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A Career in Ten Movies

Child stars have an uncertain fate. At best they fall into irrelevance and their careers die a remote and reluctant death. Some accept this blithely, like seagulls flying out to sea, looking back on their superstardom as a dream. At worst, they degenerate into a drink and drugs free fall like a skydive into hell (Lindsay Lohan anyone?). But some child stars weather the storm and somehow emerge the other side of adolescence relatively trauma free and with a glittering career trailing out behind them like a peacock’s tail. Kirsten Dunst is one such star, and though for a while it may have seemed that she had flourished in childhood and was merely floundering in light and un-challenging roles thereafter, she has since made a much welcome return in a film that shows some of her earlier, ‘side tracked’ promise finally being pushed to the fore. Its time to delve into ten memorable roles from one of my favourite child stars, the divine Ms Dunst, who has the appeal of being the sunshine starlet, with darker, deeper substance:

1. Interview with the Vampire – Claudia

This was Kirsten’s ‘break through’ role at the tender age of ten, the role with which, without, there might have been no Kirsten. This was an explosive start for the young actress in her role of Claudia, the child vampire, transformed by ‘parents’ Lestat and Louis, part of Lestat’s diabolical scheme to bind Louis to him eternally. To make a child vampire is to break the rules because to trap an ageing spirit, soul and mind in the body of a child is rather than being some Peter Pan like miracle, a type of torture. Sure enough, after coming across a beautiful creole woman, Claudia grows to resent the limitations of her childlike physicality and begins to despite her surrogate parents, whilst plotting revenge on Lestat. She finds herself committing one of the worst sins imaginable for a vampire: killing her maker, and is locked away with fledgling Madeleine as punishment, who having lost her own child, wishes to care for Claudia, who is harbouring fears that her beloved Louis will leave her for the more worldly Armand who tempts him away with secrets of their origin. Kirsten is truly beyond her years in this role, capturing the hopeful and blind acceptance of youth that enable her to be a manipulative and cunning killer, the fury and frustration of adolescence and the cynical, hopeless boredom of adulthood that stretches on forever. Not only did she receive a golden globe nomination for the part, she also got to kiss Brad Pitt, although she was far too young to be suitably impressed…

2. Little Women – Little Amy

After assuring everyone she really can play a ‘little woman’ in her portrayal of Claudia, Kirsten won the role of ‘younger Amy’ in the movie adaptation of the novel ‘Little Women’ alongside a troupe of other cast members who grew up to have cataclysmic careers. The film follows the trials and tribulations of the March sisters in the aftermath of the American civil war. Kirsten manages to capture Amy’s romantic and idealistic spirit in childhood and looks cuddly and adorable throughout.

3. Jumanji – Judy

Jumanji was one of my favourite childhood films. It had everything: suspense, fear, monkeys and mischief, all contained and controlled by the throw of the dice as siblings Peter and Judy find themselves inadvertently freeing Alan Parrish (who was sucked into the game as a child) and having to continue to the bitter end in order to be rid of the game forever. If you want monkeys riding motorbikes, stampedes, monsoons and mosquitoes, then this film will certainly keep you entertained. Kirsten manages to hold her own with some pretty big names and establishes herself as a certified movie cutie. I think this film was Kirsten’s very own ‘Home Alone’, securing her in the minds of many as a nostalgic part of many adults childhoods.

4. Kiki’s Delivery Service – Kiki

Kirsten might not lend her appearance to this role, but she does lend her melodious voice to the part of witch Kiki (ironically one of Kirsten’s nicknames). This film has Miyazaki’s distinctive style slathered all over it from the bright and chirpy landscapes to the intriguing cast of characters. Witches traditionally must live alone for a year at the age of thirteen and so Kiki travels far from home to Koriko with her black cat Jiji. In order to support herself financially she starts up her own delivery service (hence the film’s title). Miyazaki’s films always have a strong moral centre and this one most certainly encourages innovation and independence, particularly amongst young women. Kiki’s year off is littered with peaks and troughs but everything works out in the end and she decides to make Koriko her permanent residence. Miyazaki once famously claimed that children should watch just one movie a year and that movie should refuel their curiosity and encourage them to go out into the world and make memories. This might not be the only film you watch all year, but it should be one of them.

