Kirsten Dunst for “Wimbledon”

Kirsten Dunst wearily admits to being a bit thorny. Her last interview of the day as she was dutifully bouncing around promoting her latest film, the tennis-themed romantic comedy Wimbledon, Dunst was clearly becoming a tad annoyed at the press’s obsession with her private life. Recently split up with boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal and starring in a romantic comedy to boot, the questions have been bouncing at her all day. Forcing a half smile, the pretty Hollywood star conceded that “just lately with the press, it’s been overwhelming lately for me.”

Dunst says that she is not quite sure why it is that at this juncture in her career, is her personal life of such paramount importance to the media. “I don’t know, maybe because of Spiderman II and Wimbledon, I guess I’m in the limelight more now I suppose. Also, I live in Los Angeles where everybody is, so I think it’s hard to keep things private, but this is where I live.” The actress says that she continues to deflect prying questions about her private life by being as politely responsive as possible, by “just saying, ‘I’m sorry but I’m not going to answer that question.'”

Dunst says that she tends to read articles in magazines about her and can’t avoid coming into contact with the tabloids. Knowing how much is written based on untruths, the actress says that “you can’t let it bother you so much. It’s out for a week, but I just hate when lies are made up about relationships and nobody really knows what goes on between two people so that can be frustrating or they make a big deal out of something I’ve said that I didn’t even mean was a big deal, and then people get hurt. So it, I’ve just got to be a little more careful.” So it is time to move on to her latest movie, Wimbledon, a charming romantic comedy that casts the diverse Dunst as a tennis star on the rise who falls for a former champ [Paul Bettany] who discovers his game on the verge of retirement. Dunst said during the Spider-Man 2 junket that shooting Wimbledon was in some ways tougher than that action film, a fact she continues to concede. “Spiderman, first of all I love, is more juvenile than this one and it’s hard to keep that, every time before takes. Paul and I would, go here we go again, and he’d be like fresh and sexy, because it’s hard to keep that thing going when it’s a different take on a different angle, and it’s such in the moment with the dialogue. Sometimes we have such little quips, and the challenge is to make them seem natural sometimes. It’s sometimes difficult to get that balance.” On screen, here Dunst plays an overly confident and toughly aggressive player, whose serve is as powerful as her verbal barbs. Dunst says that she did have to search within herself to find that character. “I think I had the confidence to be that way because I got really good at certain parts of tennis, so to have that base of course makes you feel more confident, so it was exciting to be that kind of a player. For me it was fun for me to throw those racquets on the court.”

As convincing a tennis player she is, Dunst had never been especially interested in tennis before shooting this movie. “I never really watched it or played it,” she says. Laughing, she says that even having trained with the legendary Pat Cash, she wouldn’t have the courage to challenge anyone of note to a tennis match. “I think they’d beat me pretty bad, so I think I’d stick to amateurs, such as my Dad.”

Asked what makes a good romantic comedy, which is perhaps the toughest genre to pull off, Dunst says that “in the Working Title world, [the producers of Love Actually, etc], they seem to find a good balance and I think that English humour really helps out making it not so cutesy and the fact that I’m really the masculine energy in the film which is different from most romantic comedies. In the case of ours, you have this tennis world which really sets up a lot of the comedy and I think it’s just a good balance in the movie, so it’s hard to make it not too cutesy.” As for working with Paul Bettany, Dunst laughingly admits that he did her some of the finer points of British profanity. “He uses the word ‘c – nt’ more than anybody I’ve ever met, mostly for guys, but he completely uses it like he’s saying the word ‘water’. I mean, he has the worst mouth ever.”

At a mere 22, Dunst has appeared in over forty films, and as successful and famous as she has become, the actress says that she is not surprised, yet circumspect, at the success that she has attained. “I work hard but I’ve had plenty of failures too, so I feel like I’ve learned a lot. I don’t know if surprised is the right word at my success, but I feel that if you make choices that really mean something to you, it’s hard not to feel successful because even if they don’t make money, or don’t do this, you’re still doing something for yourself, then it’s easier to feel successful.”

It was Spider-Man that ultimately cemented her huge success, and despite that franchise’s whirlwind publicity juggernaut and an intrusive media, Dunst says that knowing the effect of that film on her life, she would take it on if offered to her today. “It’s given me the opportunity to have more choices and more opportunities and people who will go and see Spiderman now, might go see another movie I’m in that they wouldn’t go to see normally, like Eternal Sunshine or something like that. So the fact that I have that power now is really great and that I can be the lead in a movie and that they would finance it with me because I’m known in places that I’ve never been to, all helps.”

And Dunst remains passionately proud of the films, especially the second one. “I’m completely proud of that movie and I think that we made a great blockbuster. But all of us really loved the story and are moved by it, so I think that’s why audiences responded because I really do put myself in that.” While Dunst is committed to Spider-Man 3, a fourth seems unlikely, though regrets her previous comments that she wants her character to die. “I was totally joking when I said that,” but wouldn’t be drawn as to whether she would be convinced to continue on.

But there is certainly more to Dunst’s career than Spider-Man, as she takes on the daunting task of playing the tragic Marie Antoinette for director Sofia Coppola, which is to be shot on location in Paris and the Palace of Versailles. Though a historical epic, Dunst says “it sounds like a big movie but the script takes it in a very personal way.” Her Louis will be played by Jason Schwartzman, and Dunst jokingly says that she “will have no problem playing an Austrian character because my Dad’s German.” The perpetually busy actress is still in the middle of shooting Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown, a project shrouded in secrecy. “I think Sofia and Cameron are two really amazing directors and respectfully they want to keep things private because why give away the movie when you can see it in a year. It’s more exciting to wait and wonder what it’s about, and we’ll talk about it plenty in a year or so.” After Marie-Antoinette it’s back to the world of Spider-Man, and Dunst hopes to try and have a break somewhere during that hectic schedule. “I finish Cameron’s movie at the end of September, then I don’t work again until March, which is a big break and then after that, Spiderman will probably start in the Fall.” Dunst hopes that during her break “I’d love to learn French because I’m going to be spending a lot of time in Paris and I don’t know what I’ll do, but get into the zone of Maria Antoinette, read a lot and take classes.”