Dunst has a one-to-one connection with the audience that proves just as direct with whomever she’s speaking to in real life. In conversation, she is candid and matter of fact, like the sort of friend who’d level with you if you were wearing something hideous. It’s been more than a year and a half since she last acted, and she’s honest about the allure of all that down time: “There’s a part of me that’s like, I’ve done this for so long. When can I just relax?”
Then again, there’s not much time for relaxation when you’re raising two young children. As we talked, Dunst’s older son, the 3-year-old Ennis, stomped into the backyard. “Hi, Bubba,” Dunst cooed sweetly. “Oh no, are you mad?” Ennis was pouting: He didn’t want to go to swim class because the instructor had made him put his head underwater. Dunst turned to me, raising an eyebrow. “This is what doing an interview at home is like,” she said.
By the time she was Ennis’s age, Dunst — born in Point Pleasant, N.J., to a medical services executive and a flight attendant — began modeling. And by 8, she had appeared in “The Bonfire of the Vanities” and a short film directed by Woody Allen. “I clearly had something old inside of me that was a little bit more than your average commercial kid,” she said.
At 10, that old soul helped her land the breakthrough role of a precocious bloodsucker in “Interview With the Vampire,” but afterward, while living in the Oakwood apartments in Los Angeles — an enclave of furnished units populated mostly by child actors and their stage parents — another little girl confronted her by the pool and announced that according to her agent, she’d be the next Kirsten Dunst.
“I had the wherewithal to be like, This is nuts,” Dunst said. And over the next several years, even as she booked high-profile movies like “Little Women,” “Jumanji” and “Bring It On,” Dunst was determined to hold onto a normal life, a normal school experience, and normal friends. “I always felt it was lame to be into yourself,” she said. “I probably underplayed myself more in high school because I never wanted anyone to pick on me.”