Milan during fashion week is filled with heels, limos and high-maintenance behavior. So one would expect opening the door to actress Kirsten Dunst’s vast suite at the city’s celeb hot spot, the Bulgari Hotel, would give rise to chaotic scenes involving entourages, shopping bags and runway tickets. Instead, a poised Dunst sits perched on an armchair, in a striped top and black pants, reminiscent of a French Fifties actress, chatting not about front-row sightings or shopping excursions, but rather, where to locate the best spring water. After a trip to Bellagio in nearby Como, she’s particularly enthusiastic about having bottled her own water from its source.
“I’m planning to drive through Switzerland and look for other springs, too; it’s fun to do something other than drink a bottle of wine, to find things that adults can do that are fun,” she said. “My dad is German, so he’s all about bike rides and nature.”
Fast forward a few hours, and Dunst reappears in an elegant long-sleeve black Valentino gown, prim updo and about $300,000 worth of Bulgari jewels to fete her new role as the face of the Italian luxury brand’s forthcoming fragrance Mon Jasmin Noir.
Given the Italy locale, it seems only fitting that a renaissance of sorts is unfolding for the kooky hipster and one-time party girl, bolstered by an upcoming lineup of meaty film roles. She’s playing Justine in “Melancholia,” directed by the Danish enfant terrible Lars von Trier, and Camille in the long-awaited adaptation of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road,” by Brazilian filmmaker Walter Salles (“The Motorcycle Diaries”).
Displaying a worldly air belying her 28 years, Dunst chats about how she plans to make her way to Denmark via Switzerland, after a family pit stop in Germany, where her grandparents live. In Denmark she’ll get her first look at the von Trier movie, in which she and Charlotte Gainsbourg star as two sisters who find their relationship challenged as a nearby planet threatens to collide with Earth. The forthcoming sci-fi drama also features Kiefer Sutherland, John Hurt and Charlotte Rampling, and is a far cry from two of Dunst’s last appearances on the big screen in “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” and “Spider-Man 3.” Contrary to reports about the controversial Danish director’s reputation for tormenting his female leads, a giggling Dunst said the experience was not a harrowing one. “He’s the kindest, most sensitive, lovely human being. He has a funny dark sense of humor for sure, but he creates an environment that is very safe. It’s an actor’s dream, actually.”
As for fashion, rather than name-dropping specific labels, Dunst flags her “Melancholia” co-star, Rampling, as someone who influences her fashionwise, along with numerous movies. “There was a point in my life when I wanted to look like Mia Farrow in ‘Rosemary’s Baby,’ then another time when I wanted to look like Annie Hall. Stella Tennant always looks cool, I like the vibe of girls in boys’ clothes,” she said confidently.
When asked if she’d consider starting her own clothing line, a definite scent of entrepreneurialism fills the room. “I wouldn’t say no, it sounds like fun. I wouldn’t want my own entire fashion line, but I’d do a collaboration, a one-off.” Though it’s unlikely she’ll have the time given two of her films are due to hit the big screen this year.
In “On the Road,” Dunst plays Camille, the alter-ego of Carolyn Cassady, an American writer associated with the Beat Generation through her marriage to Neal Cassady and her friendship with Jack Kerouac. The film stars a buzz-worthy lineup including Sam Riley, Kristen Stewart and Garrett Hedlund. The flick’s plot is one Dunst is certainly familiar with.
“I’ve been on a road trip with my dad through Germany before, and one with my girlfriends across the U.S. I would do that again. It’s fun to explore, and get lost and not know where you’re going to stay,” she said.
It’s a refreshing, perhaps surprising, admission from a celebrity who has long been exposed to the glamorous trappings of Hollywood that friends and family are her idea of life’s finer things. Which of course brings the conversation back to where she does in fact call home. Although Dunst has a home in New York, she said she’s been spending a lot of time in Los Angeles, as a lot of her friends are located there. Despite her life as a big star and extended periods literally on the road, Dunst can’t seem to stray far from her roots. “I was gone for so long working, I missed everybody, and so I’ve been living at my mom’s house all fall,” she said.