Kirsten Dunst has
gone from child vampire to Spider-Man's love interest
and now doomed French queen Marie Antoinette, whose rise in
the aristocracy could mirror the actress's own climb
to Hollywood stardom.
movie, Marie Antoinette, debuts in U.S.
theaters on Friday, and the 24-year-old told Reuters that
playing the 18th-century teenage monarch was among the
most intense work of her career.
revolves around the title character, putting the pressure
squarely on Dunst to put in a strong performance. Playing
the queen was made even more difficult because of
director Sofia Coppola's style of telling stories, as
much with pictures as with words.
Yet Dunst said
she had one factor in her favor.
"I can understand
the psychology behind it all," she said of Marie
Antoinette's rise to queen of France, "trying to find
yourself while you're being watched by other people
and asked how you're finding yourself."
The movie focuses
on young Marie Antoinette, an archduchess of Austria
who, at age 14, was sent to France to marry the dauphin who
eventually became King Louis XVI.
Louis XVI and
Marie Antoinette famously met their demise at the wrong end
of the guillotine during the French Revolution, but the
movie excludes their deaths and focuses on Marie
growing into adulthood amid the arrogant aristocracy
Dunst was a child
when she began acting, and her early roles ranged from
big-budget thrillers like 1994's Interview With the
Vampire to art-house films like Sophia Coppola's teenage
drama The Virgin Suicides in 1999.
later, her role in Spider-Man catapulted the
actress to stardom when the film became a box-office smash
with global ticket sales of $822 million.
Marie Antoinette marks the reunion of Dunst and
Coppola, and working with the director was a key reason
Dunst said she took the part.
"She lets you
express anything you are feeling and doesn't judge,"
Dunst said. "She struggles to find your identity."
But Coppola often
uses images more than words to convey a character's
thoughts and emotions. In effect, the director takes away
one tool the actress would use to play the part, and
that made Dunst's job all the more difficult.
"It's hard to put
into words, but it was a different kind of acting. It
was the most alone I've felt," Dunst said.
Marie Antoinette was expected to be a
serious historical accounting of the young queen's days at
Versailles. It was shot at the massive French chateau
outside Paris, and it used the opulent rooms and
manicured lawns for sets. The stars, who include Jason
Schwartzman as Louis XVI, dress in fabulous costumes that
mirror the finest clothing of the day.
But Coppola has
added a pop culture sensibility to the film with a
soundtrack full of 1980s tunes from the likes of Bow Wow
Wow. The movie often exudes a lighthearted sense that
runs counter to the seriousness of the demise of the
French monarchy and the beginning of the country's
At May's Cannes
film festival, where it premiered, Marie Antoinette
shocked some audiences and was met with boos.
however, the tide has turned, and the movie is now meeting
with much critical praise. For one, New York
Times reviewer A.O. Scott wrote: "What to do for
pleasure? Go see this movie, for starters."
"This is a
beautiful piece of art and a brave film, and the fact it
cannot be ignored and is controversial only makes it more of
a film that means something," Dunst said. (Reuters)