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How ‘The Beguiled’ Star Kirsten Dunst Took Control of Her Career by Owning Her Taste for Depressives, Smart Directors, and Powerful TV

Early on, Kirsten Dunst figured out how to choose her own roles to satisfy herself, not other people. It's working.

kirsten dunst

Kirsten Dunst

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Latest Contender: In “The Beguiled,” Dunst plays unhappy 30-ish girls’ school teacher Edwina, who without the delay of the Civil War would have been already married with children. When a wounded Union soldier [Colin Farrell] arrives on their doorstep, he disrupts the women’s haven, unleashing pent-up desires and emotion. “Edwina feels the stew cooking and festering in that house the most,” said Dunst, “because she has Miss Martha [Nicole Kidman] above her. Edwina is so repressed, and she has so much rage, that she doesn’t even understand what’s inside of her. It was a fun arc to play because her energy really shifts after Colin [Farrell]. It’s almost like a revenge. These feelings keep popping up that she doesn’t quite know how to handle within herself.”

In a surprise move after she catches the soldier in bed with one of her students [Elle Fanning], Edwina throws herself on the soldier. “When I walk in that room,” Dunst said, “I don’t know what I’m gonna do, I just have to calm him because he’s being so crazy. There’s a desperation; she’s never made love before. Also Sofia and I were like, ‘Let’s try and make something that’s a little shocking.’ And we made sure we never kissed in that scene, Colin and I. We didn’t want to have that [romantic feel].

“Edwina would be me at my worst, working on a film that I don’t want to be on,” concluded Dunst. “I feel so bad for Edwina and just want to shake her and say, ‘Leave this house, just go!’”

Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning 'The Beguiled' premiere, 70th Cannes Film Festival, France - 24 May 2017

Kirsten Dunst, Nicole Kidman and Elle Fanning

David Fisher/REX/Shutterstock

Signature quote: “All you can do is be yourself — just be who the hell you are.”

Latest Misfire: Dunst starred opposite Michael Shannon as anxious parents who need to protect their unusual kid in Jeff Nichols’ well-reviewed “Midnight Special,” a studio thriller that disappointed at the box office. She was terrific opposite Viggo Mortensen in classy Patricia Highsmith adaptation “Two Faces of January,” which earned better reviews than box office.

Current Gossip: She endured her tabloid moment after rehab for depression in 2008, and has dated a bevy of eligible bachelors, from “Get Over It” costar Ben Foster and live-in boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal to drummer Jason Boesel, and long-term steady Garrett Hedlund. She’s now engaged to Jesse Plemons, her husband on “Fargo.”

Next Step: She’s banking on her friends and independent fashion designers Laura and Kate Mulleavy’s directorial debut, “Woodshock” (September 15, A24). “They did the ballet costumes for ‘Black Swan,’” she said. “They’re two of the most creative…They’re so wise, but very humble too.” She got some advice from her costars Kidman and Farrell on working with Yorgos Lanthimos on a planned (but not greenlit) Season One of Sony/AMC TV series “On Becoming a God in Central Florida,” about a widowed Orlando waterpark employee who gets her revenge after a multi-billion dollar pyramid scheme ruined her financially. “It’s not a mini-series, which scares me a little,” said Dunst, “because if this goes well, I could be doing this for quite some time. What I’ve experienced after ‘Fargo’ is more people watch television right now. It’s better quality, better roles, for women. I think I’ll get better movies roles based on what I can do. So that’s why, ‘Okay, TV’s the way now.'”

Career Advice: “I could retire,” she said. “I wish I could, but I take care of my family so I can’t.”

Don’t! Although she wants to direct commercials, I’d like to see what Dunst, who has directed two shorts, will do with a film adaptation of the ultimate depressive Sylvia Plath’s “The Bell Jar,” to star Dakota Fanning, who demanded Dunst as her director.

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