Kirsten Dunst can’t say no to working with Lars von Trier

Complex character: Kirsten Dunst gives a mesmerizing

Kirsten Dunst needs a jolt. It’s 10 a.m. on the first Sunday of this year’s Toronto Film Festival, where Lars von Trier’s apocalyptic new drama “Melancholia,” opening today, is making its North American debut.

Though she arrives not a second late — punctuality is a point of pride with her — the jet lag is beginning to show.

“Look at me, this is pathetic,” she says with a bemused grin. “Coca-Cola in one hand, coffee in the other. Coca-Cola is terrible for you, but it’s one way to start the morning.”

Though Dunst has been called a prima donna — perhaps because she seemed ambivalent about the “Spider-Man” franchise that eventually sent her, co-star Tobey Maguire and director Sam Raimi an abrupt “Dear John” letter — she is anything but.

There is no movie-star attitude, just a friendly, unaffected 29-year-old who’s been roused out of bed too early for the kind of interrogation that accompanies all of von Trier’s provocations.

She doesn’t mind hearing the same questions over and over. But she’s tired of the prep work.

“I hate doing the hair and makeup,” she explains. “I have to wake up at 5 a.m. tomorrow, and believe me, I’m not happy about it. I have to see ‘Melancholia’ at 9 a.m. Who goes to movies that early?

“I wish I could be one of the dudes, just rolling out of bed, looking like a slob and being the essence of cool. But it doesn’t work that way for the girls.”

Dunst, winner of the best actress award at this year’s Cannes Film Festival for her bruising performance in the film, didn’t get to enjoy the spotlight for long before von Trier upstaged her, for all the wrong reasons.

As the Danish director explained his sympathy for Hitler at the festival news conference, the actress hid behind him, mortified. He was later banned from Cannes altogether.

Even so, Dunst stands by her man. She would have worked with him, she says, whatever script he sent her. “The movie business is just like the music business, and society in general,” she says. “With the Internet, nobody needs their own identity. You can just look somebody up online and dress like them, be like them. Creativity is a lost art form.

“But Europeans care about cinema. Americans do too, but only a couple of them, like Paul Thomas Anderson. Lars cares. You know that whatever he’s making is going to be epic and totally original. It might not always work, but it will be beautiful and uncompromising. Why would I say no to that?”

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