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Kirsten Dunst, Elle Fanning and Sofia Coppola are on cover of Dazed Magazine’s summer issue. You can buy a copy of the most recent issue here.

About two thirds of the way into The Beguiled, Sofia Coppola’s new American civil war-set gothic western, something happens: the sexual tension that’s been simmering at an all-girls boarding academy crescendos into something explosive, throttling the film into a barbarous and gruesome third act. It is the great cinematic moment that pivots the story away from what you think it’s going to be towards something unthinkable, where nothing short of life and death hangs in the balance. But you try telling Kirsten Dunst and Elle Fanning that.

“Elle was doing booty dance moves upstairs and we were just out of control,” recalls Kirsten Dunst, who stars as Edwina, the forlorn and innocent schoolteacher to Elle Fanning’s more scheming and lustful student, Alicia. “We were just having too much fun in those nightgowns.”

“I remember the day!” Fanning chimes in. “We were both upstairs, and it’s a huge scene in the movie, where we’re all terrified and upset. But we were just being so ridiculous.”

“And I remember Sofia just looked at me and said, ‘Kirsten! He may be dead.’ I was like, ‘Oh yeah!’” The two of them burst into laughter, a riot of giggling that barely, if ever, drops below a dull roar.

It’s almost hard to believe that The Beguiled, a remake of a 1971 film starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page, marks the first time Dunst and Fanning have appeared in a film together. Each has been a muse to Coppola before – this marks Dunst’s fourth picture with the director, and Fanning’s second – but if they have their way it will be the first of many. Though the two had been acquainted through Coppola and other friends over the years, they found a rare closeness working amid the dusty antebellum plantations outside New Orleans. At times, to hear them talk about their newfound friendship is so extraordinary that it borders on the supernatural.

“Kirsten and I turned to each other on set one day and we were like, ‘I love you.’ And then we were like, ‘We love each other!’” Fanning says. “It’s so funny, because we were both child actors and we share certain similarities (in) the way that other people see us. But also our personalities complement each other in such a way that we were like, ‘Our souls are connected.’”

“You never find that,” Dunst concurs. Here, the two actresses speak about their special bond, industry expectations, working on a female-dominated set, and carving out their own paths as two of independent cinema’s most magnetic performers.

When did you first become aware of one another’s work?

Elle Fanning: The Virgin Suicides was, and still is, one of my favourite movies. I have a Virgin Suicides poster on the wall in my bedroom. And Marie Antoinette I saw in the theatre. I was off somewhere with my grandma and I had seen that it was coming out and really wanted to see it. But I was young at the time. And I think my grandma was like, ‘Hmm… Is she old enough to be seeing this?’ I remember there was a sexy scene and my grandma covered my eyes!

Kirsten Dunst: Oh, my.

Elle Fanning: And remember the scene where they’re undressing you, in the beginning? I was like, ‘OH MY GOD!’ because it was probably the first time I had ever seen a naked person in a movie. (Kirsten laughs) It was your butt!

Kirsten Dunst: That’s hysterical! I had no idea. I met Elle through Dakota. But I remember first seeing her in The Door in the Floor because she was so cute and so good as a little thing! And then I saw her in Somewhere and I just felt like she was so natural and magnetic to watch. She’s just so in touch with her emotions and not afraid to express them or be embarrassed by them. It felt so authentic, and that’s hard to get.

How did The Beguiled come to you both?

Kirsten Dunst: For me, it was a process of a few years. I remember Sofia being like, ‘I’m thinking of remaking this movie. Have you seen it?’ And she said, ‘Here’s the book.’ I mean, she had her dream cast and she told it to me, but there was definitely back-and-forth until it solidified.

Elle Fanning: When she told me, it was closer to when we actually started to shoot. She had emailed me and been like, ‘Hey, here’s this.’ She sent me the script and said that Kirsten wanted to play Edwina. Kirsten and I had met by then, but we weren’t as close as we’ve now become. And then I saw Kirsten and I remember (us saying) how we both wanted to do it together. I don’t know about you, but when Sofia comes to you with a film, I’m like, ‘YES!’

Edwina is sort of sheltered and innocent, whereas Elle’s character, Alicia, is more conniving. How different is the dynamic between Edwina and Alicia from the one between Kirsten and Elle?

Both: (laughing) Very.

Elle Fanning: I would stare at Kirsten’s face during a scene, and I just couldn’t. I’d be like, ‘I can’t look at you’ because normally our characters would have been – it’s not like they’re rivals, exactly, but Edwina is Alicia’s teacher!

