The Power of Dog Partners Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons

The romantic relationship became a creative asset for this acting duo in the Oscar-nominated Jane Campion.

In Part Two of “Fargo”, Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons made 10 episodes of the 2015 FX series as a couple struggling with a mess. By 2017, they were engaged. “We first fell in love as creative friends,” Dunst told me on Telluride. “We had a creative connection that brought us together. There is a lot of freedom whenever we do scenes together. It’s like a magic thing, a magical feeling.”

Their first son, Ennis, was born in 2018; Howard arrived nine months after Jane Campion’s western novel “The power of the dog” (Netflix), the pioneer company for Oscar in several categories including Best Picture and Director. Dunst racked up Critics Choice, Golden Globe and SAG nominations before potentially receiving an Oscar, which would be her first time taking part.

In “Power of the Dog,” Dunst plays Rose, a widow who runs a motel in Montana, cooking meals for guests like the Burbank brothers’ wealthy rancher. Phil Burbank (Benedict Cumberbatch) is belligerent and cruel to her raving teenage son (Kodi Smit-McPhee), who decorates the table with delicate confetti. When George Burbank (Plemons) returns to the kitchen to pay the bill, he and Rose start chatting and he starts flirting with her. “What we found in each other was that we both had this great loneliness,” says Dunst. “Needing each other at this deep soul level connects us in an instant.”

Jane Campion with Kodi Smit-McPhee and Kirsten Dunst.


Rose’s arrival at the large farm house in Burbank changed the two brothers’ moves. Phil, hunted by her taciturn brother’s defection, weakens her every now and then. After George invited the Governor and his wife to dinner, Phil cruelly imitated Rose on his banjo as she practiced. To ease her anxiety about Phil, Rose turns to drinking.

“[Phil] had a real affair with Bronco Henry at the wrong age,” Dunst said. “But it was a great love that he had. And when someone dies, and then you’re alone with your brother, you can get stuck in the past. Keeping George down was a difficult thing. They were with the same active kid – until George made that change and decided: ‘I’m done.’

Thomas Savage’s 1967 novel informed Plemons about the inner workings of George’s mind. “Something has gone sour a long time ago,” says Plemons. “Coming from this family, growing up in this strange dichotomy of extreme wealth and being isolated in the middle of nowhere, there is no way that the entire world of thoughts, feelings, and emotions within George does not. is shown. That was huge for me. I’m not interested in playing Phil’s version of George. ”

Campion gave her cast three luxurious weeks of rehearsals before starting prime photography in January 2020. The couple brought their toddler Ennis on site, living in a cottage. home about an hour from the remote Otago set. The four main characters have tried different ways of playing the changing dynamics of the characters. Plemons practiced horseback riding, while Dunst improvised in the kitchen – as well as practicing the piano. “When you learn an instrument when you are older, it is a lot harder than it was when you were a kid,” she said. “When my hands started playing together, I almost cried.”

“The Power of the Dog”


Plemons was nervous on the first day of practice with Dunst. “Suddenly, I realized that we were only co-starring in these two specific parts of the Coen brothers’ world,” he said, referring to their collaboration on “Fargo.”

He doesn’t need to worry: “We did it once, and right away, boy, everything was at home. ‘Ah, that’s right, here’s the first thing I fell in love with: her creativity.’ It reminds me how easy it is to work with her on a daily basis. It’s a constant pitch idea and see what the other person responds to. We can come up with an idea, without any ego. Others either like it or don’t, that’s it. I feel better about working with her: I have to try and get where she is going.”

Actors are often lonely away from their partners on location, but “This is something we went through together,” says Plemons, “with the added benefit of being able to spend downtime together.”

For the scene when George and Rose have a romantic picnic lunch overlooking breathtaking mountain views, Campion takes Dunst and Plemons and a group of skeletons to Queenstown. “Between that I can take a step back and realize how lucky I am to have had such a beautiful scene to play with Kirsten, in perhaps the most beautiful position I have ever filmed,” Plemons said.

Cumberbatch kept the character Phil on set: Only when they left the location for the occasional dinner did he drop the role for a bit. “It stirs the pot,” Plemons said. “It extends that dynamic to the moments between shots. It is useful for everyone. It immediately sets a mood. You always know when Phil is on set. ”

Dunst had never met Cumberbatch before. “He had an intensity in his eyes,” she said. “We didn’t have a lot of scenes together, so I had to create my whole inner life and demons. All my psyche is stirring in my head when I hear things, like his boots are clumping.”


“The Power of the Dog”


Campion cut a scene in which Rose says to George, “I don’t think Phil likes me very much.” “That’s unnecessary,” Dunst said. “If I explained anything more it would be less stressful, creepy and isolating. What develops in the film begins to become its own source of life. ”

Due to the pandemic, production stopped in March 2020. Plemons and Dunst stayed in New Zealand for a month and returned to Los Angeles for an additional eight weeks before the New Zealand government allowed the film to shoot.

“Because we had to go back and finish, it made me very grateful to be able to work after just three months of sitting there,” says Dunst. “It made us incredibly grateful, it made us all work so much harder and give our best, because we asked ourselves: ‘When are we going to work again? Are we allowed? ‘”

Next: Dunst would love to direct a project with Plemons. “Jesse and I talked about directing together because we trust each other,” she said. “Working together is fun. We are a good balance to each other. Sometimes I can’t express what I want to say, he will say it perfectly, you know? And sometimes when he was struggling with something and I would say something, he would be like: ‘Exactly so.’ “

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Aila Slisco

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