Want to feel old? Sofia Coppola’s first feature, “The Virgin Suicides,” was filmed almost 20 years ago. Even Kirsten Dunst is horrified by this. At the time, the actress was 16. (She’s 35 now.) Back then, she was still considered one of the most esteemed child actresses of her time, beloved for “Interview with the Vampire,” “Little Women” and “Jumanji.” “The Virgin Suicides,” though, was the first time we saw her as a young woman.
“I had to do a lot of things in that film I wasn’t necessarily comfortable doing,” Dunst recalls. “But Sofia protected me. I had this montage of making out with different boys. And I wouldn’t make out with them. She told me to just move my head back and forth into their neck. It would look like we were making out.”
Nice fakeout. “I was happy my transition from being thought of more as a child actress into an adult was in the hands of Sofia,” Dunst adds.
Since then, the award-winning actress has worked with Coppola three more times; the two are a female version of Scorsese and De Niro. Dunst played doomed royalty in “Marie Antoinette” and had a brief part, as herself, in “The Bling Ring.” She’s back in Coppola’s award-winning new film “The Beguiled,” a loose remake of the 1971 classic — arguably the weirdest movie on Clint Eastwood’s résumé.
Dunst plays Edwina, second-in-command at a remote Mississippi girls’ school (run by Nicole Kidman, and whose students include Elle Fanning). It’s three years into the Civil War, and the girls are shocked — and a little stoked — to rescue a wounded Union soldier, played by Colin Farrell. As in the original, he proceeds to worm his way into their good graces, then goes a bit further (nudge nudge). But since this is a film directed by a woman, you get a movie where it’s the man, not the women, who’s the object.
“It’s rare to see Colin Farrell being the only one bare-chested in a movie,” Dunst says, chuckling. “He was a good sport about being objectified at times.”
Meanwhile, the female characters are covered head-to-toe in period garb. Coppola made them all take a deep dive in 19th century refinement: sewing classes, knitting classes. They learned dances and songs and did bible study.
“The weirdest thing I learned is you can’t pick up your dress with two hands [while walking],” Dunst explains. “You use the one hand to swish the fabric into the other. It was a funny ladylike thing that I obviously had never, ever thought about. Whenever we were running out of the house, we all gathered our dresses up in a certain way. You would never pull up your skirt to walk down the stairs.”
Another rule: no ankles could be shown. At least they had fun with the strict refinements of the 19th century. Craft services always poured their drinks into the same plastic cups you see at keggers. Craft services served their beverages in the same plastic cups you see at keggers.
“You’d see these little girls with red solo cups, so it looked like we all had beers in our hands,” Dunst remembers. “We made this little ‘Girls Gone Wild’ video, where Elle and I were in our outfits and we held these red solo cups. We’d run up to Sofia, then we’d flash our ankles. We’re gonna put it out there; I’ll Instagram it or something.”
“The Beguiled” arrives only a couple weeks before “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” the second reboot of a series that originally co-starred Dunst. Years ago, back during press for one of the “Spider-Man”s, Dunst hatched a crazy idea for a spin-off: Mary Jane would get pregnant with Peter Parker’s baby, and the whole film would be a dark and unsettling psychological thriller — think “Rosemary’s Baby” — about her dread over giving birth to a spider-toddler. It never happened, of course.
“I still think it would be cool to do,” Dunst says. “It’s such a unique idea; no one’s done that with a superhero character — like an independent version. Maybe I’ll ask Sam [Raimi, “Spider-Man” director] if he’d be into it. It would be really dark.”
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