Also Credited As:Kirsten Caroline Dunst
|Kirsten Caroline Dunst on April 30, 1982 in Point Pleasant, New Jersey, USA|
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Born Kirsten Caroline Dunst on April 30, 1982 in Point Pleasant, NJ, she was the daughter of Klaus and Inez Dunst - the former, a German-born executive; the latter, an artist and gallery owner of Swedish descent. At the age of three, Inez began to take her personable and Kewpie doll-cute three year old daughter to auditions, resulting in Kirsten's professional debut in a cereal commercial in 1985. Landing a contract with the Ford Modeling Agency shortly thereafter, the toddler went on to more work in commercials, in print and even an appearance as George H. W. Bush's (Dana Carvey) granddaughter on a "Saturday Night Live" (NBC, 1975- ) skit in 1988. Dunst made her feature film debut at the age of seven with a small role in the Woody Allen segment of "New York Stories" (1989), a triptych of Big Apple-themed vignettes directed by Allen, Francis Ford Coppola and Martin Scorsese. From that prestigious first outing she went on to a small role in the disastrous Tom Hanks-Bruce Willis adaptation of Tom Wolfe's "The Bonfire of the Vanities" (1990), as well as another cameo on "SNL."
By now it was clear to Dunst's mother - who had recently separated from her husband - that her daughter's prospects as an actress held real possibilities. Moving to the suburban environs of Los Angeles' San Fernando Valley in 1991, Inez rolled the dice on just how far her daughter's natural talent and charm would take her. The gamble appeared solid when Dunst picked up television roles in the cautionary tale of drug addiction "Darkness Before Dawn" (NBC, 1993) and on the family drama "Sisters" (NBC, 1991-96). Everything changed, however, after Dunst reportedly beat out fellow child actress Christina Ricci for the coveted role of Claudia in director Neil Jordan's highly-anticipated interpretation of novelist Anne Rice's "Interview with the Vampire" (1994). Her eerily-mature performance as an ageless, blood-drinking woman-child, opposite leading men Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt, proved to be one of the more consistently praised aspects of the gothic-horror film, earning Dunst her first Golden Globe nomination. Following up with the role of Amy, the self-indulgent youngest of the March sisters in "Little Woman" (1994), opposite Winona Ryder and Claire Danes, Dunst again garnered much of the film's praise and placed herself firmly on the list of young stars to watch.
A wide variety of film and television projects continued to come the versatile young actress' way, with prominent appearances alongside Robin Williams in the family fantasy-adventure "Jumanji" (1995), as well as with Randy Quaid and Laura Dern in the based-on-fact television movie "The Siege at Ruby Ridge" (CBS, 1996). One of the few actresses in her age group with the ability to take on the demands of edgier characters, Dunst impressed with a recurring role as a child prostitute taken under the wing of Dr. Ross (George Clooney) during the 1996-97 season of "ER" (NBC, 1994-2009). Amidst a plethora of other TV roles, she appeared in features like the political satire "Wag the Dog" (1997), voiced the younger version of the title character in the animated historical adventure-drama "Anastasia" (1997) and played the titular young heroine in Japanese filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki's animated fantasy "Kiki's Delivery Service" (1998). As the decade drew to a close, Dunst was emerging as one of the more recognizable, as well as adaptable, faces in Hollywood, with turns in projects like the dark teen beauty pageant satire "Drop Dead Gorgeous" (1999) and the quirky comedy "Dick" (1999), in which she and Michelle Williams played best friends who inadvertently alter the course of President Nixon's ill-fated administration.
