Kirsten Dunst didn’t work for two years: ‘Every role I was being offered was the sad mom’

Kirsten Dunst covers the latest issue of Marie Claire, and this is a great interview. She’s promoting Civil War, her first role since The Power of the Dog, for which she received her first Oscar nomination. She didn’t work for two years after that. Apparently, she was offered some scripts in that two-year period, but they were all “sad mom roles.” Typecasting, ageism and sexism has come to Kirsten’s career now, at the age of 41. Kirsten chatted about all of that and more with Marie Claire, and there’s some really nice stuff about her husband Jesse Plemons and their two sons, James and Ennis. Some highlights:

Life as a mom: “I’m, like, a Volvo soccer mom right now. Selfishly, I was just like, I want to go shopping.”

Not working for two years: “I haven’t worked in two years…every role I was being offered was the sad mom… To be honest, that’s been hard for me…because I need to feed myself. The hardest thing is being a mom and…not feeling like, I have nothing for myself. That’s every mother—not just me. There’s definitely less good roles for women my age. That’s why I did Civil War.”

Working with writer/director Alex Garland: “When I read the script, I thought, I’ve never done anything like this. I just love that he’s someone who pushes boundaries.”

She was really affected by the film shoot: She “had PTSD for a good two weeks after. I remember coming home and eating lunch and I felt really empty.” It seemed to Garland that she “let herself live inside the film, and feel the reality of the moments.”

Garland wrote the script before January 6. It’s not clear which factions are “good” or “bad,” and that’s precisely the point. Landing this April in a hotly divided election year, “I think it’s a cautionary tale,” Dunst says, “a fable of what happens when people don’t communicate with each other and stop seeing each other as human beings.”

What if Donald Trump is reelected. “He can’t win. I honestly feel like…we just need a fresh start. We need a woman,” Dunst says, although speaking generally and not as an endorsement of any particular candidate. “All the countries that are led by women do so much better.”

Working with her husband again on ‘Civil War’. “Because we fell in love on a set, we fell in love creatively first. I think we’ll always come back to that, in a very not-involving-our-real-life way. And also, listen, we don’t talk to each other on set. I left him alone, he left me alone. I love working with him. What’s nice is that we trust each other so much. He sent me a scene last night of this miniseries he’s working on to get my opinion. If I’m having a hard time deciding on something, I’ll have him read it. I trust his opinion more than anyone, and he cares about me more than anyone.” Crucially, “we hate the same things.”

On the Oscars: Dunst agrees that Greta Gerwig should have been nominated for directing Barbie, but she isn’t swept up in the overall horse race. If anything, she lowers her voice again, “There are too many award shows.”

Maybe she doesn’t want to win an Oscar: “I think it’s good to be an underdog. If you [win] Academy Awards, sometimes it’s not always good for your career.” It seems characteristically, morbidly Hollywood that Oscars are given all-consuming weight for a season, but the shine quickly fades. For example, Dunst shrugs, “I don’t know who won last year.” For what she really wants to do—make interesting film with European directors—quality acting matters more than Oscars anyway.

She’s worked with a lot of female directors: “I saw the power in women very young. I think that’s helped with…not needing male attention in my career.” A younger Dunst told her manager, “I feel like I get hired because I’m someone that they might want to sleep with,” even if only in theory. “I think that’s probably why I migrated to so many female directors at a younger age, because I didn’t want to feel that way.” She grapples with different concerns for her career now. In her early 40s, “no one cares” about her looks, Dunst laughs.

Would she ever do another superhero movie? “Yes,because you get paid a lot of money, and I have two children, and I support my mother.”

[From Marie Claire]

There was something which reminded me of my evolving opinion of Chloe Sevigny – both Chloe and Kirsten were It Girls in the 1990s and early ‘00s, both were cool girls who worked with offbeat indie directors and both prioritized the art rather than the paycheck. And now both of them would love to book big studio films or a lucrative TV show because, frankly, they need the money. It’s just a reminder that these are really “working actresses” too, not necessarily rich movie stars. The one thing I won’t defend is that Kirsten doesn’t know who won Oscars last year… um, it’s your industry, and it was a historic year because Michelle Yeoh won, hello???

Covers courtesy of Marie Claire.

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16 Responses to “Kirsten Dunst didn’t work for two years: ‘Every role I was being offered was the sad mom’”

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  1. Nanea says:

    “Who won Oscars last year”

    Not only, as you said, Kaiser, an historic win for Michelle Yeoh, but also for Ke Huy Quan, who had been sidelined for years and years where he couldn’t work as an actor, because… Asian. See Yeoh, Michelle.

