Kirsten Dunst for “Bring it On”

At just 18, Kirsten Dunst remains one of Hollywood’s hardest working teenage stars. She’s come a long way since ‘wanting some more’ blood in Interview with a Vampire, or as the perky youngest sister in Little Women. Now the beautiful starlet proved her depth as an actress in the recent Virgin Suicides and returns to more mainstream comic fare in the cheerleading comedy Bring it On. Paul Fischer talked to the young star in Los Angeles.

What strikes one when meeting Kirsten Dunst for the first time is just how normal this celebrity adolescent is. And she wants to remind you that she IS a typical teenager. She loves going bowling, seeing movies and hanging out with her friends. The only thing unusual about her life is this movie career of hers. Besides that little difference between her and most other teens, Dunst would rather be treated just the same, thank you. Not that that’s easy. After all, ever since Dunst leapt onto the screen in a star-making performance with Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in Interview With The Vampire six years ago there was no looking back.

With over 20 feature films to her credit, the 18-year-old Dunst doesn’t get much time to “hang out” with friends due to her hectic work schedule but she says once she gets back from being on location, she and her friends naturally pick up from where they last left off. “Sometimes I feel awkward after coming back when I’ve been gone for so long,” says Dunst. “But my friends, you know, stick up for me if anyone says anything bad about me so I have a good team of friends who are supportive of me and we all have our own things going on. It’s never competitive between us in any way.” Not long after finishing her latest film, Bring it On, Dunst DID hang out with her friends – by doing what comes natural to your average American teenager: Attending her high school prom. ” There’s no way I’d miss out on my prom, are you kidding me?” she says matter-of-factly. “I’m not THAT jaded yet.” Yes, she had a date for the big night, whom she coyly referred “as just a friend.” No gossip from this young actress. “I’m not REALLY going to tell you what went on”, though she did wear the dress her Virgin Suicides director Sofia Coppola wore to the Golden Globes. “And that was cool, because I didn’t have to worry about a prom dress,” she adds smilingly. Dunst may well have been the most famous girl at her prom, but that did not make any difference to her friends. “I was always just ‘Kirsten’ to them because I went out of my way not to act any differently. Yet it remained a challenge for Dunst to be both student and actress, and keep that duality in check. “You have to come to set and it’s like, ‘I am trying to finish my final, OK?’ Luckily I’ve had really good tutors who have helped me out and my school has been so understanding of my going away and coming back and then going away. Plus my teachers were really cool about it.”

Dunst has grown up in front of the cameras, but anybody who doubted her ability to move beyond childhood to beautiful adolescent, thought again after seeing her in The Virgin Suicides. Here, she was mature, thoughtful and even sexy. “She was not like a cheesy sex symbol or anything like that,” explains Dunst. “You know like the girl who shows her tits in the movie. It was a classy sex symbol, an ethereal sexiness.” What the movie did, was enable Dunst to be perceived differently, and now relishes playing “much more adult roles”. Her latest, however, is not quite adult. “I love doing comedy, and Bring it On merely enabled me to express that side of me that I often hold back.” In Bring it On, Dunst smiles and cheerleads her way as Torrance Shipman, team captain of the San Diego Toros at Rancho Carne High School, who must show her team how to beat out their rival squad, the Clovers. Clovers’ captain Isis (Gabrielle Union) is struggling to raise enough money to make it to the competition, while Torrance is facing up to the fact that her team’s cheers are not original. Dunst says that it wasn’t too difficult to relate to this perennially optimistic gymnastic cheerleader. Kirsten was herself a teenager when she was in the 8th grade, she recalls. “I did it so I could fit in more, because all the cool girls were doing it,” though she ended up missing the competition side of it, due to her burgeoning acting career. That is in stark contrast to her Bring it On movie, which focuses on the competitive aspects of cheerleading “which I knew little about. I don’t think there’s ever been a movie which shows how serious this is, or that it’s a sport in its own right, and how these girls are like dancers, athletes and how hard they work.” Dunst worked just as hard. There are no stunt doubles to be found. “It was a lot of hard work but exhilarating.”

Now that she has finished high school, one would assume that she is ready for college. “I want to go to college but I don’t want to go right away. I’m so happy working and not having to worry about school. As long as I keep reading and learning about stuff, because I learn so much from the people I work with. I feel like I’m getting an education through the movies I’m doing and what that process involves. ” Professionally, Dunst would rather focus all her attention on her very diverse career whether it be mainstream or independent. “I think I can afford to do a lot,” says Dunst. “But bigger films get you to be in a position you want to be in. Independent films don’t really. If you want a production company or if you want to be a director I think the bigger films sometimes will help you get along with your career in the future. Then they allow you to do independent films also. I like doing both.”

Dunst is also busy developing her own projects, including a film about Sylvia Plath, whom she is dying to play. “She was such an extraordinary character, so tragic and profound, and her relationship with [poet] Ted Hughes is lyrical and poetic.” Dunst has her eyes on Aussie Heath Ledger to play Hughes. “He’d be perfect. He’s such an incredible young actor” Dunst enthuses.