With Kirsten Dunst there is always something more

Kirsten Dunst in Los Angeles, August 27, 2021. (Erik Carter / The New York Times)

Kirsten Dunst’s main goal during her flight to Italy was to sleep soundly on the plane and drink a Bellini when she arrived. Everything else he considered an extra, and it turned out those extras were significant.

Dunst traveled to Italy for the Venice International Film Festival, where “The Power of the Dog,” a new Netflix film directed by Jane Campion, was premiered that features one of the best performances by the 39-year-old actress. It came on the last day of August, after months at home raising a newborn and a whole year at home because, well, you know.

So you can imagine how Dunst felt when he got off the plane, boarded a boat at sunset, and headed to his hotel with the lights of Venice twinkling on the horizon. While assimilating all this, the actress began to cry: a whole day of traveling by plane, four months without sleep raising a baby and the most beautiful city you have ever seen can do that in a person.

The next 48 hours were a whirlwind. Dunst tried to recover from his jet lag and hung out at the hotel pool, where he drank Bellinis with his brother and watched the wealthy old Italians swim. The next day, Dunst donned a bulletproof Armani Privé gown and accompanied Campion and the film’s leading man, Benedict Cumberbatch, to the Big Room premiere.

At the end of the film, the audience stood in a standing ovation for “The Power of the Dog” for several minutes, and Campion and his cast wore big smiles. Things couldn’t have turned out better. Was Dunst excited?

“I was so happy and excited about the experience,” she later told me, “with paralyzing internal exhaustion.”

Even when he smiles, Dunst can suggest that there is something much more complicated under the surface. That gift served him well in “The Power of the Dog,” based on the Thomas Savage novel and starring Cumberbatch as Phil, a sadistic 1925 Montana ranch owner. Phil has supported his brother throughout his life. minor, George (Jesse Plemons), under his yoke, but when George meets melancholic Rose (Dunst) and impulsively marries her, Phil becomes annoyed at this woman’s meddling and sets out to destroy her.

Kirsten Dunst in Los Angeles, Aug. 27, 2021. (Erik Carter / The New York Times)

Kirsten Dunst in Los Angeles, August 27, 2021. (Erik Carter / The New York Times)

So he sets poor Rose a trap: George adores his new girlfriend and encourages her to open up, but all that Rose exposes about herself is a point of vulnerability that Phil can use against her. Even when Rose turns to alcohol to cope with Phil’s overbearing attitudes, we hear her mutter, “It’s just a man,” but the way Dunst pronounces the phrase, as if she barely believes what she’s saying, suggests that Rose knows to perfection the harm that men can do.

A few days before Dunst flew to Italy, I visited her ranch-style home in Los Angeles, where she opened the front door with her blonde hair tucked behind her ears and holding a sizable baby.

“This is the newcomer, the Great Kahuna,” she said, introducing me to her 4-month-old, 8-kilogram son, James Robert. “He is an angel, but he is a hungry angel and a heavy angel.”

James is his second son with Plemons, his co-star in “The Power of the Dog”; The two actors met in 2015, when they were chosen by fate to be husband and wife in the second season of “Fargo.” For the past few months, Plemons had been away filming the Martin Scorsese drama “Killers of the Flower Moon,” and every time the baby woke up, almost always, Dunst had taken care of himself. “I’m very tired, I haven’t had a full night’s sleep in four months,” she commented as we moved into the backyard. “I also developed a tic in my eye.” Dunst chuckled. “Yes, I am in a very special position.”

Dunst has a private connection with the public that is just as direct as when he talks to someone in real life. When she’s in conversation, she’s sincere and frank, like the kind of friend who would tell you the truth if you were wearing something horrible. It’s been over a year and a half since she last performed, and she’s candid about the fascination of all that downtime: “There’s a part of me that thinks, ‘I’ve been doing this for a long time. When can I relax? ‘

On the other hand, there is not much time to relax when you are raising two young children. As we talked, Dunst’s oldest son, 3-year-old Ennis, walked into the backyard. “Hi Bubba,” Dunst said soothingly. “Oh no, are you angry?” Ennis pouted: he didn’t want to go to swimming class because the instructor had forced him to put his head under the water. Dunst turned to me, raising an eyebrow. “This is what happens when you do an interview at your home,” he said.

At Ennis’s age, Dunst (who was born in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, to the daughter of a medical services executive and a flight attendant) began modeling. At age 8, he had already appeared in “Bonfire of the Vanities” and in a short film directed by Woody Allen. “It is clear that there was something old inside me that was a little more than the typical child actor in commercials,” he said.

In her early twenties, by the time she finished three “Spider-Man” movies, Dunst had begun to feel empty. Although she had found an important collaborator in Sofia Coppola, who explored the subversive aspects of Dunst’s blonde-naive image with “The Virgin Suicides” and “Marie Antoinette”, the shoots that really satisfied her were few and far between. . Acting no longer brought him joy; Too often his life’s work had become a technical task with which he felt no real connection.

In 2008, after entering the Cirque Lodge rehab center to treat her depression, Dunst realized that her profession as a child had affected her personality as an adult.

“For a long time, I never got mad at anyone,” he said. “I just swallowed a lot of things. When you’re on set, it’s acting, it’s nice. At one point, you have to get angry, and I think that ends up accumulating in a person. You can’t survive like this. Your body stops you ”.

So after entering his mid-30s and working with acting coach Greta Seacat for the past several years, Dunst has found a new cathartic connection to his work: he wants to take all the difficulties that people repress and let us see them in their interpretations.

“That’s what acting should be about,” he concluded. “Those are the interpretations that I love, the ones that are most revealing about human beings and the hardest things we experience in life.”

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With Kirsten Dunst there is always something more