Film: The oldest teenager in Hollywood

She's been in show business for 14 years, and she's just 17. But somehow, Kirsten Dunst has survived.

Kirsten Dunst has a list of co-stars that would be envied by an actress three times her age. Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview With the Vampire, Dustin Hoffman and Robert de Niro in Wag the Dog, George Clooney in ER (she played the throat-slashing child-woman, an Albanian refugee, and a recurring teenage runaway respectively).

Dunst was three when she started in the business, 11 when she got her break with Interview, a progression she seems to find rather slow. Nothing in the next five years - Little Women, Jamanji, Small Soldiers - lived up to that award-nominated turn. But Dunst is 17 now, and at the age when the child-actress turns into an actress pure and simple - or fails to. It is already quite clear which way she is going to go. "Dunst is growing up and her film career is going to pop," said the LA Times, who should know.

Dunst has four films due out in the US. OK, one of them is a sequel to The Crow. But any one of the remaining three could be considered a potential star-maker, while Dunst's protective family background leaves no room for the problems that have tripped other young stars in flight. Drew Barrymore is not a helpful image here - but one is reminded of Jodie Foster, forcibly.

"Jodie Foster is one of my role models!" says Dunst brightly. "She does pretty much all the things I want to do." Acting, writing, directing, running her own production company. "Except that I also want my own fashion and make-up line. And I want to get married and have kids some day, too." She knows the rest of the world doesn't always feel so confident, but only in that academic sort of way unwounded kids do.

"I've never had that sort of insecurity, because I've got a whole team behind me who've never looked at the down side. I've never put that sort of negative energy into my frame of thinking. As soon as I came out of my mom's stomach I knew what I wanted to do. Perhaps I'm an old soul - that's what psychics say to me. Anyway, I have this whole plan in my head. Yes, I do."

It could easily sound brattish, but doesn't. Dunst - cramming down cream cheese-laden bagels and with a curious tick in her left eye that seems to signal complicity - is enormously likeable. After each bold statement she giggles, apologetically. She does know she's riding for a fall... as we speak, literally.

She's talking on the set of All Forgotten, an American-made amalgam of Turgenev's novel First Love and Chekhov's The Peasant Woman. Dunst apart, the cast is largely British (James Fox, Julie Walters), and the shooting takes place near Prague where Dunst, uninstructed but game, is playing her first horseback role. Side-saddle and severely habited she looks unrecognisable and totally adult. "I carry myself older here, I've been doing breathing exercises to get more air into my belly and a deeper voice. My father saw my picture and thought I was 24," she says proudly.

"The majority of my roles recently have been edging towards adulthood, but this one goes all the way. Things like this don't usually come along for girls my age. It's usually more teen movies, where it's all geared commercially. Nothing going on underneath, just top-level story."

She plays a young woman who needs to marry money, manipulating and manipulated by the suitors all around her. A girl with "some very bad characteristics", Dunst says primly. But you feel she may make a success even of the elements of abuse in the story. "She thinks if the man feels enough emotion towards her to hit her, it means he cares. Even his hate is tender to me. It isn't hard to understand." Evidently.

The dark side seems to come easily to Dunst - surprising in one whose own disposition is so sunny. "The love stories where people don't end up together are the best" - and that open European face (her father's heritage is German, her mother's Dutch via New Jersey) has nonetheless a kind of secrecy. That's why, as a tot, she was hired to pose for commercials in the first place. She has a look that tells a story.

Of her other forthcoming films, Drop Dead Gorgeous is "really funny but dark, definitely". The battle of a small-town beauty queen ends in murder - ambition in whatever field should always be taken seriously. "I never had to go that route - I'd hate to be known as the pretty one. But I've always had competition all my life and I always will do, probably."

