Inside Kirsten Dunst's Road to Finding Love and Having Babies With Jesse Plemons

Kirsten Dunst had an instant connection with Jesse Plemons on the set of Fargo and, two kids later, they're once again playing husband and wife in the Western drama The Power of the Dog.

By Natalie Finn Dec 01, 2021 11:00 AMTags
Watch: How Kirsten Dunst Knew "Fargo" Would Be a "Game Changer"

Peggy and Ed Blumquist's marriage was the stuff nightmares are made of, but that didn't faze Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons.

The Fargo co-stars hit it off while shooting the second season of the darkly comedic crime anthology, in which Plemons played a butcher with some serious self-defense skills but really poor judgment.

"He's my favorite actor—the best I've ever worked with," Dunst, who was nominated for an Emmy for her performance as his endlessly misguided wife, told PorterEdit in 2019. "I just knew he would be in my life forever. I didn't know what capacity that would be at the time. When [Fargo] was over, I just missed him terribly. We didn't get together until a year later. We were both smart enough that we were wondering if the connection was just because we were working together. But it was real."

Sure enough, they got engaged in 2017 and are now parents to sons Ennis Howard, 3, and James Robert, 7 months.

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Coming to Netflix in December 2021

"I just kept getting pregnant and I kind of want to enjoy my wedding," Dunst said on Jimmy Kimmel Live recently when asked if she and Plemons still planned on taking the plunge after five years together. "I just want to be able to drink and have fun. We'll do it very soon."

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But though the 39-year-old recently said on the Los Angeles Times podcast The Envelope that she felt "an immediate connection" with Plemons—who plays her husband once again in the new Jane Campion-directed Western drama The Power of the Dog—when they first met, Dunst was in no rush to share this life-altering revelation with the world. (Though she did tell a few people: "I didn't remember saying this, but one of my best friends told me that I said to her that 'I will know this man for the rest of my life. I just know it.'")

It wasn't particularly surprising that she chose to keep the details of this relationship private until the rock on her finger made the announcement for her. Having been very famous since her breakout role at 10 in Interview With the Vampire, Dunst had been dating in the public eye for the better part of 20 years before meeting the man she has lovingly called her soulmate, and it felt as though every male acquaintance (or co-star) was a date until proven otherwise.

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When she was about 15, fresh from an arc on ER and the Oscar-nominated Wag the Dog, Dunst hit it off with Jake Hoffman, son of her co-star Dustin Hoffman. "He wants me to be his daughter-in-law!" she joked at the time.

But they were just a couple of kids. Dunst had a few things she needed to do first, before devoting serious time to romance—such as finish high school. She graduated from Notre Dame High in L.A. in 2000, and never looked back as her career further took off with The Virgin Suicides and the insta-classic Bring It On.

(She and Jake remained friends, reuniting for a warm reunion at a Tribeca Film Festival event in 2010.)

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Starting in 2001 Dunst starred in three Spider-Man movies with Tobey Maguire, two them made after the onscreen love interests had briefly dated in real life (the first, but not the last, Mary Jane and Peter Parker whose chemistry translated off-camera).

"I actually had some worries about [their breakup]," Sam Raimi, who directed all three films, told the Sydney Morning-Herald in 2007 after Spider-Man 3 came out.

"They apparently began dating with each other, I think, in the middle of the first movie...although I didn't know it at the time," the filmmaker said, "but definitely they eventually broke up before the second movie. I was concerned they wouldn't get the same chemistry back, but it was just me worrying.

"They really like each other, I think, very much. And that relationship probably just added to their ability to trust each other."

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Asked at the Spider-Man 3 premiere if it was easier doing press with Maguire and Raimi because they'd all known each other for so long, Dunst told a reporter, "Yes, 'cause we can wink at each other and have a camaraderie that's, you know, stronger over the course of three movies."

Meanwhile, James Franco, much like Harry Osborne, felt a little left out in the cold.

"Tobey and Kirsten became a couple around that time," the actor recalled in a joint interview with Raimi for Playboy in 2013. "I had a crush on Kirsten, and I think I was upset about that as well....Tobey was mad at me for a while. By the second film, we were cool, but that's another reason I felt hurt, with you [Raimi] giving Tobey all the attention...You were the father who wouldn't give me the love I needed."

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Not long after the first Spider-Man came out, Dunst started seeing Jake Gyllenhaal after they were introduced by her Mona Lisa Smile co-star Maggie Gyllenhaal

Knowing that any Hollywood relationship coverage was automatically tagged "engagement watch," Dunst told People, "Oh, I'm too young to get married. Seriously, I'm 22 years old. It's so annoying that they put pressure on you."

They got pretty serious—red carpets, moving in together, sharing a dog—but split up in 2004.

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"Kirsten and Jake remain the best of friends," Gyllenhaal's rep said at the time. "Details regarding when and why their romantic relationship stopped are not being provided, but suffice it to say it happened some time ago. They are still very close."

Whether that was exactly the case at the time or not, Dunst told Allure in late 2009 of her ex, "It would be nice to see him. But we're not good friends."

