CANNES, France — It would be somewhat intimidating for a 25-year-old actress to play France’s most infamous queen, yet veteran Kirsten Dunst grasped the role wholeheartedly in the new film “Marie-Antoinette.” Of course, her journey from Spiderman’s squeeze to corseted French royalty was guided by pal Sofia Coppola. “She has a very light, bubbly, playful side and she can be this party girl, but she also has depth and a very serious side,” Coppola says of her star. “I wanted the character to have both.” On the eve of the premiere, Dunst sat down to discuss what it was like being a queen and surviving those corsets.

WWD: How is it working with Sofia Coppola?

Kirsten Dunst: The thing about Sof, we don’t sit there and talk about it until we are blue in the face. I understand her aesthetic and her. I think Sofia felt that what I had inside of me was what she wanted this character to be. She gave me freedom. She is a very intuitive woman, even though she is very private.

WWD: What did you do to channel Marie-Antoinette?

K.D.: For me it was very sensorial acting, very much about what this thing tastes like or what this bed feels like. Everything was supposed to be so new to her in the beginning. All her decadence and joy came out of not having that sweetness and satisfaction in her life, which stopped her from growing up. It was a very childlike reactionary thing. I was very aware of all my surroundings and how everything felt on me.

WWD: Did it help that you and Sofia are friends?

K.D.: When I watch movies that I’m in, I know when I’m being honest or not. Usually, that’s what everyone responds to the most. But that doesn’t always happen throughout a whole movie. Sofia wants me for the beauty and the ugliness, too. It’s not about being the perfect lady or the girlfriend who does the right thing all the time. This is almost like watching a home video. All my feelings and how I was feeling about Paris and the movie, I can see that, which I had never experienced before.

This story first appeared in the May 26, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

WWD: How about the corset?

K.D.: Everything changes: your breathing, your posture, how stifled you feel. It changes the way you move. There was something fun about it, too, because she probably always wanted to get out. In Petit Trianon, I didn’t wear corsets and I had bare feet. I tried to contrast that with how I felt in Versailles.