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Kirsten Dunst stars as the wife of the disturbed son of a New York real estate millionaire in All Good Things, the tragic tale of a marriage gone bad. Inspired by a famous missing person’s case from the 1980s, All Good Things explores what may have happened to the missing woman, putting forth a version of events which show that in all likelihood she was murdered.

At the LA press day for the Magnolia Pictures release, Dunst admitted she wasn’t aware of the real missing person’s case the film is based on, but she did get to know the ins and outs of the true story while preparing for the part. She also revealed what her working relationship was like with co-star Ryan Gosling (who plays her abusive husband) and how a particularly difficult scene affected the Oscar-nominated actor.

On true crime stories:

Kirsten Dunst: “I don’t think I watch enough TV to get into it. When I sit on the couch with my grandma, we definitely get into some Law and Order and CSI and stuff, but yeah, I’m not an aficionado of true crime.”

On her opinion as to who’s actually guilty:

Kirsten Dunst: “I don’t know what happened, but yes, I think he probably killed his wife, otherwise the family would have helped find her, you know? This big corporation with all this money helped her family none whatsoever? Their daughter-in-law? Why wouldn’t they help find her?”

On her knowledge of the real story and researching the role:

Kirsten Dunst: “I didn’t know it either. Part of the reason, I think, not a lot of people knew about it is because it kind of got shoved under the rug. And also, in terms of research, Andrew did a documentary about everything that happened before. I saw that a year before we even made the film. He had gone and researched and interviewed anyone who was willing to talk about what had happened, from neighbors to anyone who was around. I also met with her brother, who’s also portrayed in the film. I had dinner at the family’s house and everything.”

On what the family told her:

Kirsten Dunst: “It’s hard. They’ve lost their family member and they never had the satisfaction of knowing anything. I think that they’re relieved, or there must be some closure somehow, to know her story’s getting out there again, in the possibility of that. I don’t know if the case could reopen. I don’t know what could happen, but I just think that I know they were happy with me playing her. I just listened to them. They’re the ones this tragedy happened to, so I didn’t ask too many questions.”

On what the family revealed that wasn’t in the script:

Kirsten Dunst: “I met what would have been her niece, and they always said, ‘Oh, she looks so much like the real woman who went missing.’ From what I can tell, it’s difficult asking family members because all they say [is] hey love their sister or whatever, she was so bright, she was so beautiful, she’d light up a room – all these things. Obviously when you’re in love and you’re glowing, and all those first feelings, I think that they’re happy with my portrayal of her, and I think it was in the script. All the things about her going to medical school, trying to make whatever happened work, I think her decisions were the way the script portrayed her and the way that I played her. I didn’t want her to be at all victimized. Every decision she made, you might think like, ‘He made that for her,’ but then I would turn it in my own mind because I really didn’t want to play it in a way that women in the audience feel like, ‘Get out of there! What are you doing?'”

On the difficulty of getting into her character’s head:

Kirsten Dunst: “It’s hard on certain subject matters because I was trying to think about this abortion scene a lot, and it was something that his character decides. ‘You’re not going to have this baby.’ So in my mind, I thought, ‘Okay. How can I make this so it can be my choice and I’m not just succumbing under his rule?’ And I thought, ‘I wouldn’t want to bring a baby into this marriage.’ It’s really not going well, I’m young enough, I can have another child with somebody else, maybe somewhere down the line, or maybe he’s just not ready right now in his life, a lot of things have happened. So I tried to not be like, cry, and playing, ‘Oh, poor me,’ because that would be really boring, and you just would feel like, ‘Just leave and have your baby.’ But she also didn’t have the means, and it was a different time, and she didn’t come from money. She couldn’t have been a single mother so easily, like we have the options to now.”

On how she would have handled the same issues her character encounters:

Kirsten Dunst: “I don’t know. That’s an enmeshment that’s so strong. I think every woman goes through the relationship where she’s with the guy that’s really not right for her and you kind of get lost in it. But I think that signs happen pretty quickly, and you can be into something that’s not the greatest for you…friends, family…but if you’re in a point where you’re married and you’re already away from your family because there’s this money, or you’re living in Vermont, and all these things – she kind of was isolated in Vermont. She didn’t have many friends or anything like that, so I think that I’d never gotten to that point of enmeshment that I couldn’t see out of it.”

Kristen Wiig normally works in comedy, but in All Good Things she handles a serious role:

Kirsten Dunst: “I loved her. Every time she came on set we’d hang out in the trailer and just laugh. I remember once we abducted Ryan [Gosling’s] dog and dressed him up and shot a bunch of pictures, and sent them back to Ryan over e-mail with all these weird messages from his dog. I had the best time with her. It was a relief, because it was such a heavy movie, so to have her around was really, really fun.”

Ryan Gosling’s creepy character kept him occupied even between takes:

Kirsten Dunst: “[…]I was also in my own world and it was just the world we lived in. The only time where it was definitely [visibly] bothering him is with the scene where he rips me up by my hair at my mother’s house. We had a stunt guy there and he was like, ‘Get her by the roots! It doesn’t hurt as much.’ But also I went with him – it wasn’t like I was pulling against him or anything, so it didn’t hurt me. But he was so upset by doing that that he sent me flowers the next day. So it was hard for him.”

On finding their groove:

Kirsten Dunst: “We had eight weeks of rehearsal, but all we did was talk and talk. We’d have separate sessions with Andrew [Jarecki] and we’d talk about these people, talk about their perspectives in the film, talk about how we can do this differently, because with different people it could definitely be a little cliché. It’s like, ‘Victimized? Why?’ It’s a dangerous ground to tread on. But Ryan and I have similar… We’re pretty immersed when we’re working, not afraid to improvise together, and we knew the people we were playing; we felt them innately. So it didn’t ever feel phony or forced in any way.”

On her upcoming film projects:

Kirsten Dunst: “I was just like, ‘You want to work with Lars Von Trier?’ ‘Oh yes, please, of course!’ I want to work with great directors. And Walter Salles I love. I’m working with him on On the Road and that shoots in a couple of weeks, my part of it. I don’t have any plan. I’m not very ‘I only want to do serious films’ or something like that. I did Upside Down too, which was romantic and fun as well, over the spring.”

On her character in On the Road and Jack Kerouac’s books:

Kirsten Dunst: “I’m playing Carolyn Cassady, the role that’s Camille in the book. […]I was a fan of On the Road, but mostly because I had a crush on a guy when I was 15 or 16, so I read the book. It’s so poetic, the way it’s written. But it’s definitely more of a masculine connection, I think, for a reader. I was more of a Sylvia Plath – I was more into the female version of that. Female roles in On the Road were smaller than the books that I’m usually interested in.”

On what she likes about where she is now as opposed to when she was a kid working in films:

Kirsten Dunst: “I think that the way I work has changed. My style of working, what I do before I do a film, and just being on a film set, I just feel so much more free and fearless than I ever have been because there’s film in the camera, or there’s tape in the camera, whatever it is we’re shooting on these days. I felt, especially after working with Lars too, a sense of anything goes, really. Of course you have to be in the right place emotionally. He would film the rehearsals, just film us walking around the room wherever we wanted, whatever we wanted to do, which can be scary for some people. But it was so exciting and just opened up a whole new way of the way things could work.”

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