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September 2004
Wimbledon: An Interview with Kirsten Dunst

Wimbledon: An Interview with Kirsten Dunst

By Todd Gilchrist

During this summer's "Spider-Man 2", Kirsten Dunst played the film's requisite damsel in distress, and saw a lot of action either vicariously via her costars or as the victim of their enemies' attacks. In "Wimbledon", Dunst is fending off adversaries left and right, and take an active role in dispatching bad guys, even if they're only bad on a tennis court. The upcoming romantic comedy marks the actress' first major foray into adult roles- here as a young woman trying to escape the domineering grip of her stage-parent father- and as Dunst recently told blackfilm.com during a press conference, she's thrilled at the opportunity to take center stage and not have to share it with a wall-crawler or his creepy-crawly adversaries.


Did you know anything about tennis before you started this?

Kirsten Dunst: I had played a little when I was younger. I come from- - my dad's pretty athletic and actually, because he's German, they really are into Tennis. And so I definitely learned a little bit when I was younger and then I hadn't played in forever. So when I started this movie, I didn't watch tennis, I didn't know that much about it. I didn't know hardly anything so I had to start from ground five.


How important was it for the tennis to look real while you were doing it?

KD: Of course, yeah. I don't' want to look like a hack out there. I mean, a lot of it's sold in the expression and the force. But then we also had experts there standing off camera the whole time telling me to lift it a little higher and throw the ball more to the left or whatever it was. They were constantly there making sure it would look authentic. We had good people like Pat Cash. I mean, hello. We had great people around.


Do you have a mean streak like your character in the movie does?

KD: Everybody has a mean streak in them, don't they? I don't know if it's mean, but she's a very angry girl. She has this doting father. Her whole entire life, it's probably one of the loneliest jobs to just be on the tour all the time and not have any friends. Your friend is your dad all the time and it's always training. There's a lot of anger in her.


What were you good and bad at? How long did your training take?

KD: I was really bad at my serve. I wasn't so good at that. Some days I was really good and then other days- - it was never a consistent thing, my serving. I was always trying to work it out. But my backhand was really great. Everybody was like wow, you have a great backhand. I had a two handed. I don't know, it just worked well with the way you're hips are aligned. I could get that really well.


Do you have any superstitions about performing?

KD: No, I mean, sometimes I'll listen to music, but there's no particular thing that I'll do. But I always notice when I'm not feeling confident in myself or there's something throwing me off or when people are standing in your eye line, all those distractions never bother me when I'm ready to go. But then sometimes they creep in when you're feeling insecure or something's not going right, so usually those things that are added or muted are out of insecurity a little bit. But I don't have any ritual that I do. I brush my teeth in the morning before I go to work.


How was the overseas shooting?

KD: Well, in England they're much more team oriented. It's not so much- - in LA, it's very much like a hierarchy system. Like everyone makes a big deal and we have to go to hair and makeup now. It's just much more of a big deal and there they're just more relaxed and it's about the art and making a movie. I don't mean it like "art" but it's much more about the filmmaking and everybody as a team instead of the movie star and whatever. Everybody's on the same page.


How important is it now to distinguish yourself from Mary Jane?

KD: Well, I had made a name for myself before "Spider-Man". It's not like that's it. But that fulfills me in certain ways and then you've got to venture out and do other things too. So I mean, I love making that movie for the reason that I make it but then you have to venture out and do other things too.


Do you have to make a different impact now than you did before the success of that film?

KD: I don't really worry about what I'm putting in other people's minds though. All I worry about is when I'm on the set, how that experience, that's what I love to do. I don't really think about I have to change other people's perspective of me and do a really whatever, play a killer because this way people won't think that I'm just cute or something like that. So I just do what I am moved by and then I think that if you're honest about that and you give a performance that people respond to, then- - I try not to be just one-dimensional in movies anyway.


What was your experience working in the Wimbledon stadium?

KD: Well, [Paul] walked on the court with all the crowds from, you know, during the games. So he had a totally different experience from me. They were filming him step out and the actual Wimbledon crowd was there cheering him on. That's something that's lived in him his whole childhood. Like for me, I live here and so it hasn't been ingrained in me like it has in him. But I definitely felt the weight of this arena and it was an honor to be allowed to step on it and shoot on it. It was kind of weird in the beginning, but for him- - I mean, if I had gone out there with the crowd, I probably would have cried. It just overtakes you when a whole stadium is cheering for you. It's just really overwhelming for sure.


Do you think now that your mother pushed you into showbiz too early?

KD: Obviously, I started at a very young age, but I totally enjoyed performing for people. For me, it was more like well, why does a kid like performing for people? I was really good at it, people responded to me and you love love and attention. It might not be the right love and attention, it might not be real love and attention, but I'm not angry with my mother for it. I'm compassionate and I see her side of thins too. It's different now for me and yeah, I look back and I'm like that movie, I probably shouldn't have done. But we were all learning. I had no strong people around me that really were- - we all were kind of na´ve going into all of this stuff. It was not like we were super in the industry in any way. You're going to make mistakes.


Did you use parts of your own life to get into character?

KD: I just used myself and my feelings, but I don't say, "I remember that time when that happened and I'm pissed." I don't use my life. I try to be as present as I can and all those experiences are there because they're in me, but I don't think about them to use for a scene.


It was reported that Venus and Serena visited the set. What advice did they give you?

KD: Serena was supposed to come down one of the days but she was busy practicing. They're busy girls. They are. I mean, what I really wanted to know, and I talked to her a few times, and it just seemed like a really lonely life. I watched a match between her and her sister and I can't imagine how complicated that must be. I really felt a lot of like they're just normal really cool girls and I can't imagine the stuff they have to go through together as a family. It must be really hard.


What were the challenges of playing without actual balls?

KD: Yeah, we did that on the aerial shots where we had to be in certain positions or the camera above us or there's this one crane shot where they go from Paul's court to my court and so we had to be in certain places. I don't' have the skills to put it in the spot every time or anything like that, but I definitely would hit it for any close-up, because it's really hard not to make contact and make it look believable, so the only times we used that or I used that was when it had to be specific. But otherwise, it was really not satisfying. It was really hard to pretend that.

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