On an atypically cold and rainy Los Angeles morning, Kirsten Dunst arrives for our interview wearing a sheer, thin blouse, admitting that it's too cold to be wandering from room to room talking about the third instalment to the franchise that cemented her position as a bona fide Hollywood star.
While in previous interviews she has always maintained that a third Spider-Man would be her last, now she remains more open to doing a fourth, agreeing with Raimi who has now said he would another only with Maguire and Dunst on board. "I would only do it with Sam and Toby," the actress concedes. "I mean, you can't do that the fans first off, and you can't do that to each other - we're a team and we've grown up together now and what makes this movie special is our collaboration together. But we never felt like it was really over anyway so I just think there'll probably be a slight reprieve and we'll come back."
Responding to the question that she once insisted that three is enough, Dunst says that "I do think it's enough - I feel like we ended a chapter with the film definitely. I think that this book is closed and now we'll approach it in another way that will refresh all of us. I mean we always had really amazing actors who have come in and played our villains. People respect this franchise, they respect Spiderman and they know we want to make the best film every time that we can."
So much has changed since Dunst began forming her interpretation of Peter Parker's love, Mary Jane, in the first Spider-Man. With the actress and leading man Tobey Maguire as big stars, greater collaboration between the actors and Sam Raimi was a foregone conclusion, and since the characters have evolved, so has the actors' alliance. "Now they're in a relationship, you now have to deal with real relationship stuff, so I was happy Mary-Jane finally got a gig. Sam obviously was the one who developed the story line, but he was open to our suggestions."
The 'gig' Dunst refers to was MJ's Broadway musical debut, though short-lived. It did give Dunst the opportunity to show off her musical abilities, but was grateful she didn't have to shoot it live. "I got to pre-record it so I just lip-synced, but it was fun to do." What was NOT fun, she says, adamantly, were scenes that required her to be a damsel in distress in a tax, and flung metres above the ground. "Oh I hate doing that crap. I mean basically you spend all day for one shot that's like the blink of an eye in film, which is weeks and weeks of it.. There are like five units going, Sam isn't even directing you, it's like all different people all the time, then they have to have approval, then they run it back and we end up re-shooting it anyway because Sam needs to do it HIS way. So it's the most frustrating, arduous process of the whole filming and I just hate acting to nothing. That's not why I'm in this business but I understand that it's part of this movie and I'm still doing it."
Yet despite these frustrations, she sees the franchise as being more than a simplistic comic book adventure, which helps her to identify with the films' myriad of complex themes. "This movie is about good and evil. Also religion plays a big part in comics to me and Spiderman, including our visuals, like James [Franco] laying, with the sun rising at the end like a sacrificed lamb or Toby in the second one being over the people in the tram like he's Jesus," says Dunst. "Also it's about heroes with Peter like Everyman. I mean, when Spiderman swings through the city it's melancholic music, as he's always tortured with his responsibility and he's trying to grow up and be a man with these powers. I could compare it to Superman, in that when he flies through the air it's like happy music, but Spiderman is always tortured with his work, so that makes him a human. You don't separate the man from mask, so he's always been in sync for me when it comes to Peter."
For Dunst, acting since a child, she seems to have made an effortless transition from childhood actress through to adolescent and adult, but on this she disagrees. "I wouldn't say it was effortless", she concedes, laughingly. "I've done a few shoddy films in my day, but I've always had good friends, good family, went to a normal school and I've always had a good base. But you know, we all go through our crap in our teen years and yet we all have to find ourselves." Which she says she has finally readied. "So I'm OK, I'm good."
Dunst thrives on making a balance between Hollywood's mainstream and films that are more independent such as her Marie Antoinette. "Though Sam to me is a very independent spirit and motto to me and the most collaborative director I've ever worked with. To me it's like doing a small film, obviously on a large scale but when it comes to the scenes and the relationships it's treated like any other movie. It's very important for us. But I look at movies big and small, like the bigger movies take longer to make and you have to do more for them, you know what I mean? And usually it's a little bit more coverage too. Those are the elements, like do I want to spend six months of my life doing this film?"
Dunst is as selective as she needs to be and is excited about her next film, in which she stars opposite Hot Fuzz star Simon Pegg. "We're doing a comedy based on this book called How to Lose Friends and Alienate People." Dunst is looking forward to showing off her more comedic side. "Oh I love comedy. I mean it's such a well written script and I was just like 'Yes!' before I finished it. I play Alison, who works at this faux Vanity Fair. He plays a writer from London who's very controversial and comes to the 'Vanity Fair'-type magazine and it's all about the goings on in that whole celebrity gossip world and having to kind of reject the writer."
But Dunst wants to do more with her life than act. In her spare time, she attends art classes, writes screenplays and will soon write and direct her first short film, as part of the prestigious Glamour Reel project. "It's a ghost story, they're totally giving me carte blanche, I write my script, I pick everyone who I want to collaborate with and it's great." Dunst may not necessarily act in the film. "Michelle Williams is a friend of mine. We did a movie together when we were younger and so I wanted her to be my star, she said she would, so now it's all about dates and things like that." Dunst admits that she hopes to direct a feature at some point. "I am definitely writing one day with that in mind."
Dunst, who seems so far more focused during this interview than in so many previous occasions, is not, however focussed on her overall career plans. Asked about the challenges she faces at this point in her career, the actress is non-committal. "I don't deliberate so much. I'm very instinctual, so I'm not like career planning." For her, choosing a project has less to do with the specifics of a character "but for me it's about the story and the director as is the film."
As she prepares to take on the challenges of directing, the confident actress says that in making THAT particular transition, she says she will borrow from others actors that eventually directed, for her inspiration. "I mean Roman Polanski was an actor, as was Ron Howard, Clint Eastwood. So you know what you need, you know how to treat your actors, you want them to be happy, you want them to have what they need and then be collaborative and, you know, you always get the best of someone when they feel safe and they feel free to do whatever they want in front of your camera." It appears that whether or not we see her don the red hair in a fourth Spidey, one thing for certain: For Kirsten Dunst, there is well and truly life outside the pages of a comic strip.