Kirsten Dunst has been something of a shape-shifter in Hollywood in the past few years, appearing in fewer projects, but far more ambitious ones, from her turn as the profoundly depressed Justine in Melancholia to ensemble roles in divisive indies Bachelorette and On the Road, and now as Peggy, a frustrated small-town hairdresser with a secret, in the second season of the critically acclaimed Fargo. While she seems a far cry from Spiderman’s Mary Jane, it’s only because she’s grown far more selective with the years.
Vulture spoke to Dunst over the phone about getting the part on Fargo, Peggy Blomquist’s current state of mind, and why films like Interview With a Vampire are an endangered species in Hollywood.
How soon did you wrap shooting for Fargo? Was it a pretty quick turnover?
We wrapped in May, but still it’s the fastest turnaround of anything I’ve ever done. With the music and editing and sound and all that, it’s shocking how fast it all happens. Noah [Hawley] was doing most of it as we were going along, though.
I’m enjoying that split-screen effect he’s using. It feels appropriate for the season.
Yeah, it really helps tell the story, I think. Since there are so many characters, it’s sort of a reminder of what’s going on with everyone.
How did Noah Hawley initially explain the Peggy character to you?
We just talked about the show. We didn’t really talk specifically about Peggy. I read two of the episodes to decide whether I wanted to do it or not, but the way Peggy was written I immediately was like, Wow this character is going to go to some really nutty places and I’m onboard. It’s hard when you only have two episodes to go on and have no idea what your character is going to do. I’d never signed on to anything like that in my life, but with this it was different. It was such a great first season, already such a well-oiled machine. I knew I wasn’t coming on to something that was taking a big chance.
You trusted him.
Yeah, Noah’s a genius, I really do believe that. He’s such a smart guy, and humble, too, and I knew I was in good hands. After [our] first meeting, I got the role as I was driving home. And that never, never happens in this business. So that was really exciting.
Peggy’s hard to pin down as a character. She sort of fluctuates from potential evil genius to complete innocent to possibly, as Ted Danson’s character implies, a little “touched.” Did you feel like you had a pretty good idea of who she was or where she would go before you started?
This is a character where it’s all happening to her, you know? So it felt okay to pick things up episode-to-episode because [Peggy]’s going through the same thing, she’s experiencing it all as it happens, so that really worked for me when it came to tracking her.
Is she cunning? Does she know what she’s doing?
I don’t think it’s cunning. I think it slowly becomes a love story in a certain way, because it’s bringing her and her husband closer together. Wait, did you watch the most recent episode?
Warning: Spoilers from Monday night’s episode ahead.
Yeah. Did you not get to see it?
Yeah, you do a lot in this episode. You hide in the basement, Jeffrey Donovan is coming …
Right, and I taser him.
You kill a guy with an old sink.
Oh, wow. Okay. Right. What’s the end of the episode? Does Jesse [Plemons’s character] come back?
No, he’s run off down the street, away from the cops.
Okay. Yeah. See, for me, I don’t necessarily know what exactly made it in each episode. We sometimes shot them simultaneously. And there are scenes they cut out from the earlier episodes. Like, I think I used to figure out earlier who I’d hit with the car. But yeah, I guess I do a lot in episode six. You gotta protect yourself, you know?
Definitely. She does.
Peggy believes it’ll all work out. Like, who they hit with the car is a bad person, right? So, in her mind, it’s like, well, he ran out into the road. It’s not my fault. Without giving too much away, how do I say this? I think Peggy starts to get a little bit more … powerful? In a way where it’s blinding. So that’s the reason she feels like she can do all this. She’s a bit delusional.
Spoilers from Monday night’s episode over. You made it.
And we find out she’s hoarding hundreds of these beauty magazines in the basement. Do you think her delusion just comes from a desperation to leave her current situation?
She’s someone who has buried so much stuff under the rug that it’s now bubbling up because of what’s happened. And the way she’s reacting, I think it would have come out a different way down the line if she hadn’t hit someone with her car. There was one scene we didn’t shoot, I think in episode two, which also explains a bit more about Peggy, where me and my former fiancé, he was going off to Vietnam, and we go into the butcher shop where Ed is working, and my fiancé tells him, “If anything happens, take care of her for me.” So clearly my fiancé died over there. I think that might have helped explain things a little bit, but you definitely know something is deeply wrong with her. You know she went through a real trauma. Like, who hoards that many magazines and toilet paper?
A friend of mine from Minnesota, who didn’t know I was going to be doing this interview, said that your accent sounds the most authentic of everyone on the show.
Oh, really? I’ll take that as a great compliment, that’s nice to hear. I had to work on it before for Drop Dead Gorgeous, but it was a much campier version. So I had to work with the dialect coach, just because I had a very saturated version in my head. You know, my grandma’s from Minnesota, but she didn’t have an accent. She grew up on a farm in Cambridge, Minnesota.
She didn’t have any accent at all?
Yeah, I don’t know. She grew up on the farm, but she was one of the only children who left, she went to L.A. And my grandpa was one of the biggest cyclists in the U.S at the time, he was going to go to the Olympics before World War II broke out, so she lived a very cosmopolitan life.
So she wasn’t a Peggy type.
No, but she was very thrifty. [Laughs.]
You’ve been acting a long time now. When you get stopped on the street, what do people want to talk about?
I get all different kinds of stuff. It depends what city I’m in. In New York it’s all Spider Man. People like Drop Dead Gorgeous a lot. But yeah, I feel like I get recognized more when I have stuff out, I don’t even think they know why they recognize me sometimes.
I read that you rebelled a little bit against acting after you had success with it as a child. Do you feel more attached now, to acting in general, than you did when you were younger?
Well, when I was younger my dream was to be in a great movie or a great TV show. I had no idea. I would do pilot seasons like everybody else. But then when Interview With a Vampire came along, that was a big role, of course I wanted it. And I love what I do, but I like taking big breaks and waiting for things that really excite me, to work with people I want to work with. Because I could work more consistently than I do, I just don’t like a lot of things, you know? But I’ve been writing. And maybe I’ll direct next year.
A movie, yeah. But you never know. Could be a movie for TV.
Is it something that you’ve written?
Adapted from a book, yeah.
Final question: Has there been an Interview With a Vampire reunion in the past few years?
No, but I saw Brad [Pitt] at a premiere recently. He’s such a sweet guy, and that was a big moment in his career as well. I saw Tom [Cruise] maybe a couple years ago. And I talked to [director] Neil Jordan on the phone not too long ago. But that’ll always be one of the biggest, craziest productions. People don’t spend that kind of fancy money on actual productions anymore, and it was just months and months of shooting and we would go all around the world, to London and Paris and New Orleans. It was crazy.
It was that many locations?
Yes, and these sets — they’d actually burn these amazing sets down. The costumes, everything. It was an extravagance I have yet to experience again.
It does seem like spending money on an epic, erotic vampire drama for adults is out of the realm of possibility for Hollywood these days.
So sad, isn’t it?