One thing Dunst likes about playing Mary Jane is the way the series has created a cultural touchstone for a younger generation that has grown up loving Spider-Man. "If that brings somebody else that much joy, I'm happy to be in this business," she announces. "When I'm an old lady, I'm going to have my pick of the young men," she adds with a grin. "They'll be like, 'She's Miss Mary Jane!' The young boys will think I'm a hot old lady."
Dunst gets sentimental about her own cultural touchstones. A current obsession is the 1980s cult classic Faerie Tale Theatre with Shelley Duvall. She gave the DVD set to friends last Christmas. And recently she has revisited the 1990 film Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles ("They say 'awesome' a lot," she quips) and the 1984 fantasy flick The NeverEnding Story ("I wanted to be that princess so badly!").
Offers Spider-Man 3 costar Bryce Dallas Howard of Dunst's seemingly eclectic, even nerdy taste, "She's one of those people who's incredibly cool and has her finger on the pulse, but she doesn't recognize it. She thinks she's a big dork, but she's actually the coolest." (Case in point: On a recent Halloween Dunst dressed up as Charlotte Rampling's character in The Night Porter.)
As for her much speculated-about love life, Dunst keeps mum. Her long-term relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal ended almost two years ago, and since then she's been mentioned in the same breath as actor Adrian Grenier, Fabrizio Moretti (of the Strokes), Elizabethtown costar Orlando Bloom and Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg. "I don't want to get into any of that because I don't want to ruin my life," she says. "I'm done talking about anybody until I'm married." As for dating: "I'm a person who likes to hang out. I would never go on a blind date. That sounds like the most uncomfortable thing on the planet earth. It's like, 'Hi. Nice to meet you. So, what kind of music do you like?' Date ended." The type of man she imagines she'll end up with? "I need to eat a piece of pizza on a stoop in New York, and I cannot be with anybody fancy."
At the moment, Dunst is more than happy to go it alone. She says this past year she decided to stop reading scripts for a while and explore some other passions. When we meet, she's spending a few weeks in New York to look for an apartmenther primary residence is a two-and-a-half-bedroom house in the Hollywood Hillsas well as take an art class. The class, which she describes as an intense, nine-to-six daily mixture of painting and drawing, is not for a role, just for her personal gratification.
"It's really about finding your style, rather than 'Hold the pencil like this,' " she adds. "I just need to learn the tools so that I can do the things that I want to do." She likes painting women, she saysmostly facesand she explains she's inspired by portrait artists Karen Kilimnik and Elizabeth Peyton. "I wish my style was like theirs," she says, sighing.