Kirsten Dunst has been acting since she was 7 years old, when she starred in Woody Allen's short film "Oedipus Wrecks." Since her debut, she's been in countless films, from the successful "Spiderman" franchise to cult indie classics like "Dick." Yet it's her latest role that has allowed her to showcase her true range and depth as an actress the most.
In Lars Von Trier's new film "Melancholia," Dunst, now 29, plays Justine, a clinically depressed newlywed whose wedding might go down in history as having the saddest reception ever. She's battling crippling depression, her sister doesn't understand her, her mother doesn't support her marriage, her boss is harassing her, her father is clueless and even her seemingly charming husband, played by Alexander Skarsgard, wants to control her life. Not to mention that the planet Earth will soon be destroyed by a collision with a rogue planet called Melancholia. The end of the world, however, has never looked so gorgeous.
The Huffington Post sat down with Dunst to discuss the film, her feelings toward director -- and friend -- Lars Von Trier's controversial remarks about Hitler and her own battle with depression.
After watching the film, you can really take so many messages away from it. It's not a film with a clear, definitive message, which makes it hard to talk about.
I know. It's so hard to describe what this movie is about, and so many people have taken away so many different things from it too, which is amazing, but when you're trying to talk about it, it's a little difficult. I do think that it's about depression, and that's the main theme of the film, but that doesn't mean that everyone will get that out of it emotionally. My friend was smiling at the end of the movie, and not because she was happy for me, but because she found it hopeful in some sort of way. It's kind of amazing that a film can get so many different responses out of people.
For me, I thought that end scene was gorgeous, and I can see where your friend interpreted it as being hopeful.
I was actually surprised when I first saw it because it was so loud. I didn't realize how loud it was. I grabbed my friend, who I was sitting next to when I first saw the end, and I started to laugh because it was uncomfortable. The theater in Cannes started to shake. But I guess something like that should be uncomfortable to watch.
I know that you're good friends with Lars [Von Trier], but what drew you to the project?
It was Lars. You what I mean? For me, it's always about the director, and being able to be in one of his films is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of an opportunity. There aren't that many roles out there in general, and there aren't that many amazing male writer/directors that write female-driven stories. To me, that was the draw. I was so excited to work with him. Even going to work, I would remind myself how special this was, and I think we'll work together again sometime.
He's faced so much controversy lately. It must be hard to watch a friend go through that.
Yeah, that's exactly it. I was there when it happened, and I didn't know what to do. I was watching a friend spiral out of control in front of my eyes. It was hard, and I was embarrassed for him, but I was never angry with him. I think that anyone who you talk to in the cast of our film will agree that we all got along really well. [Von Trier] was in a really good place during this filming too, which changed his behavior a lot as well. In the end the film can stand on its own as just a really beautiful piece of work.
One of the film's main themes is depression, and it's something that you've gone through, as well as Lars, so it must have been tough to relive.
There are experiences in this film that Lars has actually gone through, and it's also hard cinematically to have a character that's depressed because they don't do anything. So the way that he did it, I thought was so beautifully done. It felt so real. Everyone goes through different levels of what they've been through, but the scene in the bathroom was really intense to shoot. I mean, to know that people have actually gone through that, I think that anyone who watches this movie who has dealt with that kind of level of depression, I think that they'll be really comforted by it. I think that's great if the movie does that to someone. I'm always looking for that movie that feels like it's hitting me where I need it. For me, that movie this year was "The Future" by Miranda July. It's more of a girl film. I needed something like that. It's comforting.
There's a point in the film where your character becomes almost supernatural. Where did that come from?
I think that she is a little psychic. She did know the exact amount of beans in the jar. But I think that her connection with the planet, and I had to think of this for myself otherwise I would laugh, but my interpretation was that maybe she came from this planet. It's like her mother Earth or something familiar to her. I think the way that she handles the end is such a sage-like way to handle things. She really does bring everyone together in a really spiritual way. I really do think that her depression throughout the film gave her the ability to deal with everything in the end.
I was talking to Alex [Skarsgard], and he mentioned that you all lived together during filming.
We lived in the same area. There was this bed and breakfast place that had houses and bungalows around it, and we all lived there. We didn't live in a house together. Oh god, I can't imagine what that would have been like. It was more like college-style, but there was one one restaurant, and nothing was ever open. It was a very small town outside of Trollhattan in Sweden. There was either the restaurant in the hotel or the pizza place down the street, so you would run into someone no matter where you were. We had a pretty good time. Kiefer [Sutherland] made us tacos because we were missing California food and Mexican food, and I was surprised how he did it in that town. I mean, he made guacamole.
How long was filming, by the way?
We filmed for about a month, and before that we rehearsed for two weeks. Lars doesn't really like to rehearse. For him, it's like, "Okay, let's go."
I could imagine that it was important for you to decompress after filming, especially after playing a character like Justine all day.
I did decompress at the end of the day. That's important. I zone out and watch TV. In Sweden they don't dub anything, so it's all in English, and that was great. But I do a lot of work before I start a movie. That's where I create the internal life of a character, and I can only hope to be as present as I can with the people that I'm working with. Also, the vibe onset was pretty open and respectful. We moved pretty quickly, so it makes it easier to access those emotions. To do a movie like this, you have to be in a really good place because you have to be able to have perspective.
Alex's character really represents this light in the film. Would you agree?
He does. He has such a pure heart, and he loves her so much, but what makes it so interesting is that even though he's so good, he's kind of only good in a selfish way. It's like, "I picked this land for us," and Justine never really had a say in anything. He's planned his perfect life, but he kind of disregards her in a way. But Alex is so easy to work with, and he's really good at improvising, so that makes it easier. We were just in the moment. I'm a huge "True Blood" fan too. We'll be doing interviews together, and someone will ask him a "True Blood" question, and I'll answer it for him. That's how much of a fan I am, although I was really surprised that they killed off Tara in the finale.
I think that they killed Tara so that they can turn her into a vampire because at this point, there's no room for humans on that show.
Oh my god, you're so right. That's what is going to happen. You're so right! I didn't think of that! That's awesome! I was like, "They can't kill her off." Oh my god, that's genius. Man, I didn't even think about that. Where was my brain? That's totally going to happen.
"Melancholia" opens in select theaters on Fri., Nov. 11. Watch the trailer below.