To many, Kirsten Dunst will forever be known as Mary Jane Watson in the Sam Raimi Spider-Man trilogy. But the 38-year-old actress would love nothing more than to point out the fact that she has been acting since age six and has done quite a bit more than just Spider-Man.
Kirsten Dunst began her career as a 3-year-old child fashion model performing in TV commercials. At that time, she had signed with Ford Models and Elite Model Management and did that until her feature film debut which was a minor role in Woody Allen’s short Oedipus Wrecks, a one-third piece of his New York Stories feature. She appeared next in the film adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities where she played the daughter of Tom Hanks.
Her next role became her breakthrough when she was cast as the child vampire Claudia in Anne Rice’s Interview with the Vampire. The movie also starred Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, Antonio Banderas, and Christian Slater and while it got lukewarm reviews, Dunst received much praise for her performance. But it was that one scene that caused pause.
Dunst was 10 years old on the set and she had to perform her first on-screen kiss, with a much older (by almost two decades) Pitt. This means he was approaching 30-years old when he kissed the 10-year-old Dunst. Yuck. According to Dunst via The Age, “Kissing Brad was so uncomfortable for me. I remember saying in interviews that I thought it was gross, that Brad had cooties. I mean, I was 10.”
Five years later, Dunst would find herself being offered the role of Kevin Spacey’s object of affection, a young one at that, in the feature American Beauty. “When I read it, I was 15 and I don’t think I was mature enough to understand the script’s material. I didn’t want to be kissing Kevin Spacey. Come on! Lying there naked with rose petals?” She eventually passed on the movie and the role was given to Mena Suvari, who was three years Dunst’s elder.
GROWING UP ON SCREEN
Kirsten Dunst continued to grow up on screen. She moved on to play in Little Women and then Jumanji. She made the TV series circuit in shows such as Touched by an Angel, The Outer Limits, ER, Gun, and The Wonderful World of Disney.
During this time, Dunst was also finding more and more roles on the big screen. She was in Wag the Dog, True Heart, Small Soldiers, The Virgin Suicides, the vastly underrated and hilarious Drop Dead Gorgeous, and Dick. She was really beginning to carve out her career in features as she grabbed roles in The Crow: Salvation, opening eyes in Bring It On, Deeply, Get Over It, and Crazy/Beautiful.
Kirsten Dunst was owning the late ‘90’s and early 2000’s. But she wanted more and got it.
KIRSTEN DUNST IN SPIDER-MAN
Kirsten Dunst was chosen by director Sam Raimi (Evil Dead, The Army of Darkness) to be his Mary Jane Watson opposite Tobey Maguire. Before Raimi went with Dunst, he wanted to get Alicia Witt into the role. Dunst wasn’t even going to audition until she found out that Maguire would be Spider-Man, thinking now the movie would have a more independent feel to it.
Through the first two movies, Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2, Kirsten Dunst wore a red wig as MJ. For the third, Dunst decided to go all in and dyed her hair the fiery red color seen in the movie.
While she was all in with the hair, there were certain things in the movies that Dunst refused to do, never really having an issue saying no and standing up for herself on set. She spoke about the stunts she refused to do through CinemaBlend, “I’ve always said ‘no.’ Like, it’s my life, you know? I remember once with Spider-Man, they kept at me with this one stunt where they strung me to the top of the ceiling and basically I bungee jumped. I didn’t really want to do it, and when I tried it I said, ‘Well, you should’ve shot that because I’m never doing it again. You’ll have to find another way’. It was terrifying, I hated it – so you should’ve shot that because I will never do it again.”
While there were a few more instances of Kirsten Dunst having to tell Raimi, politely, no, there was another request that definitely rankled the actress. Apparently, some of the producers weren’t keen on her overall look, mainly her teeth. “On Spider-Man one of the producers tried to subtly coerce me into changing my teeth into those perfect Barbie doll teeth. I was like, ‘Nope, not doing that either.’”
Kirsten Dunst hit it big with the Spider-Man series. In fact, they were all slated to come back for a fourth entry before Sony decided to go in a different direction, bringing on a whole new cast.
Kirsten Dunst’s time spent on the Spider-Man trilogy covered more than five years. During that time, she appeared in other features such as Levity, Mona Lisa Smile, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Wimbledon, Elizabethtown, and Marie Antoinette. She was in demand and loving every minute of it. It was only after Spider-Man 3 did things begin to ease up for Dunst.
Kirsten Dunst can’t quite put a finger on why she hasn’t gained the recognition she feels she deserves. “I’ve never been nominated for anything. Maybe like twice for a Golden Globe when I was little and one for Fargo,” she told the host of Sirius XM’s In-Depth With Larry Flick. “Maybe they just think I’m the girl from Bring It On.”
Actually, Ms. Dunst, you received a Golden Globe nomination for Interview With A Vampire, one for Fargo, and one more for On Becoming a God in Central Florida. On top of that, Kirsten Dunst won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival for her portrayal of Justine in Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. But her bitterness didn’t fade.
“Remember when Marie Antoinette [came out] — y’all panned it? And now you all love it. Remember Drop Dead Gorgeous? Panned. Now you all love it.” She added, “I just feel like, ‘What did I do?’ Maybe I don’t play the game enough.” Part of her interview can be heard below.
KIRSTEN DUNST NOW
Even though Kirsten Dunst is working less in recent years, she’s not out of the acting business. Throughout the 2010’s she has had steady work, appearing in Upside Down, The Two Faces of January, Midnight Special, Hidden Figures, and The Beguiled.
Now Dunst is also slowly making the transition to more TV-related projects. She has been on Portlandia, gave the series Fargo a ten-episode run, was on Black Mirror and Drunk History, and most recently led the series On Becoming a God in Central Florida.
Now there are rumors that she’ll return to playing Mary Jane in the upcoming Tom Holland version of Spider-Man. Whether that will really happen remains to be seen.
With all her history in moviemaking and television, Dunst does have one regret. She never did cash in on her Spider-Man fame. She joked via USA Today, “I should’ve made some Kirsten perfumes – I’d be chilling right now. Some, like Spider-Man perfume that shoots out of the wrist? I should’ve done a lot of things!”
She’s probably right, strike while the fire is hot or forever be left in the dust. Nice to see Kirsten Dunst is still trying to relight that fire.