5. Small Soldiers – Christy Fimple

Kirsten establishes herself as ‘underage eye candy’ as cutie-patootie girl next door Christy, the object of Alan Abernathy’s affections. The two ‘would be lovers’ find themselves caught between Gorgonites and the Commando Elite, two sets of warring military themed action figures. If you want to watch Kirsten being attached by dolls and riding a motorbike, you’ll find all that and more here. This is the role in my opinion that for a while ‘doomed’ Kirsten to the sweet and fluffy girl next door parts, and though she shimmers in the role thanks to her all American girl looks, we all know she has far more substance than that!

6.The Virgin Suicides – Lux Lisbon

Lux is the perfect girl next door with a twist and this is the second role after Interview with the Vampire that gives her the opportunity to portray a darker style of teenager. In this mystery that is concluded in the title, the Lisbon sisters take their own lives in unison following the successful suicide attempt of youngest Cecilia and the film simply tells the tale from the perspectives of the neighbourhood boys who loved them, without really examining why. The daughters are beautiful and privileged but suffocated by their small town life and over zealous, fanatically religious parents. Lux is the most blinding of the daughters, androgynous, indefinable, indecipherable, she turns to chain-smoking and promiscuity on the roof after her high school romance with dream boat high school hunk Trip Fontaine falls to pieces and he leaves her cold and alone on the football field after doing the deed. This is a surreal, dreamy tale, deeply unsettling and melancholic that captures all of the paraphernalia and cotton candy inconsistency of young girls on the cusp of becoming women. Blurring the boundaries between the girls innocence and their growing worldliness, the tone of this film is uneasy and disconcerting, but certainly memorable and impenetrable, as we never really understand the sisters motivations for departing this world.

7. Drop Dead Gorgeous – Amber Atkins

You might be noticing a theme emerging here; blonde, blue-eyed, dimpled Kirsten is the maddeningly unattainable girl next door that every boy wants and every girl likes. In Drop Dead Gorgeous, a comedy that falls somewhat flat, she is entered into a beauty pageant with a smattering of other memorable faces i.e. Denise Richards, but the contestants are taking things somewhat seriously, in their attempts to be crowned most beautiful. Styled as a mockumentary, the girls battle it out in the rather elaborately titled: Sarah Rose Cosmetics Mount Rose American Teen Princess Pageant.

8. Crazy/Beautiful – Nicole

This is an interesting take on a love story that blurs the boundaries that exist between ethnicity, culture and class. This relationship is doomed to fail in every way, so polarised are the two romantic leads, and yet somehow their love affair seems to survive (or reach the end credits at least). It’s unusual to see Kirsten play the rebellious one in the relationship and deviate entirely from her cookie cutter image.

9. Marie Antoinette – Marie Antoinette

Sofia Coppola produces a crayola world of colour in this retelling of the life of the French Queen Consort (and it takes a whole hell of a lot of artistic licence when it comes to historical accuracy). Kirsten manages to be adorable, precocious and entirely hedonistic as she enjoys the car crash of luxury and extravagance. History mingles with the MTV generation as Marie is portrayed as a more charismatic Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian. Of course, a life lived with such reckless abandon can’t go on forever especially as the French revolution draws near.

10. Melancholia – Justine

Von Triers movies are mirrors into the innermost workings of his dark and morbid soul. Indeed the insides of his brain must look like a musky old attic. Nonetheless, although he doesn’t exactly make the malady of melancholy mainstream, there is something eerily and obtusely beautiful about Lars perception of the world through the filter of depression. Despite the fact that she was portraying Lars distinctive experience of depression, she surely connected on some level with her own earlier experiences, for which she attended rehab. Melancholia marks a welcome return for Kirsten who is refreshing as Justine, the bride who has everything (much like Dunst) on a surface level, but who cannot find fulfilment or contentment.  Her bleak, flat portrayal was streaked through with real notes of hysteria and a profound if nihilistic view of life in her portrayal of Justine in the midst of a depressive episode, but she still manages to sparkle and shine as the ‘happier’ Justine, still parading her mask of ‘normality’. its unusual to see Kirsten, despite a couple of darker earlier roles, in anything less than bright and beautiful because she suits those roles to a T thanks to her sunny, positive disposition and All American girl ways. This is why she is so suitable to play such a contrasting role, because she shows us that anyone can suffer from depression, no matter their social standing or accomplishments.  Anyone who thought this was the end of Kirsten’s career, after Spider man is set to be rebooted, is in for a shock.

