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.”
Melancholia begins with a wedding and ends with a funeral. Actually, the new film from Danish provocateur Lars von Trier ends with the apocalypse – a funeral for everyone, as a vast planet rears up on the near horizon, lighting up the lawn and setting the birds chattering. Watching the movie at this year’s Cannes film festival, Kirsten Dunst was surprised to find herself giggling, as if this was some sort of happy ending. “That’s one thing you can say for the end of the world,” she says. “It solves a lot of problems.”
We’re drinking coffee in the basement of a London hotel, with embroidered snowflakes on the wallpaper and an Indian summer raging outside. The actor is attired as though for a night on the town – sheer black dress, jingling silver bracelet – even though it’s mid-morning and she has yet to eat breakfast. She confesses that she keeps staring at the snowflakes, her eyes glazing over, her mind zoning out. At lunchtime, she is due to board a flight home to New York, after which she has a clean slate for the rest of the year. You get the impression she can’t wait to put 2011 behind her.
Certainly, Melancholia has been a torrid passage for its 29-year-old star: a typical Von Trier rollercoaster that places soaring triumph cheek-by-jowl with low-comedy disaster. On the upside is Dunst’s performance, a role that is worlds away from the studio fluff that has taken too much of her recent energies. She plays Justine, the brilliant, dark-eyed manic-depressive heroine, who stumbles through the worst wedding ceremony this side of Festen and then belatedly comes into her own as judgment day looms. It’s a devastating performance, and one that won her a deserved best actress prize at Cannes.