“Elizabethtown” Interview: Kirsten Dunst

Like your character Claire, your mom was a flight attendant. Did you ask her about her experience?
Kirsten Dunst: “My mom worked a much different airline experience. She was working Lufthansa First Class, so it was like caviar and champagne, you know what I mean? So Claire was a little bit more blue collar. But the one thing I did think of was that Claire imagines her life being as glamorous as my mom’s airline life was.”

Claire is, at least on the surface, overwhelmingly upbeat and positive, though clearly has a loneliness underneath. Did you see a connection between her and John Cusack’s Lloyd Dobbler in Cameron Crowe’s earlier film Say Anything?
Dunst: “I actually didn’t, even though Say Anything is like one of my favorite movies. I definitely feel like there’s a running theme [in Crowe‘s films] of the man always needing the woman to be there, that she’s always this like magical person who really comes in and saves the male counterpart. But for me, that positive energy, that kind of like a lot of emphasis on other people and not really on yourself, is kind of sad. I mean, it’s not fun to play a positive person, because it’s not who people are all the time…I was really sad during the movie, because you’re constantly giving and giving and giving and you’re getting nothing back. It’s not really what makes you happy. You gotta take care of yourself first…I think I was cast for a certain reason. Maybe part of it is because Cameron saw that I had that in me, the sadness, but also positivity.”

What did you love about working with Orlando Bloom? What do you think makes him so appealing?
Dunst: “He’s just not afraid to be open to things, and he’s very innocent the way he sees things a lot of times. [He] can be goofy and like a little boy. He doesn’t take himself too seriously. That’s refreshing in male actors around my age. They’re all, like, brooding in the corner usually with James Joyce’s Ulysses and a cigarette and a coffee. And, he’s easy on the eyes…We appreciated each other, and I felt for him and I care about Orlando as a person, so I hope that that was expressed in all the scenes.”

We heard Orlando had his dog on set all the time–they have a pretty special relationship?
Dunst: “It’s his best friend, you know? He loves his dog. He’s all about his dog, yeah. No, he’d kick his dog, and he was a miserable pet owner–is that what you want me to say? [laughs] He has a very special relationship with his dog.

Why do you think these characters fall in love?
Dunst: “She knows the lessons he needs to learn, and she needs someone, and that someone became him. You don’t really know who you’re going to fall in love with at what time in their life. They can be the worst off they’ve ever been in their life, but you can’t help who you fall in love with. That’s part of the excitement of life–new people, new experiences. When things go wrong, something comes out of it and to be aware of all those things. I think Cameron really captures that in his movies. He’s super-aware.”

What was unique about your experience acting in a Cameron Crowe film?
Dunst: “He works a lot with music, as everybody knows, and plays music before takes, or during, when it’s not working [laughs]. Sometimes I’d ask to do scenes where I didn’t have to speak–to music, because you just walk different, and it just sets a tone for yourself. He’s so funny. When we’d work, he’s behind the camera like a cheerleader. He’ll be watching takes, like ‘Yes!’ Jumping up and down, and sometimes you’re like ‘Cameron! I can see you out of my peripheral vision!’ It’s great he had that enthusiasm, but sometimes it’s disconcerting when he’d come up to me and I’d be like ‘Are you sure we have that?’ And he’d be like, ‘Well, we got this in take one, and this in take five, and then that line in take three.’ So I’m like ‘Well, doesn’t feel good as an actor, there’s a fluidity to what you do, and there’s a reason that one idea connects to the next, so that was something I wasn’t used to working with.”

Did Cameron introduce you to any new music you got really hooked on?
Dunst: “I’m familiar with most music he is into, and so it wasn’t new to me. I’m not like the Britney Spears generation, you know. I guess Rilo Kiley–I don’t know if he really knew about Rilo Kiley, they’re like an L.A. band. But I knew most of the music, we don’t have like all the same music tastes or anything, I don’t really love some of the bands that he loves, and I’m sure he won’t love all the bands that I love. But Cameron has a knack for finding that one song that is from an artist we all know, but haven’t heard it, like that Tom Petty song, ‘It’ll All Work Out.’ I’ve never heard that song before he showed it to me.”

Has doing this film prepared for the possibility of a major “fiasco” in your own life?
Dunst: “I’ve been okay so far, and my happiness isn’t measured by my success. I know that the most important things in my life are the relationships with people that I have, so I’m not worried about it – we’ll see when the enormous fiascos happens, but I’m 23, so I’m okay right now [laughs].”

Even though you’ve been performing in front of the cameras for so much of your life, are you still having fun with what you’re doing?
Dunst: “Yeah, of course I am, because it’s changing for me. I’m not the same person I was when I was 16 years old, acting. It feels like a whole other life for me now.
I mean, it’s for me, and it’s not for the director or for this person or that person. It’s for me, just the way I want to work and the way that I’m most free. I see moments of myself in this film. I can look at my own work and know the best scene that I’m in in the movie. It’s like part of a scene, not even an entire scene. But to me that’s the most real. It was in the bathtub for some reason. I think it helped too having the sensory feeling of being in the bath and having those things. I mean, I was talking to John, our props guy, so it doesn’t really matter who you’re talking to either. I guess. But it just felt to me the most alive and the most me. I think that’s what your goal is in doing movies. You want it to be as real as possible. And so I’d like a whole performance like that someday.”

Are you comfortable with your own celebrity? Do you have a thick skin about the attention your personal life receives?
Dunst: “Yeah, I mean, I can’t imagine having a real personal thing, like divorce and marriage, all those things, being in the public eye. I try to not talk about anything personal, and then nobody has the fire to throw back at you, like ‘You said this back then!’ So that’s kind of touchy. For me, I feel like it’s two different lives a little bit. I don’t really relate to myself as The Girl in the Magazine. Which is dangerous for me, too, sometimes, because I don’t think all the time, ‘Well, look to see if people are following me home.’ Sometimes I’m a little bit more free than maybe I should be.”

You start working on Spider-Man 3 in January. Will this be your last one? They’ve talked about as many as six.
Dunst: “Well, that’s a lot. No, I didn’t know about that one yet. I mean, I’m only contracted to three, so we’ll see what everyone else does. I’m not gonna be in it if Sam [Raimi]’s not directing and Tobey’s [Maguire] not in it, I’m not gonna be, like, the only one who returns [laughs].”