Kirsten Dunst Didn’t ‘Think to Ask’ for Equal Pay at Career Start

Kirsten Dunst is opening up about pay disparity early on in her career.

The Civil War star — who had her big-screen breakout as a child actress in 1994’s Interview with the Vampire — told the BBC in an interview published Tuesday night that she “didn’t even think to ask” about equal pay near the beginning of her professional life.

And while she hopes that “the way I carved my path will help other actresses,” the 41-year-old said that she “definitely grew up in a time with major pay disparity between the lead actor and myself, even though I had been in Bring It On and he hadn’t, you know what I mean?”

“I had more success in my box office than he did,” she continued, without naming anyone specific. “And I was 17. I’m still learning. When you’re that age, I’m still learning my taste in film.”

“I didn’t even know there was a place to challenge [the pay disparity]. That’s how it felt at 17,” Dunst added to the outlet.

Kirsten Dunst in, from L: Interview with the Vampire (1994), Jumanji (1995) and Marie Antoinette (2006).

Geffen/Kobal/Shutterstock; Columbia TriStar/courtesy Everett Collection; Sony Pictures/courtesy Everett Collection

Following her critically acclaimed performance opposite Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview with the Vampire, Dunst went on to star in movies like Little Women (1994), Jumanji (1995), Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999), The Virgin Suicides (1999) and Bring It On (2000), before appearing opposite Tobey Maguire in the first live-action Spider-Man trilogy, beginning in 2002.

She later starred in Elizabethtown (2005), Marie Antoinette (2006), Melancholia (2011) and more before her first Academy Award-nominated role in The Power of the Dog, opposite husband Jesse Plemons. She also appeared on TV in memorable roles on Fargo, On Becoming a God in Central Florida and more.

Despite her chosen profession, though, Dunst told the BBC that making movies isn’t “supposed to be fun,” and in fact can be quite the opposite at times.

“You don’t make movies to have fun. They’re often not,” she said, laughing. “It’s not a fun experience. I’m not in it to have fun. I’m in it to give myself in the most honest, functioning way for my role.”

Kirsten Dunst at a special screening of Civil War in Los Angeles on April 2, 2024.


Back in November 2021, Dunst revealed to The Independent that she and Maguire, 48, had a sharp divide in compensation for their work on the first Spider-Man film.

“The pay disparity between me and Spider-Man was very extreme,” said the actress, who played Mary Jane Watson in Spider-Man and its two sequels, released in 2004 and 2007. “I didn’t even think about it. I was just like, ‘Oh yeah, Tobey [Maguire] is playing Spider-Man.’ ”

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The first Spider-Man film pulled in $821 million and its sequel, Spider-Man 2, brought in $789 million, according to The Independent. And while the movies were a hit at the box office, Dunst said she did not receive the same pay as Maguire, despite being equally promoted for the film.

“You know who was on the cover of the second Spider-Man poster? Spider-Man and ME,” she told the outlet at the time.

Civil War is in theaters April 26.

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