Kirsten Dunst Interview

The actress talks about a film about life, love, and family

I have never been so amazed at how much a movie has affected me like Elizabethtown. It wasn't one of those typical films you hear about. It will touch you in ways you can't imagine. In one character or another, you'll be able to see yourself.

One of those characters is Claire, played by Kirsten Dunst. She's a flight attendant, who is on the plane with Orlando Bloom when he travels home to Kentucky for his father's funeral. Kirsten's mother was a flight attendant in real life (but I think that's only a coincidence).

After a friendship ensues, she helps Orlando discover what he's really been missing in his life - life itself!

I sat down with Kirsten to talk about the movie and how much she enjoyed working with Cameron:

How approached for the film?

Kirsten Dunst: Cameron had a meeting with me to talk about it and let me know what it was about. He was calling people in to read, so he called me in. I got all dressed up like an airline stewardess, and I was really ready because I loved this part and it worked out.

Were you briefed by your mother?

Kirsten Dunst: No, she was in another kind of business. Hers was Lufthansa first class, so it's a little bit different. It was just more glamorous how she lived her life.

Did you audition with Ashton or someone else?

Kirsten Dunst: No, I was cast first. I auditioned with the casting director, Cameron and a video camera in a weird side room in - it looked like an old airport. It's right near this airport, not LAX, but there's some other airport around there. His office was on the runway; we had a view of the airplanes. It was in some weird little room with those bad fluorescent lights.

You knew him from trying out in Almost Famous?

Kirsten Dunst: Yes.

Were close to getting the part of Penny Lane?

Kirsten Dunst: No, I wasn't; I was way too innocent for that role.

Did you have any input into the songs on the mix CD your character makes?

Kirsten Dunst: Yeah, I picked certain things, (laughs) but I don't think any of my stuff made it. The L-O-V-E that's all over the book, I did that four years ago; I gave a lot of stuff that I have accumulated and cut out things from magazines to put in the box.

Was the Southern accent easy or hard to get used to?

Kirsten Dunst: It was so easy for me. I think I've done it before in a movie, some movie so long ago; I just did it. I didn't have a dialect coach or anything. I just kind of did my own thing and decided to lay it on thicker when I was talking to him on the plane.

How was it playing such an up character?

Kirsten Dunst: Kind of makes you depressed because she's so positive and gives so much, it's so draining. I feel like she's really sad underneath because - so much of that, and not really getting anything back is what she's comfortable with I think, but not what makes her happy.

Was she an idealized female character?

Kirsten Dunst: She's a little crazy in the beginning too. And that's Cameron's - all the women in his films, the point that the story usually happens is that the man is the one that needs the guidance and the woman's the one that helping the man usually in his films. I feel that if any reason that you feel that way is probably that reason. It's all about him really in some ways, but I feel that Claire is also falling for him. When the movie ends, I feel like it's really a beginning for them and for her.

Do you find the romantic comedy scenes funny the way Cameron writes them?

Kirsten Dunst: He's the best at it; I don't even consider this a romantic comedy. His movies to me are a genre unto themselves a little bit. They're like anthems, an emotional, big song. Most romantic comedies, they say the obvious thing; with him, he takes what most people say and just turns it up.

What's it like to be on a Cameron Crowe set?

Kirsten Dunst: Well, he chose me for the role, so there obviously there was a kinship there with me and the part, and him seeing me as that part; I was very comfortable. He played music a lot to set a tone or interrupt a take. Sometimes I loved it and sometimes I'd be like, ‘I don't want any music; I need to be quiet.' It was a different approach every day, and I liked that he was open to that and collaborative with me. He's very specific, especially with the words. There was definitely no dropping of words in the scenes that we did. If we did, he knew right away because he's so particular, and the characters are so well thought out, from the smallest role. He is so emotionally invested in this movie that it sometimes got really specific.

So there was no improv?

Kirsten Dunst: We didn't improv at all. The only time that it felt like I was able to was in the phone call scene, which I did for about a week. There's going to be a lot of DVD footage.

So you drew from your own experiences, conversations?

Kirsten Dunst: I guess I just felt the most free during the phone call scenes cause it was like we could do whatever we wanted. I guess not so much with the words, but how we were expressing it. It wasn't really written. So it was all over the place. That was fun to do.

