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Feature: Spider-Man's Kirsten Dunst

Head over heels

Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) meets her mysterious saviour…

David Richardson meets Spider-Man’s Kirsten Dunst, and (in print) her two would-be lovers.

Spider-Man: as Peter Parker reveals in the opening monologue, "It's all about a girl". The girl in question is Mary Jane Watson, the product of a troubled family, an aspiring actress, and someone who dates all the wrong guys... And while she falls for Harry (James Franco), son of the rich military hardware designer Norman Osborn (Willem Dafoe), and flirts with the mysterious Spider-Man, she seems to overlook the person who would be perfect for her: the literal boy next door, Peter (Tobey Maguire).

MJ is another change of direction for Kirsten Dunst, the 20-year-old actress who first came to our attention in 1994 as the undead child fostered by Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire. Since then she's dallied with Fantasy adventure in Small Soldiers, dark drama in The Virgin Suicides, and superior teen fare such as Bring it On and Get Over It. A big screen adaptation of Spider-Man, which took over a decade to reach the screen after James Cameron first tried to launch the project, seemed too good to turn down.

"Sam Raimi directing, Tobey Maguire starring as Spider-Man…" muses Dunst during the film's press launch in LA. "You know it's not going to be your typical superhero film and that it will have a lot more depth to it. I'm happy they didn't go for the flavour of the month cute boy – I wouldn't have done it if it had been that way."

"I got the sides [pages of selected scenes]... and I could tell that Mary Jane wasn't a one-dimensional character. These were challenging scenes with depth. She's pretty ditzy in the comics: very flighty. We brought that in, but I'm glad we concentrated on the more serious side to her."

To the relief of Spider-Man fans everywhere, MJ retains her trademark red hair. "It was a wig," offers Dunst. "In the next movie I definitely want to dye my own hair; [at the moment] I have too short hair to be Mary Jane. I definitely felt different as a red head: I felt ballsier and a little bit more serious, a little bit more sexy and it definitely changes your personality when you change your hair colour."

"I was comfortable in Mary Jane's shoes to be sure," Dunst continues, "and I really wanted to make a superhero for the girls too in a way... Peter's the only person she's really vulnerable with and, towards the end of the movie, it takes her being on the edge of death to realize what's important in her life and who she wants to be with."

While Raimi's film is not the first foray of Stan Lee's creation from the printed page to the screen, it's certainly proving to be the most successful. Excellent response by critics and great audience word of mouth has resulted in a string of box-office records being broken in the US and overseas; with action, comedy, and a rather touching romance, there's something here for everyone. The sensual kiss between MJ and an upside-down Spider-Man, for instance, is likely to be remembered as a classic moment in cinema. "It was really unromantic [to shoot]," insists Dunst, "but it looked really great..."

by David Richardson

Read the full feature, including words from Tobey Maguire and James Franco, plus our five-star review of Spider-Man, in:
Xposé #68

© Columbia Pictures / Marvel Entertainment
Feature © Visual Imagination 2002. Not for reproduction

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Xposé #68
June 2002
ships from May 16 2002
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