Kirsten Dunst was in Cannes recently for the premiere of her new film The Beguiled. Directed by Sofia Coppola, the movie is a remake of the 1970’s offbeat civil war drama starring Clint Eastwood. In this interview, Kirsten talks about teaming up again with long-time collaborator Sofia Coppola, her preparation for roles, her upcoming directorial debut, watching herself on screen, and more.
You were in Cannes for the premiere of The Beguiled – are you comfortable watching yourself on the screen?
Kirsten Dunst: I’ll watch a movie once and then I’m done. But we have to sit again, obviously the other night, but my fiancé is here and we’ll have fun. I’m okay when I’m watching with people I love around me and we can laugh about it. For me it’s like watching a personal documentary almost because I think about what happened on set that day.
What appealed to you about The Beguiled and your role in particular?
Kirsten Dunst: For me, it was about working with Sofia again. Literally Sofia could be like, ‘Here’s the phone book, we’re going to make a movie about this phone book’ and I would do the movie. I’d do anything with Sofia so for me it wasn’t like ‘I need to do this role’, for me it’s the director always first and the script second. There are so many good scripts out there that don’t translate because of casting or the director or whatever went wrong, it’s so hard to have the right combo of things and I think that I trust Sofia so…
Did she write it thinking of you?
Kirsten Dunst: She told me about it before she wrote it and she was like, ‘Oh I want you to play this role’ and then it was three years later that we made it.
Tell us about your character.
Kirsten Dunst: She’s very demure, very quiet. She’s the complete opposite of who I am, I think [laughs]. It’s just like she’s a very pious woman who at her age should be married with children at that time during the Civil War and where she is and she’s trapped and she has this woman, she’s under her thumb. So, I think that she has a lot going on internally so she’s a very repressed sad lady.
We live in a very different world now, what was it like to put yourself in that era? And what kind of preparation did you do?
Kirsten Dunst: I work with a lady who is kind of like an acting therapist, so every role I do I work with her. And so we do dream work and we do a lot of different things. Like I’ll watch certain movies or get inspired by little things and try and put together, even on set dynamics start to shift and you feel things and you use those things.
When you’ve finished filming, do your characters stay with you for a long time afterwards?
Kirsten Dunst: Oh, I was happy to take that corset off! [laughs] I was like, ‘I’m free!’ That corset was not fun. Some roles I think it’s a little harder. It’s also hard in general. You make a movie and you’re with all these people for an intense amount of time, for like a month or two and then it’s just cut off. So that’s hard in general. Some of these people you never see again but on the set you form such intense relationships. You see these people at six in the morning and you’re getting your make-up done and you’re eating a whatever. You get very close very quickly because of the circumstances. So, I think that’s hard.
Did you watch the original version of The Beguiled before making this? And if so, did you find it a little sexist?
Kirsten Dunst: When I first watched the old one it was about four years ago, I would say, when Sofia was first having the idea to do the film. I thought it was like campy and fun. I viewed it as a campy kind of ‘70s movie – do you know what I mean? There were some great performances but it was very over-the-top, so to me it was a little camp, that’s all I would say.
Is that what appealed to you about making this film, that you’re flipping the script from having a male protagonist to telling women’s stories?
Kirsten Dunst: Well, to me, it’s just nice to see actresses working together. You don’t even get to see that often, I don’t think. We’re an all-female cast expect for Colin [Farrell]. He’s a good sport about it but he’s very objectified in this movie [laughs]. He knew when we had the shots of him like sweating and cutting down branches… all his romance novel moments. [Laughs]
Your co-star Elle Fanning said you were all thinking of making a Colin Farrell calendar?
Kirsten Dunst: Yeah, we definitely have pictures for that. I told Sofia it should have been in the press package, like a Colin Farrell calendar.
What do you do when you’re not acting?
Kirsten Dunst: I like bad television and pasta, food, friends, television, my cat. I live very simple and I like staying at home. I’m a home person.
Why do you like to work with Sofia so much and she with you?
Kirsten Dunst: For me, I love Sofia, I’ve known her since I was 16 and that’s a very long relationship friendship-wise and lifewise and I think that it’s nice in this industry when you make that connection and you can continue to work with someone. Yeah, it’s special. All I can say is that I love her and I respect her and also I think she’s one of our auteurs. When you flip the TV and you see a Sofia Coppola movie, you know that’s a Sofia Coppola movie.
You have a German passport as well as an American one right? Why did you opt for dual nationality?
Kirsten Dunst: One of the reasons I got my passport is to work as a European. I’ve been hired more as a European than I have as an American because in the system of money they have only a certain amount of Americans that they can hire and most of the films I do seem to have European financing. So, I’ve usually worked as a European.
Do you still feel that connection to Germany though?
Kirsten Dunst: I mean my father is German so, of course.
When did you last go to Germany?
Kirsten Dunst: After Melancholia, my dad and I took a road trip through Germany.
Is there any director that you haven’t worked with that you would like to?
Kirsten Dunst: Yes. [Laughs] I like Michael Haneke, I’ve always wanted to work with him and I wish I could do a movie where I speak in German with him. That would be amazing. Also, I’d like to work with Paul Thomas Anderson and I’d like to work with Quentin Tarantino too.
Are you at a special time in your life with directing etc? Do you feel like you’re doing things on your own terms?
Kirsten Dunst: Listen I don’t feel… I’m just very patient in the projects that I pick and all of that. So, for me, I feel like everyone has to work very hard. I don’t feel like I have the world at my fingertips whatsoever and making a movie is very hard work and takes all of your life for about two good years and then three to promote it. So, I’m not, ‘Woohoo!’ I’m like, ‘Okay, this is going to be tough.’
So you’re a little intimidated by your own courage?
Kirsten Dunst: No, but I think it’s important to be humble and work hard.
Lastly Kirsten, you are looking great. Do you do special things to stay healthy?
Kirsten Dunst: That’s so kind of you. I’m actually very bad. I was like, ‘I’m going to get good for Cannes’ and I didn’t eat bread for a few days and then it all went bad on the plane. I was like, ‘Gotta have.’
Do you diet?
Kirsten Dunst: I do not diet. No.
TEXT: JASON ADAMS / THE INTERVIEW PEOPLE | PHOTO: ANDREA RAFFIN / SHUTTERSTOCK.COM