Kirsten Dunst began working in commercials at age three (eventually racking up over 70 such credits) and made her feature debut as Mia Farrow's daughter in Oedipus Wrecks, Woody Allen's segment of New York Stories (1989). Modest roles in other features followed, though several of the films (e.g. The Bonfire of the Vanities 1990) saw little exposure at the box office. Dunst also appeared in a recurring role on the NBC drama Sisters and guest starred in an episode of the syndicated Star Trek: The Next Generation.

      Dunst was catapulted into the limelight with her stunning work in Neil Jordan's Interview With the Vampire (1994). Only eleven at the time of filming, she essayed what was debatably the female lead opposite Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. Her Claudia, a little girl made into a vampire and unable to age through the years, looked like a child one moment and appeared--and acted--like a grown woman the next. Although the film received mixed notices, Dunst's remarkably mature performance earned nearly universal raves, earning her a few critics awards and a Golden Globe nomination. Although there was talk of an Oscar nomination, it failed to materialize. Nevertheless, the young actress continued to turn in impressive work. She portrayed the younger version of the spoiled, artistic Amy in Little Women (1994), appearing alongside Winona Ryder and Susan Sarandon (although Samantha Mathis essayed the adult character).

      Dunst solidified her rising status co-starring with Robin Williams in the hit Jumanji (1995). Poised to make the transition to adult roles, she alternated TV appearances with her high profile films. During the 1996-97 season, Dunst had the recurring role of a tough-talking runaway who crosses paths with Dr. Doug Ross (George Clooney) in the hit NBC drama ER. After providing the speaking voice of the young version of the title character in Fox's animated Anastasia, she earned notice as a teenager hired to play an Albanian refugee in a mock war in the political satire Wag the Dog (both 1997). Dunst was Fifteen and Pregnant in the based-on-fact lifetime drama before returning to the big screen in the highly touted Small Soldiers and alongside other rising female stars (e.g., Heather Matarazzo, Monica Keena) in the ensemble of Strike/The Hairy Bird (both 1998).

      Dunst began to emerge from the back of Hollywood starlets to become a recognizable actress and box office draw, beginning with her adroit comedic turns in the beauty pageant comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999) and the off-the-wall teen girls-meet-Richard Nixon riot Dick (1999) in which she and Michelle Williams were prefectly cast as clueless teenager of the Watergate era. As she matured, Dunst also became something of a sex symbol for the younger set with roles in teen romantic comedies. She played the plucky captain of an ambitious cheerleading squad in the surprisingly infectious Bring It On (2000), in which she displayed her ability to carry a film on her perky, girl-next-door charm, and she also scored in the less brilliant teen romance Get Over It (2001). Dunst proved she also had formidable dramatic chops when she appeared as Lux, the eldest and most rebellious of the doomed Lisbon sisters, in Sofia Coppola's acclaimed directorial debut The Virgin Suicides (1999) and was particularly riveting in 2001's crazy/beautiful as the emotionally troubled daughter of a wealthy congressman who threatens to derail the rise of her less-privileged Latin boyfriend (Jay Hernandez).

      It would be Dunst's sunny, sexy and endearing portrayal of Mary Jane Watson, the love interest of nerdy Peter Parker, in the big screen adaptation of the comic book superhero Spider-Man (2002) that would thrust her into full-fledged superstardom. Dunst's utter likeability and strong chemistry with leading man Tobey Maguire turned Spider-Man into an action blockbuster with a romantic soul, and the see-sawing nature of the characters' relationship made it the first super-hero date movie.

      The same year, Dunst had a wonderful turn in director Peter Bogdonavitch's early Hollywood scandal film The Cat's Meow in which, despite being far too young to play early screen star Marion Davies, she turned in a convincing performance centered around the character's surprisingly believeable romance with media tycon William Randolph Hearst (Edward Herrmann). She next appeared with an all-star cast in writer-director Ed Solomon's Levity (2003), playing a self-destructive young woman who becomes dependent on an ex-con (Billy Bob Thornton).

      Dunst joined fellow up-and-comers Julia Stiles and Maggie Gyllenhaal as students of progressive and liberal-minded teacher Julia Roberts in Mona Lisa Smile (2003). Dunst showed her harsher edges as the vicious, overprivileged senior Betty Warren who, committed to a life of houswifery to a louse, shows the most opposition to Roberts' ideals, using the student newspaper to attack her stance that Wellesley women of the 1950s should aspire to more from life than a role as a perfect housewife to a CEO.

      Next for Dunst was a pivotal and well-acted supporting turn in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) as Mary, the young receptionist in the memory-erasing facility where heartbroken Jim Carrey goes to have his ex-girlfriend eliminated from his thoughts. Then it was on to reprise her role as Mary Jane Watson, now a successful, engaged actress but still pining for Peter Parker in the highly anticipated sequel Spider-Man 2 (2004), followed by the U.S. release of France's first 3-D CGI animated film Kaena: The Prophecy (2004), in which she provided the voice of the rebellious teen heroine in the sci-fi fantasy.

      Hot off the success of the Spider-Man films, Dunst landed her first full-fledged adult leading role in the lukewarm romantic comedy Wimbledon (2004), winningly playing up-and-coming tennis sensation Lizzie Bradbury, an easily distracted "bad girl of tennis" whose romance with a faded ex-star of the game (Paul Bettany) reignites his passion and sends him to tennis' most prestigious tournament.

      Taking on one of most mature leading roles to date, Dunst was winsome and appealing in her turn as the relentlessly upbeat flight attendant Claire Colburn, who helps a failed golden boy (Orlando Bloom) mourning his father re-awaken to the joys of life and romance in writer-director Cameron Crowe's engaging, if uneven, film Elizabethtown (2005).



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