Here are a few of Kirsten’s roles that didn’t make the list, but are still worth a watch:

* Bring it On – Torrance Shipman

Snarky cheerleaders face off to be the best. Unfortunately for ‘The Torros’ their former squad leader has swiped their ‘winning routine’ from a group of rival competitors. The girls must put a rough and ready routine together in order to stand a cats chance in hell of victory.

* Get Over It – Kelly Woods

Girl dumps boy, boy enters play, boy begins to fall for new girl – that’s the 1-2-3 synopsis of ‘Get Over It’. Of course, Kirsten is the new girl who begins to steal his affections away from his heartbreaking ex.

* Spider-Man – Mary Jane Watson

She might not be the obvious choice for Mary-Jane, but she is the cute girl next door type. The Spider Man series is undergoing a recent reboot, but there are still memorable moments to tune in for, such as the upside down kiss (as pictured).

* Mona Lisa Smile – Betty Warren

Back in the traditional 50’s, a free thinking arts professor decides to try to shake loose the Wellesley girls. Betty is harder to break than most, as she has her heart set on the conventional life of a picture perfect wife. When her husband commits adultery, she slowly begins to transform into her true self. It was through staring alongside Maggie G, who spent the duration of the film ‘Secretary’ crawling across the floor with an envelope in her mouth, that Kirsten was introduced to future love interest, Jake G.

* How to Lose Friends and alienate People – Alison Olsen

A British journalist makes it as a big shot after endless attempts but finds it hard to fit in with all the shiny, sparkly stars that now form the bulk of his social circle. Kirsten plays his eventual love interest, when he can finally ease off the sheen projected by Megan Fox’s character.

* Wimbledon – Lizzie Bradbury

A high-ranking tennis pro slowly finds himself falling down the tables. His interest in rising star Lizzie, helps him rekindle his love for the game.

* Elizabethtown – Claire Colburn

Kirsten gets to sizzle alongside Orlando Bloom as the two embark on a love affair during bizarre circumstances.

* Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Mary

This story belongs to Jim Carey and Kate Winslet, as Joel and Clementine, the couple who wish to erase all memories of their traumatic love affair from their minds. Kirsten’s side story is that she is being chatted up by a man who is mimicking all of Joel’s moves to woo Clementine. She might also have had a turn on the old memory erasure machine herself for having a fling with her married boss…

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Every actor, whether they are churning out rehearsed lines in a waiting room fringed with competitors or bright eyed and bushy tailed fresh out of drama school, dreams of establishing an all encompassing career that enables them to play a wide spectrum of characters. One such actor whose star is set to rise in 2012 is Tom Hardy, a home grown British talent with a rough and ready streak which is reflected in the roles he has been offered. With the perfect mix of physical masculinity and ability to reflect heartfelt inner turmoil, Hardy has emerged as a hunk, an anti-hero and a villain. Here I look at ten of Tom’s most memorable roles:

1.       Wuthering Heights – Heathcliff

Certain roles present themselves as gifts to the actors that take them on. Heathcliff is one such character that comes steeped in tradition and expectation, in being a role that has been done to death but never really ‘captured’ in essence on screen. Many believe that Tom’s turn as the tortured and embittered lover comes closest. Though he speaks with a brawling Londoners accent, Tom managers to come over all ‘Yorkshire’ (and rather convincingly) and this is also the film that persuaded Tom to ditch his long term love interest and mother to his child and test out a new relationship with co-star Charlotte Riley, which adds a dimension of plausible reality to their simmering on screen chemistry. With his wild, windswept looks, Hardy brings an interesting quality to the bitter and brooding Heathcliff.

2. Warrior – Tommy Conlon

Tom as Tommy Conlon in 'Warrior' - tom-hardy photo

A role that Tom was born to play – gritty, grim and gruesome, Tommy Conlon is estranged from his family and harbours a few grudges against his brother and father. Little does he know he must battle brother Brendan in order to win a rather handsome fortune in a mixed martial arts competition. Tom perfectly becomes the brutal and unbalanced animal of a man that Tommy morphs into in the fighting arena, whilst managing with great sensitivity and grace, to depict the tender fragility of Tommy’s past whilst never losing the manly, masculine slant of his personality. The raw, wild tenacity of Tom’s adrenal performance established him as a man’s actor in one respect, but by capturing the heartache of Tommy’s tragic past, Tom secured himself as a favourite with the ladies. It didn’t hurt one bit that his shirt was off practically the entire time.

