Kirsten Dunst is sitting next to her 2-year-old son, Ennis, who is scarfing down yogurt drops while watching “Lady and the Tramp” for the second straight day. She’s calling from rural New Zealand, where she’s holed up with Ennis and her husband, Jesse Plemons. They’ve been there since January, filming “The Power of the Dog,” a Jane Campion movie in which she and Plemons play a husband and wife dealing with a brother (Benedict Cumberbatch) who disapproves of their wedding.
The film shut down late, leaving the family stuck there because they didn’t feel it was safe to fly. They’ve been itching to return home to Toluca Lake, though, to be close to family and friends. Dunst is calling in late April. And soon, they are heading home – their flight leaves in a few days. She doesn’t know when shooting will resume on the movie or when she’ll return to playing struggling mom Krystal Stubbs on the second season of her Showtime series, “On Becoming a God in Central Florida.” But she does know she’s glad her son loves “Lady and the Tramp” because it was the first movie she ever saw in a theater and she loves it too.
Question: What’s quarantine life been like for you?
Answer: We wanted to get out of the city, out of Auckland, so we rented a house for our son to have some grass to run around on. There’s horses around here. And we have two old cats living with us, one of whom, Sid, brings us a mouse every night. Last night, Jesse and I were sitting outside and he brings a full rabbit. I’ve never seen so much carcass in my life. I picked up a(n) ... eyeball the other night.
Q: I hope you thanked him. These are gifts he’s bringing you.
A: Of course. “You’re such a great hunter! Thank you!” But Jesse had to catch a mouse in our bathroom the other night and throw it outside. (“Mom’s gotta talk on the phone,” she tells Ennis. “I can’t hide you.”) He keeps me sane. Yesterday we let him be naked all day and he’d pee outside in the grass. He thought it was so funny. He was so happy he could pee like a dog. It helps him with his potty training. He was pushing so hard to try to pee because he liked it so much.
Q: Had you ever come close to working with Jane Campion before this? You two seem like a good fit.
A: It’s been a lifelong dream. I saved this letter she wrote me in 2000 about this other movie she wanted to make, this Alice Munro book “Runaway” that never got made. We have the same birthday, Jane and I. We work the same way – farhonest and direct. She likes what I like in filmmaking, all the unexpected things that happen.
Q: You and Jesse are playing husband and wife again. I hope it works out better here than it did for Peggy and Ed Blumquist on “Fargo.”
A: There’s still darkness. But, yes, it does. Benedict is the problem. He’s kind of silently torturing me. His character ... not Benedict. He’s lovely.
Q: Krystal has a lot of rage in “On Becoming a God.” What do you draw on to play that?
A: Let’s not forget. I’ve been a child actor. (Laughs) I mean, that pretty much sums it up. But you also use relationships you’ve been in, things that annoy you, anything, everything. Bear your shame!
Q: Your son was only 5 months old when you shot the show’s 10 episodes. What was the biggest challenge getting through those long days?
A: Well, I couldn’t hold my baby after my 5 p.m. spray tan. Krystal is high-maintenance! I think I was just more physically exhausted than I would have been, but that exhaustion fed into playing a character who really acts out all her frustrations. With Krystal, I could let it all hang out. She’s a very freeing character to play.
Q: What’s the first thing you’re going to do when you get home?
A: Wash my hands? (Laughs)
Q: And after you’ve dried them off?
A: One thing I am most excited about is just sitting and listening to records. Jesse and I have a killer sound system. We shut off all the lights and we sit in the triangle – that’s what we call the spot where the sound is perfect – and it feels like, certain records, it’s like watching “The Godfather” for the first time. I’ve cried. It feels like a religious experience. The first time I heard Joni Mitchell’s “Blue” on this, I was a mess.
Q: I want to sit in the triangle!
A: Someday. I’ll play you Graham Nash’s “Songs for Beginners.” The surefire hits, though, are always a Nina Simone song or a Beach Boys song. Anyway, that’s what Jesse and I will do when we get home. Wash our hands, put the baby to bed and sit in the triangle. Maybe put on some Judee Sill. A good cry would feel good right about now.