Kirsten Dunst: “Being great”

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This article is published in number 48 of Vanity Fair on newsstands until November 30, 2021

Place your hands on the temples of the sunglasses she wears, as if to protect her face from prying eyes; the body is covered with a silk shirt buttoned up to the neck and a rather long pleated skirt. Those who have always been exposed to the curiosity of others have their own ways of hiding. When she was three, Kirsten Dunst was a Ford model. Woody Allen put it in his triptych New York Stories who was seven, and at 12 was surrounded by Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in Interview with the vampire. The rest is history, including the coconut cake Cruise sends her every year at Christmas ever since. She tells me that the previous night she woke up at three in the morning from jet lag. And that she hardly ever slept at night for the first four and a half months of the life of James Robert, the second child she had last spring with actor Jesse Plemons. She is beautiful, with the traces of motherhood she still has on her. And we missed, if you think that we haven’t seen her for more or less three years, she who has about eighty films under her belt. She says she too has this feeling, that she has been far away, and that it is strange to “hear herself spoken”.

She returned with the role of Rose in Jane Campion’s excellent western, The power of the dog, in these days at the cinema and from December 1st on Netflix after the debut in competition at the last Venice Film Festival. Based on Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel and set in 1925, it tells the story of the two Burbank brothers, the charismatic and angry Phil (a divine Benedict Cumberbatch) and the accommodating and submissive George (played by Jesse Plemons himself). Very different from each other, the two have found a balance that Dunst’s character blows up, in an atmosphere of envy, toxic loves and repressed sexuality.

“The power of the dog” is an expression that comes from a Psalm of the Bible, “free my soul from the sword and my love from the power of the dog”. The New Zealand director chose her to tell a visceral passion and give us a very special erotic tension. “Jane has a very, very intriguing mind, her own way of talking about a certain sexuality. Between Holy Smoke e Piano lessons, we had understood: everything seems very “raw”, poised between tension, immobility, vitality and even anger ».

Rose, her character, has a sexuality that is not openly explored. What are the needs and desires of this woman who lives isolated and in relationship between two brothers?
“As long as she lived her life and ran her own business, she was very confident. When he moves to the Burbank ranch, the psychological torture begins. She has no one to share her needs and desires with, she’s not even sure she can talk about that kind of subject. Try to keep your head up and make the best of everything, against the backdrop of a truly unhappy era for women. “

He is describing a situation of isolation. How do you manage loneliness?
“Being an actress means that you spend a lot of time alone, in hotels, or at home without specific plans. I believe that some types of brains, such as those of actors and writers, can handle moments of isolation such as those imposed by a quarantine better than those who need to go out all the time and see people ».

Of course, two children will have changed this habit of loneliness …
«Yes, now I don’t have time, now I experience the most lasting loneliness when I sleep!».

Does a child make you more courageous, creatively speaking?
“I felt that way with the birth of my first child. What people think of you becomes secondary, it doesn’t matter anymore. The most self-conscious parts of oneself, even thinking about oneself, almost vanish ».

The man she meets in the film is her real husband.
“We fell in love on a set and have already made other films together. The special thing was being able to be both in a Jane Campion film: being a couple already in love who falls in love on the screen and in such a beautiful way ».

Is Jesse the man he looks like? The right one to start a family with?
“If you notice, he always has a deeply rooted presence in his films: he is a kind man and his is such a good soul that it also shines through in his acting. He can go through some bad times too, for heaven’s sake; but he remains a good man ».

Two internationally renowned actors with two children: how did you deal with the pandemic?
“With travel and all the kids and I haven’t seen Jesse for a while, and he hasn’t seen our youngest in over a month. There is nothing we can do about it, it is the nature of our professions. Last year there were three of us in Australia shooting the film we’re talking about. We rented a house outside Auckland so that our son could spend time outdoors. Then I got pregnant for the second time, during Covid. In the worst moments of the pandemic, many have let themselves go. Fortunately, it wasn’t my case. Expecting a child helps keep your head on your shoulders. ”

In the film, the character played by Benedict Cumberbatch shows how easily one can influence a more sensitive, vulnerable person and enter their psyche. Have you met people like that?
“It is something we all know, we are talking about experiences that we have all lived on our skin. Let us remember when we were twenty and associated with people who did not do our good … You have to come to understand it. It happens in everyone’s life ».

Are there those who are more exposed than others, as in your case?
“Do you say this because I was already working when I was three? I believe I have experienced the dangers of life as much as anyone else. They tried to control me, sure; but it is an experience that is part of the growth of each of us ».

Do you grow a distance between yourself and things?
“I’m a pretty easy going person, and working in show business for a long time has taught me not to surprise myself any more and to prevent people from affecting me negatively. I try to see the best in every situation, also because life is short ».

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