3. Inception – Eames

Inception is loaded with big movie star names – you’ve got Leo, you’ve got preggers from ‘Juno’, Michael Caine (who will forever be Scrooge to me), but Tom manages to own the character he is bestowed with and really hold his own. Eames is an identity forger who joins Cobb’s team as they perform the feat that is inception. The plot for me was crazier and more complex than a box of frogs attempting to knit a scarf but even with his role as a sideline character, Hardy demonstrates sincerity and naturalness in his performance.

 4. Bronson – Charles Bronson / Michael Peterson

That rough diamond London Boy gleam that Tommy boy gives off does not go unnoticed. Charles Bronson has been described as one of Britain’s most notorious criminals, having spent forty years in prison for his various crimes. If you’re looking for the bad boy with charm, Tom can most certainly deliver. He transforms in this role, to deliver a sneaky, sinister, slow paced way of speech that verges on the very cusp of insanity and psychosis. Bursting with effervescent personality, Hardy manages to be funny and frightening and even manages to look kinda sexy with that mammoth tash. This role single-handedly set Tom up for the many villainous roles he has been bestowed with since, as he adds a human touch to what could be construed as very black and white roles.

5. Star Trek: Nemesis – Praetor Shinzon

Tommy boy portrays a clone of the well known and well loved Captain Picard as all Star Trek fans will know. Possibly a good set up for his role as Tommy in Warrior, Shinzon is the ultimate test tube baby, brewed, bottled for a purpose and discarded when he is no longer of any use. The exchanges between Shinzon and Picard are memorable as Tom displays a growing confidence and command of his craft.

6. Layer Cake – Clarkie

This is a true all boys club bruiser of a film, so who better to cast than Tom, with those chavtastic charming looks? With a double first from Cambridge, Clarkie is in cahoots with Daniel Craig’s ‘XXXX’ as a supplier of cocaine. The film takes an interesting angle and you really have to pay attention to delve into the layers of society and its criminal underbelly that seems to permeate through all classes and spheres. ‘Clarkie’ is not a huge role but Tom establishes himself as ‘generic bored and suave criminal’ rather well. This was the first film I witnessed Hardy in and it’s amazing to see how far his career has since spanned.

7. Scenes of a Sexual Nature – Noel

Tom’s career could have gone in a very different direction had he followed the rom-com route, but this seems to be one of his few forays, as various strangers meet and mingle in a Hampstead Heath park. Tom is gawky, awkward and a little cringy as he attempts to pick up the ladies (which must have been a real stretch for him), but there is something quite endearing and disarmingly sweet about him as a ‘park dwelling creep’. I for one am glad he took the route of badassery.  There is definitely a place for him should the chiselled, hot damn sexy thing fail to work out for him.

8. RockNRolla – Handsome Bob

Once you’ve been in one movie that explores London’s intricate criminal underworld, chances are, you’ll probably be in them all. Directors tend to get all nostalgic and whimsical about home-grown English criminals and they love a bit of banal, bad boy banter. Naturally, Tom has a place here with his half cocky, half naive eyes. As part of the ‘Wild Bunch’, Handsome Bob does a lot of smoking and swearing. The interesting twang to Hardy’s character is that in the smack talking, gun toting world of crazy crime – a world that just screams MANLY MEN – Handsome Bob is a closeted homosexual harbouring a massive crush on member One Two (well he is played by Gerard friggin’ Butler).

9. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy – Ricki Tarr

By now, Hardy has established himself as ‘one of the boys’ so no doubt calling on his experience from earlier bit roles in Layer Cake and RockNRolla, Tom is yet another part of a complex crime puzzle. Tom is fairly unrecognisable as a blondie and without giving away too much of this intricate espionage movie (for those who haven’t seen it) he plays his part well.

10. The Dark Knight Rises – Bane

Fair enough this film has not been released yet, but I just know that this film will do for Hardy what the Dark Knight did for Heath Ledger. Not much is known of Bane’s character, although we do know that he is Batman’s new adversary eight years after the events of the Dark Knight and Batman has somewhat lost his edge after the tragic death of Harvey Dent.  Hardy became a sheer machine for the filming of this movie, bulking up to great effect and has explained that he wishes to portray Bane as a ‘menacing’ character. Tom certainly looks the part, but he is sure to become it too, promising that Bane will be an exhilarating antagonist with a brutal and unforgiving vendetta against Gotham City.