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Director Lars Von Trier admitted Kirsten Dunst is a better actress than he thought when he gave her a part in his new film.

The American actress, who first found fame as a child star playing a young vampire alongside Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in ‘Interview with the Vampire’ in 1994, plays Justine in the controversial director’s Melancholia.

The film, which is in the running for the coveted Palme d’Or at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, is the story of two sisters and how they deal with the knowledge that another planet is about to crash into earth, destroying it.

Von Trier, who gave the part to Dunst after Spanish actress Penelope Cruz pulled out, said: “I think she’s one hell of an actress. She is much more nuanced that I thought and she has the advantage of having had a depression of her own. All sensible people have.”

Dunst admitted entering rehab for depression in 2008.

The film also features ’24’ star Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg, who plays Dunst’s sister.

Von Trier and some of the film’s stars will face the press tomorrow ahead of an official screening at the festival, which runs until May 22.

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