It was another film that same year, however, which allowed Dunst to demonstrate the full extent of her impressive acting abilities. In writer-director Sofia Coppola's directorial debut "The Virgin Suicides" (1999), Dunst was equally charming and tragic as Lux, the eldest sister of the enigmatic Lisbon sisters. Making a thematic about-face with her choice of projects, she went on to play the plucky captain of an ambitious cheerleading squad in the multiplex hit, "Bring It On" (2000), and displayed girl-next-door charm in the teen romance "Get Over It" (2001). The pair of youth-oriented films made her one of the most popular actresses of the MTV generation, verified by an offer to co-host the MTV Movie Awards alongside Jimmy Fallon in 2001. Having recently graduated from the private Catholic school, Notre Dame High School in Sherman Oaks, CA the actress appropriately began seeking out more adult film roles. First came a starring turn as Marion Davies, Golden Era ingénue and mistress of William Randolph Hearst (Edward Herrmann) in director Peter Bogdanovich's "The Cat's Meow" (2001), a fictionalized account of the events surrounding the suspicious death of director Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes).
Having comfortably worked largely within the world of independent films for most of her recent career, Dunst jumped head first into Hollywood blockbusters when she signed on to play Mary Jane Watson, the vivacious love-interest of "Spider-Man" (2002). Mary Jane's against-the-odds romance with reluctant superhero-in-the-making Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire), helped give the comic book adventure the heart and romance it needed to become one of the biggest commercial successes of the decade. Her chemistry with co-star Maguire was palpable - they were reportedly romantically involved for a time during the film's production - and much to the delight of Sony Pictures, she had signed on for a minimum of two sequels. In an effort to maintain some artistic equilibrium, Dunst continued to work in smaller, more intimate affairs like the ensemble dramas "Levity" (2003) and "Mona Lisa Smile" (2003). Her supporting turn alongside Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in director Michel Gondry's existential romantic-drama "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004) the following year did much to bolster her indie credentials. On the personal front, Dunst and beau Jake Gyllenhaal, who had been dating for two years, ended their Hollywood storybook romance in 2004, a break-up covered breathlessly for weeks in the tabloids.
The eagerly awaited sequel "Spider-Man 2" (2004) was also released that year, and proved to be one of the rare exceptions where the second film lived up to the expectations set by the first. Watson and Parker's ongoing, trouble-plagued love affair greatly contributed to the continuing popularity of the franchise. Dunst's non-superhero forays at the time faired less well, in particular her turn opposite Paul Bettany in the tennis romance "Wimbledon" (2004), followed by the poorly-received Cameron Crowe romantic-comedy "Elizabethtown" (2005), co-starring Orlando Bloom. Her eponymous role as "Marie Antoinette" (2006), which reteamed her with Sofia Coppola, was nominally more successful with fans and reviewers, but was hardly the indie sensation "Virgin Suicides" had been. The box-office bonanza that was "Spider-Man 3" (2007), however, kept her at the top of the Hollywood heap, despite the complaints by some fans and critics that the franchise had lost its way. The pressure of living her entire childhood, adolescence and early adulthood in the Hollywood fishbowl may have begun to take its toll on Dunst, who announced that she would be taking a break from her steady film schedule to pursue her interest in art for a time shortly after the film's premiere.
After working with comedic actor Simon Pegg in the little-seen comedy "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People" (2008), Dunst set off a flurry of speculation when she checked herself into Cirque Lodge treatment center in Utah in February of that year. Upon leaving the facility in the spring, she publicly set the record straight on her stint in rehab, stating that it was for treatment of depression, not drugs or alcohol, as many in the press had postulated. Almost immediately, she was back to work in the based-on-fact thriller "All Good Things" (2010), as the wife of a man (Ryan Gosling) implicated in her murder 20 years after her sudden disappearance. Although filmed in 2008, the film was not released until 2010, and during that time Dunst remained largely out of the spotlight. Although she had said that she would consider a fourth Spider-Man film, provided the return of director Sam Raimi and co-star Maguire, Sony Pictures announced their intentions to completely reboot the franchise with an all-new cast and director. After two years of being away from film, Dunst made her triumphant return as the star of controversial director Lars von Trier's "Melancholia" (2011). Her role as a deeply depressed woman whose wedding day is overshadowed by Earth's imminent destruction not only garnered Dunst the Best Actress Award at the 64th Cannes Film Festival, but some of the best critical notices of her career.
By Bryce Coleman