Kirsten Dunst: I always thought that Elle’s character was like the naughty girl that got sent to our school to be reformed because she was a sexual deviant.

Elle Fanning: I would stare at Kirsten’s face during a scene, and I just couldn’t. I’d be like, ‘I can’t look at you’ because normally our characters would have been – it’s not like they’re rivals, exactly, but Edwina is Alicia’s teacher!

Kirsten Dunst: When I have friends or family come visit me on set, I get very self-conscious because they know me so well. And the more Elle and I got to know each other, the more we became friends. We even had a few sleepovers during filming. So when you have to act in front of your friend you get really self-conscious. And then, add a bunch of inside jokes to that on set and you’re screwed. Nicole (Kidman) would be like…

Elle Fanning: ‘What are you guys laughing about?!’

Kirsten Dunst: She would just laugh at Elle.

Elle Fanning: ‘She’s so giggly!’ And that would make us explode. We would just explode.

Kirsten Dunst: Even Sofia would lose it sometimes. It’s hard not to when you’re on set with a bunch of women who are also friends. You’re bound to have too much fun sometimes.

What was it like being on set in that antebellum mansion?

Elle Fanning: Even though the shoot was fast, it felt like we were there for a long period of time. My mom normally goes with me to set, so this was the first time I went alone. Once you turn 18, you don’t have to have anyone with you. It was kind of special, in a weird way – like going off to college, the first time leaving home and having that experience. And my mom knows Sofia and Kirsten, so she felt comfortable. I felt very independent.

Kirsten Dunst: I think my first one was a movie called The Cat’s Meow, and not only did my mom not have to go, but I was in Germany by myself. So mine was a semester abroad type of feeling. But I was with adults. If I’d had Elle with me, we would have gotten into a lot of trouble. I spent a lot of time alone in my hotel room because I didn’t have a friend.

Elle Fanning: I feel like New Orleans has, like, spooky vibes too.

Kirsten Dunst: Yeah.

Elle Fanning: We had that weird cab experience…

What was the weird cab experience?

Kirsten Dunst: Oh, you tell it.

Elle Fanning: I was just scared out of my mind, but Kirsten was totally fine.

Kirsten Dunst: We were in an Uber…

Elle Fanning: …and the Uber drove up to another cab and exchanged thousands of dollars. In cash!

Kirsten Dunst: This is in broad daylight. The cab pulled up to another cab and they started yelling at each other, and he was like, ‘You owe me! You owe me!’ For a second I thought to myself, ‘What the hell is going to happen?’ Then I looked over and Elle looked frightened, like maybe a gun was going to get pulled. And then I thought to myself, ‘OK, these are two professional cabs, I think we’re OK.’ But then the guy doesn’t get out of the cab, leans over the passenger front seat and gives him over a thousand dollars in cash. We were like, ‘We’ll get out here!’ (laughs)

Both of you started out in the industry as kids and grew up around film sets, and you’ve both had graceful transitions into adult roles. Do you see yourselves in one another at all?

Kirsten Dunst: There’s definitely a kindred spirit, soul-mate thing that I feel with Elle. But Elle is more confident than I was at 19. Maybe I had more of a people-pleasing thing. Maybe that was the way I grew up, I really don’t know.

Have you given Elle any advice?

Kirsten Dunst: Listen, Elle is doing a great job. I don’t need to tell her anything. I’ve told her before, ‘Watch these movies.’ I wrote her a list of great female performances that she should watch. The way I’ve always navigated is just to wait. Don’t do a movie just to do a movie. Go with your gut and try not to get pressured into things. Of course, that happens to all of us. Everybody will say, ‘Well, look at these elements. But it’s a lot of money and it’s only six weeks.’ And I say, ‘Yeah, but I don’t really care because it’s part of my body of work and what I choose.’ Because actually other directors and actors want to work with you based on your taste and what you’ve chosen. You’ve really got to cultivate your own career path, because you can have all the agents and managers in the world telling you what to do but at the end of the day, it’s your taste and it’s what you want to express and the kind of movies you want to see.

What’s remarkable about you, though, is that you’ve never been typecast. Were you always wary of falling into that trap?

Kirsten Dunst: My friend Simon Pegg wrote a part for me once and the studio wouldn’t let me play it because they said ‘She’s not a comedy name.’ Meanwhile, I made (cult cheerleader comedy) Bring It On. So, this happens all the time. You always have to re-prove yourself in some weird way and it’s frustrating. Hollywood has a very short-term memory. It really does.

