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Biography

Actress Kirsten Dunst had over 50 television and film appearances under her belt by the time she was 25 years old. The girl-next-door with the proudly crooked smile was unique among her generation of young actresses, due to her ability to carry a fun romp like “Spider-Man” (2002) and promptly about-face and wow critics with art house fare like “The Virgin Suicides” (1999) and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004). Audiences had seen few actresses not only survive the transition from child actor to teen to adult actor, but even less who moved so easily between genres and pleased such a wide range of theatergoers.

The daughter of a German executive and a Swedish art gallery owner, Kirsten (pronounced KEER-sten) Dunst was born on April 30, 1982, in Point Pleasant, NJ. By the time her younger brother Christian was born four years later, dimpled, fair-haired Kirsten was already on her way to becoming a movie star. She had a modeling contract with the prestigious Ford agency, and booked a growing number of modeling jobs and commercial shoots. At the age of six, she made her TV acting debut, playing granddaughter to Dana Carvey’s George H.W. Bush on “Saturday Night Live” (NBC, 1975- ). Small roles in the feature films “New York Stories” (1989), “The Bonfire of the Vanities” (1990), as well as animated voice-over work, suggested that Dunst had real potential, so the family – minus dad, as her parents had separated – moved to Los Angeles in 1992.

Dunst avoided the years of struggle that can break the hearts of so many young Hollywood hopefuls, immediately landing work on “Sisters” (NBC 1991-96), “Star Trek: The Next Generation” (syndicated, 1987-1994), and the TV movie “Darkness Before Dawn” (1993). The following year, she was catapulted into the limelight with her stunning work in Neil Jordan’s “Interview with the Vampire” (1994), a role which she reportedly won over Christina Ricci. Her Claudia, a little girl vampire unable to age through the years, looked like a child one moment and appeared – and acted – like a grown woman the next. Although the film received mixed notices, Dunst’s remarkably mature performance opposite Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise earned nearly universal raves and a Golden Globe nomination. She followed it up portraying a younger version of spoiled, artistic Amy in “Little Women” (1994) and costarring with Robin Williams and a ton of CGI animals in the kiddie hit, “Jumanji” (1995).

In what would become the earmark of her career, Dunst began her practice of balancing roles in mainstream, high-profile projects with more offbeat, character-driven, independent pieces. She took on the recurring role of a tough-talking runaway in the hit NBC drama, “ER” in 1996-97, before doing a 180 degree turn, appearing in the political satire, “Wag the Dog” (1997). She was “Fifteen and Pregnant” (1998) in the Lifetime drama and decked out in a bouffant for the low budge period teen comedy, “Strike,” the same year.

Dunst began to emerge from the pack of teenage Hollywood actresses and evolve into a recognizable box office draw, beginning with her comedic turns in “Drop Dead Gorgeous”(1999) and the off-the-wall tale of Richard Nixon superfans in “Dick” (1999). In her star-making performance, she then displayed formidable dramatic chops as Lux, the eldest and most rebellious of the doomed Lisbon sisters, in Sofia Coppola’s acclaimed directorial debut “The Virgin Suicides” (1999). The same year, she reportedly turned down the role of Angela in “American Beauty” because she was uncomfortable with the sexually suggestive scenes. But forever proving her versatility, the next year she played the plucky captain of an ambitious cheerleading squad in the multiplex hit, “Bring It On” (2000), and as well as displayed girl-next-door charm in the teen romance “Get Over It” (2001). The pair of teen films made her one of the most popular actresses of the MTV generation, and she accepted an offer to host the MTV Movie Awards in 2001 alongside Jimmy Fallon.

Coinciding with the end of her own high school career, following her graduation from the private Catholic Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, CA, Dunst took on her first role as a full-fledged adult when she craftily portrayed silent film starlet Marion Davies in Peter Bogdanovich’s ode to the murder of Hollywood director, Thomas Ince, “The Cat’s Meow” (2000). The film screened at the Mar de Plata film festival in Italy where Dunst won the Best Actress Silver Ombu.

But true paparazzi-haunting superstardom was just around the corner for the 19-year-old actress when she was cast as Mary Jane Watson, love interest of nerdy Peter Parker, in the big screen adaptation of the comic book superhero “Spider-Man” (2002). Dunst’s utter likeability and strong chemistry with leading man Tobey Maguire turned “Spider-Man” into an action blockbuster with a romantic soul, and the see-sawing nature of the characters’ relationship made it the first super-hero date movie. Unfortunately, there were significantly fewer males in the audience of her next film, the period piece “Mona Lisa Smile” (2003), and not much of an audience at all for the limited release but heavy-hitting redemption film “Levity” (2003).

Following a well-acted supporting turn in the critical hit, “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” (2004), Dunst reprised her role as Mary Jane Watson – now a successful, engaged actress still pining for Peter Parker – in the highly anticipated sequel “Spider-Man 2” (2004). A starring role in the lukewarm romantic tennis comedy “Wimbledon” (2004) went virtually under the radar, and 2005’s Cameron Crowe rom-com “Elizabethtown” was a critical flop, but her second outing as Sophia Coppola’s leading lady in “Marie Antoinette” (2006) was daring, controversial, and talked-about, even if not always in a positive light. Again, the evolving actress proved that she was willing to take creative chances as much as she loved having fun in crowd-pleasing romps, giving her a significant advantage over her peers. Leading up to the release of the third installment of “Spider-Man” (2007), Dunst announced that she was taking a break from her steady film schedule to pursue her interest in art.

Totally hands-on, unlike many of her peers, Kirsten and her mother ran their own production company, Wooden Spoon Productions. Dunst also devoted her time to various children’s related charities including Elizabeth Glaser’s Pediatric AIDS Foundation and Tuesday’s Child.