Dick is a comedy cast from the Saturday Night Live stable, postulating two teenage girls (Dunst and Michelle Williams) as Deep Throat of Watergate fame. "We're like the girls from Clueless. I just had to play ditzy." They are Nixon's dog-walkers and "secret youth advisers", and yes, one of them has a crush on Nixon, but Dunst has spent enough time answering questions about Monica Lewinsky... Better than answering questions about the original Watergate, though. "I was born in 1982, and it's not something they really tell you about in history."

It was The Virgin Suicides, directed by Francis Coppola's daughter Sofia, which recently took Dunst from Prague to Cannes. Based on a novel about a family of sisters whose smiling image is shattered when one attempts suicide, Cannes greeted the film with unexpected acclaim. Which is more than Dunst did Cannes... "It's as if they've brought all Hollywood down there and just built a French set. And all night they play that stupid techno music people like in Europe." She prefers Jimi Hendrix, personally. But the papers quoted her as saying she wanted a tube-top bathing-suit and some Haagen Dazs before she went back to Prague. One of our perceptions about teen stars is that they really are the girls from Clueless.

The other perception about young stars is that their life cannot be wholesome. Again, comparisons with Jodie Foster - another girl who played a sexual role young (Dunst had to do "gross" open-mouthed kisses with Pitt in Interview) and survived triumphantly. Another girl whose dominant influence was her mother. Film is full of actresses hostile towards their mothers, from Meg Ryan to Demi Moore. Brandy and Jodie Foster seem to have struck a balance between anger and over-closeness. But even that relationship was not perfect, Jodie Foster has admitted recently.

"My mother is always, always there for me," says Kirsten Dunst, 100 per cent behind me. She always flies with me everywhere I go, and gets food we know and makes it homey." Her younger brother Christian often comes along for the ride, which helps keep Dunst just one of the kids in her personal life. Paradoxically, she's mature enough to value that.

A minor hobby-horse of hers is the number of show-business kids who are officially emancipating themselves from their parents. They then don't need chaperones, or restricted hours, or school work on set. It makes it cheaper for the film company. "But the more it happens, the less kids are going to get a high-school education in this business. We don't want a bunch of stupid actors. When you're 15 years old, you shouldn't be living in a hotel room by yourself. That's when you start getting into trouble going out drinking with the crew. It's important to have your mom around." Say that most of us don't have such easy parental relationships, and she receives it like rumour from a far country.

"I know." She's heard all this before. "But it's true. My mom is so cool. She was in fashion design but I think she could definitely be an actress. She gives me good ideas. My whole life she's been there for me. My Dad has too, but they got divorced so she's been the one who's done all this stuff for me.

"She basically sacrificed her life for me, driving me into New York from New Jersey every day for auditions so I could try to make it as an actress. She has sacrificed so much, the least I can do is start a production company with her. Which I really want to do, anyway." Dunst starts laughing again, embarrassed. So, the production company?

Wooden Spoon Productions will be named after the grandmother who always carried one in her purse to keep Dunst and her brother in order. Again, the name is reminiscent of Foster's domestic Egg production company. "And it's mixing and stirring and creating, and it's very female. We want to have a power-house women's film company. We're going to hire women in high, high positions, make better scripts for girls." They have a script about the female fighter pilots of the Second World War, but she says it may be a hard sell. "I can already feel the negativity. I'll probably have to go to Nora Ephron. She's a power-house woman producer. She'll help me out." On the whole, I think Dunst means it seriously. "When I finish school next year, that's when I'll be able to really start."

Someone should warn Ephron.