    And female heads of states?
    Has she heard of Georgia Meloni, the neo-fascist PM in Italy?
    Additionally, not everything Dr Merkel did in her 16 years was beneficial for Germany. She very much delayed supporting renewables, so much of the solar industry went bust, and China stepped in. She missed reining in the car industry, she slept on digitalisation – and Corona should have been handled much better, especially with her being a scientist.
    (Kirsten has a German passport, no idea if she votes)

    But it’s good to see that Kirsten worked so much with female directors, even if the reason is mostly *patriarchy*.

    • Josephine says:

      There was a lot of talk about the countries led by women doing better during the pandemic, so maybe she was thinking about that. I read it as a call for more women leaders with some hyperbole, not a statement examining the efficacy of every women leader ever.

    • AlpineWitch says:

      “Has she heard of Georgia Meloni, the neo-fascist PM in Italy?”
      (it’s Giorgia) Exactly! One of the reasons she was elected was because she couldn’t be that rabid of a f@sc!st due to her gender.
      Although, in theory, I support her stance – more female politicians in politics is needed – it’s not always a silver bullet. Our most r@bid and anti-immigrant Home Secretaries (I live in the UK) are both females and PoCs, just an absurd oxymoron really.

  2. Pomski says:

    She’s a mom in real life but didn’t work because all she was offered were “sad mom roles”. She is projecting her own bias by rejecting those offers, in effect saying that mom characters aren’t interesting. If the writing is good and the part fits her skill set, I’m not sure how ageism applies. Emily Blunt, 41. Michelle Williams, 43. Kate Winslet, 48. And Emma Stone is 35.

    • North of Boston says:

      There’s a difference between roles where a character happens to be a mother and “sad mom roles”

      My guess is that she was seeing roles with similar tone and focus to her Power of the Dog role, which I can understand her not wanting to repeat in back to back roles. That’s not a blanket statement that “mom characters aren’t interesting”

    • Shawna says:

      You’re assuming the sad mom roles were written well. That’s a very slim chance.

    • Juju says:

      Keep in mind that most of the women you have listed are also producers who are literally having to create the opportunities for themselves to make sure quality roles exist beyond age 40.

      And I agree with the comments that she was probably referring to being offered roles similar to her Power of the Dog role. The entertainment industry has a surprising lack of creativity.

    • Polly says:

      I don’t think so. She said “sad” moms especially and I think it reflects on how media portrays moms, not her personal opinion.

  3. SH says:

    I have loved a lot of performances and like to think of Jesse and her as a cute couple so this confirms it is best I don’t see her interviews. They are always just a former child actor just saying stuff vibes. Very Vanessa Hudgens’s thoughts on the pandemic.

    • bananapanda says:

      I saw her on a roundtable once so I read this with her voice in my head – which is easier to give her leeway. I agree. She does not come across well in print but in video/real life she’s more thoughtful in discussing her path, working with people like Sofia Coppola, the Rodarte women and other artsy movies that were low budget.

      I wonder if getting married to Jesse and perhaps his salary being larger (I’m guessing) despite her longer career is opening her eyes to money issues. She’s been in some major hits, no denying it.

  4. Shawna says:

    “The hardest thing is being a mom and…not feeling like, I have nothing for myself.” I feel that so hard. And my husband and I met at work, and it’s always fun when we get excited about a work project together.

    I don’t know who won the book prizes this year in my category, either.

  5. Sue says:

    I just came here to say that I love to see former child actors who seem to have turned out well balanced and healthy. I never followed Kirsten’s personal life very closely, but I’ve never heard anything about her going off the deep end.

  6. Caseysmom says:

    Her saying she doesn’t remember who won last year is directly related to her comment about there being too many awards. I love Michelle Yeoh and her films and *I* didn’t remember her historic win until I saw her at this year’s Oscar’s.

  7. GrnieWnie says:

    I have a soft spot for Kiki. Look: she hasn’t messed with her face at all. She’s got the confidence of a life-long actor in the industry. And she’s always pretty open and honest in interviews.

  8. lizzbert says:

    That’s exactly why Angela Lansbury said yes to Murder, She Wrote. She and her husband decided that she needed to book a long-running TV show for financial security, after a career in film and on Broadway. It’s a common issue for a lot of working actors!

  9. LIONE says:

    I absolutely love Kirsten. And I love her husband. Those two together… You can tell they share a creative passion for things and that they can collaborate really well. Love love love