She's hesitant to talk much about the class or even reveal where it is. "It's so private and I love it so much and it's like a little secret in my heart," she explains. "And the more I talk about it, the less control I feel I have.
"I don't think everyone has to go to college," she adds. (Dunst herself did not.) "Just explore other things."
It's hard not to find Dunst's enthusiasm about adult ed infectious, especially when she gets wound up over the kinds of things an ordinary student wouldn't think twice about. "I have my IDit's so exciting," she says. "I was showing it to my girlfriends in the restaurant last night. I'm like, 'I can get money off movie tickets now!' " She erupts into giggles.
Dunst will tell you that she wasn't always this happy. She mentions making the 2001 film Crazy/Beautiful, in which she played a rich girl with a substance abuse problem, as a particularly somber period in her life. "That was obviously a darker character. I was obviously struggling with things in my life," she recalls. "I was reading Bukowski's Ham on Rye and thinking I was supersad and I wanted to do something like that because I knew I had so much pain in myself. Does it help get it out? I don't think roles help you resolve your issues. I just think they're good markers."
Though Dunst doesn't elaborate very much about those "issues," she speaks obliquely about the complications of growing up in the business. "When you get to be 17, 18, you realize, Oh, I'm famous and everyone knows who I am and maybe that wasn't my choice completely," she says. "And that is a hard thing. Because when you're 11, you don't think of those consequences. Your parents should think of them for you."
Dunst says she's grateful that her handlers protected her from having to understand the implicit sexuality of some of her earlier work. For a few of her scenes in Vampire, for instance, an acting coach would tell her to pretend she was hiding a toy from her brother. That look, says Dunst, would be enacting "sneaky, but it reads sexy."
Fanning recently pushed similar boundaries with a rape scene in her film Hounddog, which premiered at Sundance. "She's an amazing little actress," Dunst says. "I just hope she takes the time in life to explore other things. It's hard to keep acting, keep acting, keep acting."
Dunst has a very close relationship with her mother, who now co-owns a spa in Studio City, California, and credits her with keeping her childhood as normal as possible. She grew up in the Valley, went to Catholic schools and shared a bedroom with her brother for "far too long," she says. "Even though I was making tons of money and doing movies," maintains Dunst, "I would still be excited to go with $20 to Contempo Casuals."