This year at Cannes, the person who squirmed sitting next to Lars von Trier at his notorious “Melancholia” Cannes press conference, during which the Danish writer-director offended just about everybody by calling himself a Nazi, was his star, Kirsten Dunst. In the days to follow he apologized repeatedly for the “stupid, idiotic” comments that led to his banishment from the festival.
But he also had to repair the damage he had done to his relationship with Dunst. “It was probably harder on her than anyone else,” Von Trier told me the night he was going to meet her for a makeup dinner.
Putting balm on the wound was the closing night ceremony, when Dunst gratefully accepted the best actress Palme, thanking the festival for allowing “Melancholia” to stay in competition. Afterwards she said that she should not have been punished for von Trier’s “inappropriate” comments. Nor should she. “Melancholia” starts off with Dunst’s lavish castle wedding, destroyed by the beautiful bride’s plunge into depression, followed by how she and her family deal with a planet hurtling toward a possible collision with Earth. “Melancholia” might have had a shot at the Palme d’Or won by “The Tree of Life” had it not been overshadowed by von Trier’s misbehavior. (More details on the film and a sampling of reviews are here.)
By the time of our video interview below, Dunst, who had already weathered a Cannes controversy with Sofia Coppola’s “Marie Antoinette,” had clearly forgiven her director. She was sorry to have missed a celebratory party, and clearly has learned to measure her words carefully with the media. After all, she’s been working in high-profile films since 1994’s “Interview with the Vampire” at age 12. And she’s happy to carry the promo load on “Melancholia”–as Von Trier has refused to give any more interviews. “Maybe that’s not a bad thing,” she says, laughing.
Working with Von Trier, contrary to previous reports, was “not difficult,” she says. Both had experienced depression; he opened up to her and earned her trust, she sys: “I couldn’t feel so vulnerable if I didn’t feel taken care of by Lars.”
Dunst admits that she got off easy on this one, compared to what Charlotte Gainsbourg had to do on “Anti-Christ.” She worried about her parents seeing her magnificient nude display, but her father told her it was “artistic.” “Only Lars and Pedro Almodovar write these incredible, messy roles for women,” she says. Even the department heads on the film were women: “He needs nurturing.” She would happily work with Von trier again–along with Almodovar and Michael Haneke.
While she has been heading in an indie direction since leaving the “Spider-Man” franchise, “I’m not an indie intense person at all,” she insists. In fact, she’s now shooting a dark indie comedy with Isla Fisher, “Bachelorette,” based on rookie director Leslye Hedland’s play. “We’ve lightened it,” she says. In January Dunst starts another indie adapted from the stage, Adam Rapp’s bleak drama “Red Light Winter, ” which the NYT called “a frank, graphic story of erotic fixation and the havoc it can wreak on sensitive souls.” The movie will co-star Mark Ruffalo and Billy Crudup.
Melancholia hasn’t just brought actress Kirsten Dunst critical acclaim, but also the coveted Best Actress Award at Cannes. In the conclusion of our interview, Kirsten discusses the experience of working with controversial director Lars Von Triers, how she unwinds from such a challenging role and her relationship with REM.
EXAMINER: When you work with a director that doesn’t do a lot of rehearsals, how does that affect your process?
KIRSTEN: Every film set is a totally different energy. You don’t know what everyone’s going to be like and you kind of have to work within what you’re given. Also, I do a lot of preparation before I start a movie. So, it gave me a lot of freedom actually. I appreciated it. Being on Lars’ set is the best film school in the world.
EXAMINER: Do you do a lot of research before you do a role?
KIRSTEN: Not research, but as I said it before, it’s almost like therapy between me and who I’m playing.
EXAMINER: With a role that’s so dark, is there a lightness when the cameras aren’t rolling?
KIRSTEN: I was playing Angry Birds in my trailer (laughs). You’ve got to. You have to self-preserve. That’s part of it, too. You don’t have to sit there and be depressed to play depressed. Actually, you should be in a good place to play depressed, I think. We moved pretty swiftly, too, so there was definitely momentum. Lars has a great sense of humor, too. He’d yell out “Stop acting.” So, it was a very heavy thing and I’d have to prepare, but making a movie doesn’t have to be drudgery, just because of the subject matter. There was a lot of lightness, too.
Sisters confront each other in the face of a possible apocalypse in Lars Von Trier’s Melancholia. Kirsten Dunst stars as Justine, a young woman struggling with depression. Kirsten recently took a few moments to discuss the film, her own bout with the disease and the next phase in her acting career.
EXAMINER: The movie involves a character facing the end of the world. Does she know the end is coming?
KIRSTEN: I don’t think that Justine knows the end of the world is coming when she’s at her wedding. I think that there’s something she senses, but I don’t think that’s what makes her depressed. I think that she’s gone through this a few times in her life. The wedding and the pressure of getting married and realizing that this man isn’t who she wants to be with is making her depressed. There’s something else she’s longing for that’s not in her realm.
EXAMINER: Does Lars think that depression is sort of an inevitability?
KIRSTEN: No, I don’t think so. Lars has spoken openly about his depression. There are scenes in this movie that are verbatim what Lars went through, but I wouldn’t say that. He talked about his depression, but he’s not an over talker.
EXAMINER: You went depression yourself, right?
KIRSTEN: Yeah, I did, but it’s not something that I even wanted to talk about. It just kind of had to come out, because other people were talking about it. But it’s not something I would talk about anymore.
