When Kirsten Dunst plays a character who goes to dark places, that doesn’t mean she goes to dark places herself.
“You know what’s funny? You really need to be in a good place,” Dunst tells us. “I think my best work is when I’m in a really happy place.”
The actress didn’t even feel her bleakest role to date — as a clinically depressed woman happy the apocalypse is around the corner in Lars Von Trier’s “Melancholia,” which won her the Best Actress trophy at Cannes — was a drag. “I had a great time on ‘Melancholia.’ I really did! I was so grateful to be working on an amazing role with a great auteur.”
She felt the same way about “Midnight Special,” a new sci-fi drama by Jeff Nichols ("Take Shelter," "Mud'). She plays a former cult member who’s had her young son (played by Jaeden Lieberher) taken away from her. He has mysterious superpowers, making him sought by government agents and religious fanatics alike. Once reunited, Sarah and her son go on the road — with his father (Michael Shannon) plus his friend (Joel Edgerton) — to help him achieve his a strange destiny, which may involve him leaving this realm forever.
Dunst, now 33, has talked about her desire to start a family, but she didn’t draw on that to play a mother.
“I didn’t think about that with this role at all. They’re totally not the same feelings — to have a son you haven’t seen in two years,” she explains. “I had enough things to draw from in my own life to relate to her emotions. I thought about who I care about in my life. We all have things in life that are huge — deaths in families, everything. I try not to think about that — that some day I’m going to die. Maybe one day when I have kids I’ll think about it more.”
Dunst also has to do this without much in the way of dialogue. Sarah doesn’t speak much, and you have to glean her face — weathered and free of makeup (“It wasn’t a vain role, that’s for sure,” she jokes) — to see everything she’s thinking.
“I’m a silent film actress in this,” Dunst says, smiling. To her that’s a great thing. “I love not talking in films. Who talks that much in real life anyway? I definitely don’t talk that much. It’s kind of exhausting.”