post-Spider-Man celebrity a bit differently than before that movie came out. "I just have to be more conscious about security. I have all fencing up and everything, but it's something that isn't engrained in my head."

These days, the public's insatiable fascination with celebrity has certainly impacted on her private life and her relationship with actor Jake Gyllenhaal. "The paparazzi follows us everywhere in L.A. It's really sickening actually, such as in the grocery store. And we don't do anything interesting either, so it's really obnoxious." She says that she deals with it by refusing to get angry and choosing to ignore it, "but we were at the dog park one day, we bought eggs and everybody at the dog park was throwing eggs at the paparazzi so that was perfect." What was not perfect was that at one stage, Spider-Man star Tobey Maguire had to pull out of the franchise due to much-publicised back problems, and his replacement may well have been Gyllenhaal. "That was really a complicated time of course. I'm just so thankful that Tobey ended up doing the movie because he is Spider-Man and it wouldn't have been good. I think Jake can do any movie because I think he's one of the best young actors and he probably would've done an amazing job." Dunst admits, however, that working with her boyfriend under those circumstances "would have been weird. I mean, I would like to work with him but I'm happy it wasn't this, because I would rather do a more intimate movie with him where I could actually have many scenes with him. If we had done this, we could probably have never done another movie together."

Spider-Man 2 further explores the complex relationship between Peter parker and Mary Jane, while the former continues to find a balance between normalcy, responsibility and heroism, leading to some major plot surprises. Without giving too much away, Dunst predicts more surprises regarding their relationship, in the third instalment. "It will be complicated because if they do get together, he would be basically risking his life everyday and she's probably worried about him risking his life while in danger, so it adds all kinds of other layers of complication."

On Spider-Man 2, Dunst says there are definite advantages of reprising a character the second time around. "I feel like all my relationships develop so much more on this one and just felt more comfortable. Sam and I got to know each other better, I change a lot from how I was in the first movie, how I approached my work and my relationships with them. I also felt that I could be more creative and open."

Asked why these particular comic book films have succeeded where so many have failed, Dunst says "I think it's what the film is. It's this guy, who every man and every person can relate to, because he hasn't gotten it all figured out, he has this huge burden and he's kind of a darker, more complicated mystery with him. It's really sad and complicated and I think that's why people respond to him so well because he is the most human out of any superhero character." Also admitting that the movie is also very empowering for women because her character gets to make a choice, Dunst says that it important in relationships to stand up in that way, as she does in her own life. "Of course I think it's something you have to learn. With any woman, or man, you always want something that's not good for you and everybody does it. It's something that I've learned and of course I'd stand up for myself."

As physically daunting it was to shoot Spider-Man with wires and harnesses, she says that her next film, the romantic comedy Wimbledon, was tougher. "That was more physical than Spider-Man 2 and actually, romantic comedies are the hardest to do. It's just hard to not dig into it too much. I mean, it's so much easier to make a dramatic scene I work and just hard to be in that momentum of love everyday when sometimes, you're in a horrible mood. Some of the words are sometimes hard to say. But it's an adorable movie, just hard to keep those romantic scenes fresh and feeling great and fun on take 40. It's hard to keep that freshness of flirting when you're on take 20 with a different person's close-up, yet you're still delivering these lines that are cute and you have to be sexy."

Before Dunst starts work on herb final Spider-Man adventure, she will shoot Cameron Crowe's Elizabethtown. "That's a hard movie to talk about, because we just started and Cameron's very private and I know to respect him that I'm not really going to talk about it yet." Dunst refuses to even delve into the kind of character she is to play in that top-secret film. "It's so early for me. I'm just rehearsing and am still figuring her out for myself so it's not something that I even feel comfortable talking about."

Dunst says that she yearns to work with Pedro Almodovar, and would even do a nude scene for him, "because he would be so tasteful. I just love Talk to Her and thought it was beautiful."

At a mere 22, Dunst is a true Hollywood veteran, who has appeared in close to 40 films. A far cry from the cute kid and teenager we remember, Dunst is focussed on her work and her life. After Spider-Man 2, Dunst says that she continues to learn something new from every film experience. "You know what's funny? Sometimes, three years from now, I realize why I did the movie and why this and this. When I read a script, I don't even realize why I sometimes feel connected to this role or why I should play it until later on when I've discovered something else about my life or my relationship with someone. Sometimes, it happens later why I did that particular movie."

 

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