The last time I sat down with Kirsten Dunst, the 29-year-old actor had just returned to Los Angeles from Denmark, where she’d been filming Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, a two-part drama about the end of the world and the (unrelated) unraveling of a bride on her wedding night. It was October 2010, and Dunst was promoting the criminally underrated crime drama All Good Things. In the year that’s since passed, she’s released two films, filmed two others (Bachelorette, On The Road), bagged a bunch of trophies (including the Best Actress prize at this year’s Cannes Film Festival), written a fairytale, and starred—with a lion—in a Bulgari campaign. Over cigarettes in a suite at New York’s Crosby Street Hotel, Dunst opens up about working with Alexander Skarsgård, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and von Trier, who might be even more inscrutable than people think.
BULLETT: When we last spoke almost a year ago, you pretty much refused to tell me anything about this movie.
KIRSTEN DUNST: I was afraid to! If someone told Lars that I’d said something, he’s the type of person who would probably be like, “I can’t believe you said that about me!” I was nervous about letting anything out because I didn’t want to be on anyone’s bad side during press.
In light of what’s happened, I really don’t think you need to worry about what you’re saying. [Laughter.] Lars has the tendency to write pieces of himself into his stories, and he shares your character’s struggle with depression. Did it ever feel as if you were playing a version of him?
He was never like, “You’re playing me so do this.” But he did write the story, and it is about his experience. I didn’t know how specific to his life the events were in the script, but in Cannes his wife said that watching me in certain scenes absolutely broke her. There were certain parts that she’d actually experienced and seeing me go through it in the movie, she said, “That was Lars.” I knew he suffered from depression, but I didn’t know to what extent. When I first met him, he was shaking like crazy.
“I got an e-mail that said, ‘Lars is obsessed with you for this part, you’re Skyping with him tomorrow.’ He was very shy and sweet, and then it was like — O.K., done,” recalls Kirsten Dunst over sorbet and strawberries, describing how she came to play Justine, the central character in “Melancholia,” Lars von Trier’s astonishing end-of-the-world flick.
In person, Dunst is stunningly unpretentious. (When a taxi driver wonders why a paparazzo is bothering the fragile blond woman he has just picked up, she points to her face and jokes, “Hello? ‘Spider-Man’?”) At least on the surface, she has nothing in common with the magical, moody Justine, a character she describes as a “romantic depressive, maybe even from another planet.” Whoever Justine is, this haunting film (it gave one viewer, me, nightmares for weeks afterward) is hardly a joy ride. But Dunst insists the workplace atmosphere was anything but gloomy. “The family on the set was so wonderful,” she says, especially the two Charlottes — Gainsbourg, who plays her sister, and a riveting Rampling as her mother. “For such an unfunny subject, it was so much fun. And hanging out with Lars — he is the funniest, but it takes a second to get used to his sense of humor.”
Kirsten Dunst has declared she “loves” Isla Fisher after they starred together in Bachelorette.
The Melancholia star teamed up with the funnywoman and Lizzy Caplan in the indie comedy, where they play best friends who are invited to act as bridesmaids at the wedding of a girl they called Pigface in high school.
“I love her, she’s amazing. We had the best time,” she said.
“Also Lizzy Caplan was in the film and us three girls got along so well. We had a great time together.”
Kirsten added: “We just finished last week. We worked really long hours and really hard because it’s an independent film so we didn’t have a lot of time to shoot. It was very quick.”
There may also be a title amendment: “I think we’re going to change the title.”
Next up for the 29-year-old actress is Upside Down opposite British actor Jim Sturgess.
Kirsten has high praise for her leading man, saying: “Jim is lovely, he’s so easy. He’s such a nice guy – very normal, chilled, a very special actor, really good guy.”
Kirsten Dunst says it would “very difficult” to collaborate with Bulgari on a collection.
The 29-year-old actress attended the launch of the luxury label’s Le Gemme eyewear collection on Tuesday night at the Ilori New York SoHo boutique.
The stunning star looked sophisticated and chic in a floor-length, long-sleeve white Derek Lam dress, accompanied by Bulgari jewels.
Kirsten has worked with the fashion giant for a little over a year. She is the face of their Mon Jasmin Noir fragrance.
Despite her connections with the brand, Kirsten isn’t welcoming the idea of one day collaborating with them on her very own collection.
“It would be very difficult,” she told WWD. “Sometimes it’s hard to get those things executed.”
Kirsten also made light of the fashion no-no of wearing white after Labor Day. The Hollywood star said her outfit was in homage to the upcoming season.
“Ever heard of winter white?” she smiled.
Kirsten was spotted posing for photographs at the event. She chatted with partygoers, who included Ally Hilfiger, Fabiola Beracasa, Noot Seear and Jessica Joffe.
The actress has been in New York to publicise her latest Lars von Trier-directed drama Melancholia, and said she’s recently been working hard on her film career.
Kirsten has just wrapped three movies.
Kirsten Dunst has revealed that she lives in New York because she loves the anonymity of the city.
The 29-year-old Spider-Man actress said that she opted for the Big Apple over Los Angeles because it enables her to lead a more private life.
“I love LA. I lived in the San Fernando Valley for a long time. I’m going back there for four months soon for the holidays to be with my family,” she told Time Out Chicago. “[But] you do live more anonymously in New York. People don’t care that you’re an actor. The photographers there stay far away when they take your picture.
“They know I don’t like it, so they usually just leave me alone. I just didn’t want to live in a house by myself in L.A. I did that when I was younger and I didn’t have… like, if you don’t have a guy around to help you with things.”