Elle Fanning: Well, when I think of all of my favourite movies, Kirsten is in those movies. She just makes the best choices, like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which is such an amazing movie. All of the films she’s in are so different, like Melancholia. I’m so excited for (Rodarte founders Kate and Laura Mulleavy’s directorial debut) Woodshock!

Kirsten Dunst: I’m so excited. But also, on Eternal Sunshine, I was not Michel (Gondry)’s first choice. I had to fight for that role. Even though I was dying to be in it because the script was incredible, he wasn’t like, ‘You have the role,’ do you know what I mean? But now Elle is getting to work with John Cameron Mitchell (on How to Talk to Girls at Parties) – I’m so excited to see that. I love Hedwig and the Angry Inch, that was one of my favourite movies. I think Elle is making the right choices. She’s getting in with the right people and those relationships will never go away. And that’s really what this industry is based on. Elle doesn’t have vanity; everything is about the work. The way that Elle handles herself is what I fell in love with. And she’s also one of the funniest people… She needs to do a comedy.

Elle Fanning: People just don’t know.

What has Sofia’s reaction been to watching this friendship grow between the two of you?

Kirsten Dunst: She loves it! Right, Elle? Sofia is like our third. We all have our little inside jokes because we’ve both known Sof for a while, too. There’s a familiarity there. Remember when we shot that thing on set?

Both: Girls Gone Wild?

Elle Fanning: Girls Gone Wild: Civil War Edition! We have some really good videos of it. We should have done more. We would run up to the camera and flash our ankles.

Kirsten Dunst: And the craft service had red Solo cups so it looked like everyone was drinking alcohol on set. We were running with the Solo cups in our hands, in our costumes, in the field, and then we would run up to Sofia and bare our ankles.

Elle Fanning: It was cool for me because I was 11 when I did my last film with Sofia. Obviously, we stayed in touch and we would see each other, but I feel like she saw me in a different light too. On Somewhere, I felt like Sofia was more like a big sister, but on The Beguiled I felt like we became girlfriends. That was a neat transition for me, because I’ve never had that transition into friendship.

Kirsten Dunst: And you know, that even happened to me, Elle. On Marie Antoinette I was a lot younger, like 23 or 24. And on Virgin Suicides I was 16. So I’ve always looked up to Sof as a sort of older sister and we became better and better friends, and on The Beguiled we became better friends than we’ve ever been.

Has working with Sofia changed at all?

Kirsten Dunst: On The Virgin Suicides we did a lot of similar work prior to shooting, where we would get together as a family, cook breakfast and play games. On this movie we had Bible study, cooked breakfast together, and learned dances. So that’s very similar. She’s intuitively on it. We’re very much in tune with what we know is necessary for the role and the scene, so we don’t have to discuss it a tonne. What do you think, Elle?

Elle Fanning: It’s about every single element, and no one element is any more or less important than the other. Everything is equally important. That’s why her movies look so amazing – it’s the design, the lighting… Everything comes together to make a Sofia Coppola film, which is unique. It’s not just the acting. She is involved in every single decision and detail to make it look the way she wants. Even the table reads are beautiful. Everyone had a place card with their name inscribed on it in old-fashioned calligraphy like in the civilwar period, with the scripts which had pink flowers all around them. Even something like that gets you in the mood and sets you up for what filming is going to be like. And every day we’d get dressed up in our corsets, and all the layers, which puts you in the mindset immediately.

Kirsten Dunst: And she has all her friends there. She always has her friends working with her, and that’s the dream.

This could be the beginning of a powerful on-screen duo. If you were to be in another movie together, what sort of movie would you like it to be?

Both: A comedy!

Elle Fanning: I feel like we’ve already thought about what it should be.

Kirsten Dunst: We had a couple of ideas. I was thinking of a Death Becomes Her-type of movie. You know, where they’re having so much fun together but they’re playing people that hate each other, and because they really love each other the chemistry’s just off the charts. So we need something where we play enemies. Either that, or she plays an actress and I’m her minder who comes with her and together we get into a lot of trouble. What do you think about that, Elle?

Elle Fanning: You can be my chaperone.

Kirsten Dunst: Exactly.

The Beguiled is in UK cinemas from July 14

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  • I can’t wait for “The Beguiled”. Elle, Kirsten, Nicole and Colin in the same movie… #RIPme