`Drop Dead Gorgeous' is released 17 September

Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey
comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Burr remains the baker to beat on the Great British Bake Off
tvRichard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
Arts and Entertainment
Kristen Scott Thomas in Electra at the Old Vic
theatreReview: Kristin Scott Thomas is magnificent in a five-star performance of ‘Electra’
Arts and Entertainment
Swiss guards stand in the Sistine Chapel, which is to be lit, and protected, by 7,000 LEDs
artSistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Hewer, Lord Alan Sugar, Karren Brady are returning for The Apprentice series 10

TV
Arts and Entertainment
There has been a boom in ticket sales for female comics, according to an industry survey

comedy
Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Winona Ryder star in 'Girl, Interrupted'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas Pynchon in 1955, left, and Reese Witherspoon and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson's adaptation of his novel, Inherent Vice

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Singer Nicole Scherzinger will join the cast of Cats

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Fans were left surprised by the death on Sunday night's season 26 premiere

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Watson has become the latest target of the 4Chan nude hacking scandal

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lady Mary goes hunting with suitor Lord Gillingham

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Dunne, played by Ben Affleck, finds himself at the centre of a media storm when his wife is reported missing and assumed dead

film
Arts and Entertainment
Lindsay Lohan made her West End debut earlier this week in 'Speed-the-Plow'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Artist Nathan Sawaya stands with his sculpture 'Yellow' at the Art of Brick Exhibition

art
Arts and Entertainment
'Strictly Come Dancing' attracted 6.53 million viewers on Friday
tv
Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant plays Detective Emmett Carver in the US version on Broadchurch

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor goes undercover at Coal Hill School in 'The Caretaker'
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Ni , Rock of Rah, Vanuatu: The Ni live on one of the smallest islands of Vanuatu; Nelson flew five hours from Sydney to capture the 'isolation forged by their remoteness'
photographyJimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style
Arts and Entertainment
David Byrne
musicDavid Byrne describes how the notorious First Lady's high life dazzled him out of a career low
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Italian couples fake UK divorce scam on an ‘industrial scale’

    Welcome to Maidenhead, the divorce capital of... Italy

    A look at the the legal tourists who exploited our liberal dissolution rules
    Time to stop running: At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity

    Time to stop running

    At the start of Yom Kippur and with anti-Semitism flourishing, one Jew can no longer ignore his identity
    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    Tom and Jerry cartoons now carry a 'racial prejudice' warning on Amazon

    The vintage series has often been criticised for racial stereotyping
    An app for the amorous: Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?

    An app for the amorous

    Could Good2Go end disputes about sexual consent - without being a passion-killer?
    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid. Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?

    Llansanffraid is now Llansantffraid

    Welsh town changes its name, but can you spot the difference?
    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    Charlotte Riley: At the peak of her powers

    After a few early missteps with Chekhov, her acting career has taken her to Hollywood. Next up is a role in the BBC’s gangster drama ‘Peaky Blinders’
    She's having a laugh: Britain's female comedians have never had it so good

    She's having a laugh

    Britain's female comedians have never had it so good, says stand-up Natalie Haynes
    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LED lights designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows

    Let there be light

    Sistine Chapel to ‘sing’ with new LEDs designed to bring Michelangelo’s masterpiece out of the shadows
    Great British Bake Off, semi-final, review: Richard remains the baker to beat

    Tensions rise in Bake Off's pastry week

    Richard remains the baker to beat as Chetna begins to flake
    Paris Fashion Week, spring/summer 2015: Time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris

    A look to the future

    It's time travel fashion at Louis Vuitton in Paris
    The 10 best bedspreads

    The 10 best bedspreads

    Before you up the tog count on your duvet, add an extra layer and a room-changing piece to your bed this autumn
    Arsenal vs Galatasaray: Five things we learnt from the Emirates

    Arsenal vs Galatasaray

    Five things we learnt from the Gunners' Champions League victory at the Emirates
    Stuart Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    Lancaster’s long-term deal makes sense – a rarity for a decision taken by the RFU

    This deal gives England a head-start to prepare for 2019 World Cup, says Chris Hewett
    Ebola outbreak: The children orphaned by the virus – then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection

    The children orphaned by Ebola...

    ... then rejected by surviving relatives over fear of infection
    Pride: Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    Are censors pandering to homophobia?

    US film censors have ruled 'Pride' unfit for under-16s, though it contains no sex or violence