Kirsten Dunst was a child actor who successfully transitioned into adult roles. She worked opposite Brad Pitt, Robin Williams and Jim Carrey. She was directed by the likes of Woody Allen, Sam Raimi and Neil Jordan. She played a cheerleader, a vampire and Spider-man’s true love. But when her web-slinging stopped, Dunst disappeared from the once-hot spotlight.
What the hell happened?
Dunst started modeling at the ripe old age of three. Clearly, she had committed herself to her craft rather than being pushed into the spotlight by a stage mom. Surprisingly, Dunst would later express some anger over having been “pushed” into show biz by her mom. Hard to believe since her mom waited three entire years to put her child to work.
Soon, Dunst was doing commercials like this one for Pillsbury microwave potatoes from 1985:
And here she is shilling for Crayola Christmas of 1989:
Good lord was she adorable! That same year, she was pitching Baby Doll Surprise, a baby doll whose hair grew:
This was also the year in which I graduated from high school which makes me feel a little weird about those Maxim covers I found while I was doing my research for this article. In 1989, Dunst had her first movie role in Woody Allen’s short film, Oedipus Wrecks. Oedipus Wrecks was part of a collection of films set in New York called New York Stories. Dunst had a small role as one of Mia Farrow’s children. Hopefully she kept a safe distance from Woody. He has a history with Farrow’s kids.
In 1990, Dunst had another small role as Tom Hanks’ daughter in Brian DePalma’s infamous adaptation of Tom Wolfe’s Bonfire of the Vanities.
The book was an acidic social satire which took on race relations, journalism, and Wall Street amongst other things. DePalma decided to make it silly. It didn’t work at all. The movie received scathing reviews and flopped at the box office. It was a major career speed bump for Hanks (who reinvented himself as a dramatic actor shortly afterwards), DePalma (who was basically exiled for a while) and Melanie Griffith (who would continue working but stopped getting good roles). Bruce Willis was lucky he had Die Hard to fall back on.
For Dunst, the final fate of Bonfire wasn’t all that important. As a child actor, the fact she worked in a major motion picture with A-list talent was a stepping stone. Here’s a scene in which Hanks’ character tries to explain his Wall Street job to his daughter only to be corrected by his wife played by Kim Cattrall.
In 1991, Dunst appeared in a low budget comedy called High Strung. The movie was co-written by and starred Steve Oedekerk. It is best known for featuring a pre-fame Jim Carrey in a supporting role.