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It's the End of the World As We Know It, and She Feels Fine: Kirsten Dunst Embraces Misery in 'Melancholia'

Kirsten Dunst delivers an Oscar-worthy starring turn in Lars von Trier's Melancholia, now playing at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.

Kirsten Dunst needs a jolt. It’s 10 a.m. on the first Sunday of this year’s Toronto Film Festival, where Lars von Trier’s apocalyptic new drama Melancholia is making its North American debut. And though she arrives not a second late – punctuality is a point of pride with the Point Pleasant, New Jersey, native – the jetlag is beginning to show.
 
“Look at me, this is totally pathetic,” she says with a bemused grin. “Coca-Cola in one hand, a coffee in the other. Coca-Cola is absolutely terrible for you, but I drink it anyway. It’s one way to start the morning.”
 
Though Dunst has been seen in some quarters as a prima donna – perhaps because she seemed at times ambivalent about the Spider-Man franchise that eventually sent her, co-star Tobey Maguire and director Sam Raimi an abrupt “Dear John” letter – she is anything but.
 
There is no movie-star attitude, just a friendly, refreshingly unaffected 29-year-old who’s been roused out of bed too early to answer the kind of interrogation that inevitably accompanies von Trier’s provocations. She doesn’t mind the repetition, the months she spends hearing the same questions over and over, often in a different city each morning. But she’s tired of the prep work.

“I don’t hate doing press,” she explains. “I hate doing the hair and makeup. I have to wake up at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning, and believe me, I’m not happy about it. I have to see Melancholia at 9 a.m. Who goes to movies that early? 



“I wish I could be one of the dudes, just rolling out of bed, looking like a slob and being the essence of cool. But it doesn’t work that way for the girls.”
 
Dunst, who earned the Best Actress award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for her bruising performance in the film, didn’t get to enjoy the spotlight long before von Trier upstaged her, for all the wrong reasons. As the Danish director explained his sympathy for Hitler at the festival press conference, the actress hid behind him, mortified; he was later banned from Cannes altogether.
 
Even so, Dunst stands by her man. She would have worked with him, she says, regardless of the script he sent her. At first glance, she didn’t know what von Trier’s vision of the world’s end would look like, much less whether it would work on screen. But she took on the project regardless.



“The movie business is just like the music business, and society in general,” she says. “With the Internet, nobody needs their own identity. You can just look somebody up online and dress like them, be like them, mold yourself in their image. Creativity is a lost art form.
 
“But Europeans care about cinema. Americans do too – to suggest otherwise is just unintelligent – but only a couple of them, people like Paul Thomas Anderson. And Lars cares. You know that whatever he’s making is going to be epic and totally original. It might not always work, but it will be beautiful and uncompromising. Why would I say no to that?”

Melancholia is now playing at the Embarcadero Center Cinema. For tickets and showtimes, click here.