Talking to Howard Stern in 2015, Gyllenhaal blamed a fear of commitment for past relationships failing despite having been in love a few times.

"I think it was me," he said. "I think I probably just got scared." (There are thoughts on this subject.)

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In 2007, Dunst got involved with Razorlight frontman Johnny Borrell, who readily admitted later that he wasn't great boyfriend material back then.

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"I guess I was constantly attempting to be what I thought I should be doing in that scenario [as a rock star]," the British musician told the U.K.'s Telegraph in 2013, referring to the time frame that included his relationship with Dunst. "To be fair, I'm sure there were times when I was obnoxious. But that's rock'n'roll, you know?"

According to a 2014 profile of him in the U.K.'s Independent, Dunst dumped him not long after he rode his motorcycle through her house, leaving a trail of oil in his wake. 

"Couldn't understand the fuss," Borrell recalled.

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At the time, however, Dunst had her own health to attend to, checking into Sundance, Utah's Cirque Lodge in early 2008 to seek treatment for depression—which came after much speculation about what was really going on with her, some guesses more egregious than others.

"It was a good six months before I decided to go away," Dunst told E! News in May 2008. "I was struggling, and I had the opportunity to go somewhere and take care of myself. I was fortunate to have the resources to do it. My friends and family thought it was a good idea, too. But I didn't know where to go. My doctor recommended Cirque Lodge."

Asked why she was opening up about her struggles, the actress, who'd been in the public eye since she was a child, said, "There's been a lot of misrepresentation about what is going on in my life, and it's been very painful for my friends and family. Everyone feels like they have to defend me. They hear the rumors, and it puts them in a defensive position. Now that I'm feeling stronger, I was prepared to say something."

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Fast-forward to 2021 and Dunst still feel strongly about speaking out about mental health, not least to make up for decades of lost time during which the subject was more likely than not poorly represented, if discussed at all.

"It's such a personal thing," she told The Envelope. "But yeah, I do feel like it's so mishandled. I personally was so terrified of taking an antidepressant at that time. Like, terrified. And it really just helped me clear something so I could start to see things again. So I'm willing to talk at length with anyone who's struggling."

As for her decision to get help, "It wasn't really a quote unquote problem," Dunst recalled. "I wasn't like using drugs or anything. It was just literally my brain got depressed. You know what I mean? It was just like, the old way of being and working within the world didn't work anymore. I just never really got angry. I was just, like, never really angry about things. So that is the definition of depression pretty much. Anger turned inwards."

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Not that her candor stopped the rumor mill when she was hanging out with Justin Long in August 2008, but officially the word from his rep was that they were always just friends.

Then, that November, Dunst was spotted out with journalist and activist (and now NBC News and MSNBC correspondent) Jacob Soboroff, but that's because they were collaborating on a project about voter registration.

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"Being a part of this is constantly teaching me new things," Dunst told NPR at the time. "I feel totally honored and was really proud to vote [in the 2008 presidential election], and have never been so proud to vote in my entire life."

Of course the natural assumption was that they were dating, but Dunst's rep said they were just "great friends."

And the actress really was taking time for herself. When she talked to Allure in 2009, she said she was single, and it wasn't until 2011 that she popped up with another boyfriend—and some major perspective.

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"We all want the bad guy who doesn't give you what you want," she recalled to Elle in its September 2011 issue, which also featured Dunst on the cover. "I did a lot of sitting in my car, listening to sad music, crying over boys."

She was dating Rilo Kiley drummer Jason Boesel when she gave the interview.

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"He's not into partying and that works," Dunst said. "We have similar schedules: long periods of time off and periods of mad work. When I've finished work, I travel to be with him. It's special."

However, she was also shooting On the Road at the time—and by the beginning of 2012, she and co-star Garrett Hedlund had paired off.

They seemed pretty settled, too, becoming each other's other half on the red carpet and looking awfully happy about it.

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Explaining how he won Dunst (whom he called "my gal") over, Hedlund told Details in 2013: "I took her out on a 3 a.m. canoe ride. It was not a stable canoe. We fell out and had to swim back in mucky, sh--ty water, like golf-pond water."

And the timing seemed to be right, because Dunst was finally letting herself enjoy the fruits of her impressive career.

"I'm not as worried as I used to be," Dunst told Red magazine in 2014. "When I was younger, if I wasn't working, I would get anxiety. I'd feel like I should be doing something. But now I'm so good at chilling out. In my thirties I've become really good friends with relaxing."

Asked about Hedlund, Dunst told Town & Country in the summer of 2015, "We've been together for three and a half years, so, yes, it's going really well. We're the same age. We have similar backgrounds. He feels like family to me."

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Speaking of family, Dunst had told Red U.K. in 2014, "I'm in baby mode because two of my really good friends are pregnant right now. Thirty-three is a good age to have your first baby."

It also proved a great age for her to do some prestige TV. In 2015 she joined many of her fellow film stars in taking part in the small-screen renaissance, scoring a role on the second season of the critically acclaimed FX series Fargo.