So during those scenes, someone else is saying Orlando's lines or was Orlando off-camera?

Kirsten Dunst: He was only there for when I was in bed, when it got a little bit more quiet. But John, our props guy, was talking to me when I was in the bathtub. And Anna Maria, our script supervisor, and Cameron and sometimes just by myself too. It was all different, but mostly not Orlando.

What's the longest conversation you ever had?

Kirsten Dunst: I don't know; I'm not a really long conversation on the phone person. I understand like when you're first meeting somebody, and you're not in the same city, spending a really long time. Just getting to know somebody - that excited thing where you laugh at everything the other person's saying. Everything's so bubbling up and you talk forever.

What's the best conversation you've ever had on the phone?

Kirsten Dunst: No, it's so monumental; I can't tell you that one.

How was it working with Orlando?

Kirsten Dunst: He's such a good person, so ego-less. Coming onto this movie, he had a lot going on: he was an American, didn't have any swords or anything. It was taking the little boy's toys away. He was playing Cameron too, so he had that pressure as well. He was always open to learning. No ego -

Almost shy?

Kirsten Dunst: Shy, Orlando? Not when you know him. He's more reserved in these situations, but he's not shy.

How do you deal with his fans that go crazy for him?

Kirsten Dunst: They were around sometimes and he's so generous with them. In between shots and everything, he'd go out that. And sometimes I'd be like, ‘Okay, it's nice to do, but you're working and you're giving a lot of your energy to other people. It's important that you have that for yourself, too.' He was constantly, always going out and signing autographs. The girls would just go crazy.

Did Cameron introduce you to any new musicians or acts? Ryan Adams?

Kirsten Dunst: I knew all those people; the thing about Cameron is that I know Tom Petty, but I didn't know that song. He's good at finding songs that you don't really know by an artist, even if you know them. He'll find a particular song that not a lot of people have paid attention to.

What would be on your mix tape?

Kirsten Dunst: I like that Sunday's song, Here's Where the Story Ends and do you know the Langley Schools Music Project - these little kids who sing like Space Odyssey and G-d Only Knows. Their version of G-d Only Knows is so pure and sad because they don't know what they're singing about. But it's very cute and Space Odyssey is hilarious; you can find it on iTunes.

Did you think Ben existed?

Kirsten Dunst: Sometimes he existed for me and sometimes he didn't.

Cameron never told you either way?

Kirsten Dunst: No, we both felt the same way about it - whatever.

Have you finished Marie Antoinette?

Kirsten Dunst: I can't really say; Sofia's really private, and we'll have plenty of time to talk about it. I think next fall maybe, but we might try to take it to Cannes.

It's a film in Versailles?

Kirsten Dunst: Oh yeah, and different chateaus all around France.

Did you like doing a historical movie?

Kirsten Dunst: It's not really historical; it was very modern the way we did it, even though we were dressed, it was period and we were in Versailles. We weren't acting like we were in a period drama.

Have you ever taken a road trip?

Kirsten Dunst: No, the most is like up north somewhere in California - nothing cross country.

Would you ever want to?

Kirsten Dunst: I would love to someday with my girlfriend or boyfriend.

Are you shooting anything between Marie Antoinette and Spider-Man 3?

Kirsten Dunst: I'm sure there will be because Spider-Man takes a while to come out.

When do you start shooting?

Kirsten Dunst: January, there's nothing before or in between.

Do you relate to Claire?

Kirsten Dunst: I do, I can relate. I can understand that whole people-pleasing aspect. Not so much anymore, but she really - she doesn't really spend time with herself. It's very much about other people all the time, so I can understand that kind of thing with the work I do.

What were your favorite scenes?

Kirsten Dunst: I like doing the ballroom scene because we were first able to do it in a really wide shot, so we were all over the ballroom; it kind of felt like a play. So that was fun because it changed every time. New things would come out of it and we weren't really stuck to anything yet. I also liked being in the bathtub too. That was nice. I think because it's a very sensorial thing. There's something about that type of acting - really feeling something or being aware of everything you're drinking that helps you with what you're doing in the scene.

There are so many amazing songs to listen to. You'll also fall in love with the characters! Elizabethtown opens in theaters October 14th; it's rated PG-13. It also stars Susan Sarandon as Orlando's mother and Alec Baldwin as his boss.