KIRSTEN DUNST is back with her surrogate big sister, Sofia Coppola. The pair are more than just tight. Dunst has known the director since she was 16, more than half her life, when she starred in Coppola’s first feature, 1999’s The Virgin Suicides.
She’s since played the lead in Marie Antoinette and herself in The Bling Ring. ‘That’s a very long relationship, friendship-wise — and life-wise,’ says Dunst. ‘I would do anything for Soph.’
Now she’s a Civil War-era schoolteacher in Coppola’s latest, The Beguiled, alongside Nicole Kidman. We meet in Cannes — where the 35-year-old blonde previously won best actress for her role in Melancholia. Sporting a long-sleeved green Gucci dress, she is trim. ‘I’m actually very bad — I do not diet,’ she says. ‘I was like, “I’m going to get good for Cannes!” and I didn’t have bread for a few days, then it all went wrong on the plane.’
She’s jetted in to support The Beguiled, which — a few days after our encounter — sees Coppola become only the second woman in Cannes to win best director. Based on Thomas P Cullinan’s novel, it’s a beautifully shot tale of a wounded Union soldier who takes shelter in an all-girls school and ignites passions. Colin Farrell stars as the lusty trooper.
Dunst’s ‘very repressed’ character Edwina falls hardest for him. ‘I wouldn’t have let me him manipulate me like that,’ laughs Dunst, who points out that Farrell was actually objectified by his female co-stars. ‘He was such a good sport about it, though. He knew when we had the shots of him sweating, cutting down branches, all of his romance-novel moments.’ A Colin Farrell calendar was even suggested. ‘Yeah, we definitely have pictures for that,’ laughs Dunst.
Tomorrow night is the premiere. ‘My fiancé is here and we’ll have fun,’ says Dunst, referring to Jesse Plemons, her co-star from Fargo season two, in which they played a married couple mired in murder and mayhem. She also dated Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, and Razorlight front-man Johnny Borrell. But she seems ecstatic now; Plemons is clearly ‘the one’. Already, she’s stated its time ‘for babies and chill’ — suggesting she wants to take her A-List career down a notch.
Is marriage something she holds dear? ‘I don’t think we need to get married,’ she answers. ‘It’s up to the couple.’
Born in New Jersey, Dunst started modelling aged three before moving into movies — notably opposite Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in 1994’s Interview With A Vampire. It was her first real brush with fame. ‘It was strange,’ she reflects. ‘People thanked my mom for giving birth to me, things like that.’ Later, she played Mary-Jane opposite Maguire in the Spider-Man films.
Dunst has been open about her struggles with depression — something brought on by the pressures of being in the spotlight. After checking into the Cirque Lodge rehab facility in 2008, she gained plaudits for highlighting a disease many are often embarrassed to talk about.
‘Bravery is just being true to yourself,’ she says. ‘We all have our weird things in our brain that the older we get we have to break out of.’
She plans to make her directorial debut with The Bell Jar, Sylvia Plath’s novel about mental illness.
‘It was my favourite book growing up,’ says Dunst, who will direct her friend Dakota Fanning in the lead. The script is in a re-write phrase. ‘I’m very patient in the projects I pick,’ she says. ‘I don’t feel I have the world at my fingertips whatsoever.’
The Beguiled opens Friday