And 21 years after her first Golden Globe nomination, for Interview With a Vampire, she got another one, Best Actress in a Limited Series or Made for TV Movie for her role as unfulfilled hairdresser Peggy Blumquist, who won't let her husband, Ed—or the guy she mows over with her car (Kieran Culkin, not the favorite son in the Gerhardt family)—stand in the way of her dreams of self-actualizing.

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"I'm so proud and excited to be nominated. It's nice to be part of something people like," Dunst told EW.com in December 2015. "And it's great to hear that, I should keep getting better! I take it as a compliment that I'm growing. I'm getting older as an actress, so it's a good thing to mature. Also, when the right role fits it's amazing. It doesn't always happen, that you're given opportunities to play a role like this—this is such a well-thought-out, funny, crazy character. They don't always get written that way, to be honest."

Peggy is "so fun to play, and it's nice for me too because now I'll have more opportunities to play roles in the comedic world again. People always remember the last thing you did. And I love comedy—I really enjoy playing weird characters."

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Hedlund was her date to the 2015 Emmys and the 2016 Golden Globes, but they broke up a couple months later.

By that summer, Plemons, who had called working with Dunst "a gift," quietly swooped in and got the girl, officially putting an end to the star's days of crying over the bad boys (if not crying with emotion over her partner's serious acting chops).

They opted to not do the red carpet thing just yet that September when they were both nominated for Emmys, but they didn't hide their affection for each other at the after-party.

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As Dunst has said, she needed a minute to figure out whether she was in love with working with the guy or the guy himself. It turned out to be both.

On Jimmy Kimmel Live Nov. 16, Dunst recalled binging Friday Night Lights to get acquainted with her Fargo co-star's work before filming got underway in chilly Calgary—"I knew he was awesome and that we were about to work together"—though she said she's yet to watch Breaking Bad (which may have been for the best at the time, because Plemons' turn as a stone-cold killer is tough to shake).

"That's the last thing he wants to watch with me," she explained, noting that their friend Aaron Paul's wife may not have ever seen the show, either, so it wasn't just her. (She did, however, watch the Breaking Bad next-chapter movie El Camino, which came out in 2018.)

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Not surprisingly Dunst and Plemons both relished the chance to reteam for The Power of the Dog, which premieres on Netflix Dec. 1. They once again play husband and wife, well-meaning rancher George and the recently widowed single mother Rose, whose new marriage is threatened by George's cruel and manipulative brother, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

"I mean, when I watch Jesse and I on the mountaintop, I'm like, 'Oh my God, we're so dorky,' because we have to act so reserved with each other, and we have a child together," Dunst, who called working with director Campion a "lifelong dream," said on The Envelope, "It's just funny to pretend there's no history with someone you have a tremendous amount of history with. It's just weird."

"Maybe if we were alone on the mountaintop and like having, like, I don't know, a nice cocktail, it'd be great," she continued. "But it was just like, he's in his little outfit and I'm teaching him how to waltz, and it's all really old-timey and cute. But also his line when he's like, 'It's just so nice to not be alone" is, I think, one of the best lines of the film. When he did that, I cried off camera. I was just—I was so moved by his performance that day. And also I feel I wasn't that good of a dance teacher. That waltz. I mean, I got it together. I did it. I figured out how to teach him."

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But overall, she said, "We love working together. So, it's really, really easy to work with each other. We're very honest. We're very down to try anything. No one judges anybody. There's no ego. It's just how do we make this the most alive together and the most real?"

The couple went to New Zealand with Ennis to shoot the film in January 2020 and ended up on lockdown in March when COVID-19 shut down productions around the world, including their own. So, they rented a house outside Auckland, "for our son to have some grass to run around on," Dunst told the LA Times last summer, and enjoyed the natural wildlife (their cat Sid "brings us a mouse every night") and their killer sound system, sitting in the perfect sonic spot they dubbed "the triangle." 

"Anyway," she said, "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."

They resumed filming that June, one of the few shoots allowed to go on amid the country's strict pandemic-related restrictions." Jesse and I were lucky we were doing a movie together," Dunst told The New York Times"We had each other through this whole thing, to laugh with, to bitch with."

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But turn in a performance that immediately started generating Oscar buzz wasn't the only thing Dunst was inspired to do during their COVID-shadowed time in New Zealand.

"We would go to the grocery store and take off our clothes and wipe down afterwards," Dunst recalled. "No one knew anything. It was terrifying. At the time, I smoked, so I was like, 'Oh god, if I get this, I am going to die.'" 

So, she added, "I was like, as soon as we are done with this movie, let's try and have another baby."

When the New York Times came knocking at her L.A.-area home in August, Dunst held up Ennis' baby brother, James, her "newest guy, the Big Kahuna."

"I'm so tired, I haven't slept through the night in four months," she shared. "I've developed an eye twitch, too. Yeah, I'm in a really special place!"

(Originally published Jan. 13, 2017, at 3 p.m. PT)

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