Kirsten Dunst has revisited the moment she had to kiss a 31-year-old Brad Pitt at the mere age of 11 - during a scene in which she played Brad Pitt's daughter - calling the moment one of the 'worst things she did' in the film.
In 1994, Dunst starred alongside Pitt and Tom Cruise in gothic film Interview with a Vampire, an adaptation of the book by Anne Rice of the same name. Spanish lord Louis de Pointe du Lac (played by Brad Pitt) is turned into a vampire by Lestat de Lioncourt (Tom Cruise). To keep Louis by his side, Lestat then turns a girl who is dying from the plague into a vampire so she can act as Louis' daughter. This child was portrayed by Dunst.
Though Dunst says she was mostly treated like a total princess on set', there were moments that made her uncomfortable during filming. Speaking to Vanity Fair, Dunst, now 39, said she was forced to complain on two occasions.
Kirsten Dunst, Brad Pitt and Tom Cruise in a scene from the film 'Interview With The Vampire' in 1994. Getty Images
The first came when she had to film a scene in which she bit the neck of an actor, whom she says was sweating heavily. The other, when she had to share said kiss with Pitt:
'That was the worst thing I did and also having obviously to kiss Brad Pitt at that point, Dunst said. I was a little girl and he was like a brother to me and it was very weird even though it was a peck. I was very not into it.
Back when she was 11 and had just wrapped up filming of Interview with the Vampire, she also told Entertainment Tonight: I hated [the kiss] so much because Brad was like my older brother on set and it's kind of like kissing your brother. It's weird because he's an older guy and I had to kiss him on the lips, so it was gross.
Clearly a moment Dunst has never forgotten, her discomfort with the kiss has resonated with viewers. While the two characters are portraying father and daughter - making it a seemingly innocent moment - the scene does little to further or strengthen the plot and, given Dunst was vocal about her discomfort at the time, it seems strange it wasn't removed from filming.
Now, many are hypothesising on the point of including it at all, with some suggesting the kiss was included just to surprise audiences. If this is the case, to use a child and put her in a clearly uncomfortable position in the name of shock value, is nothing short of exploitation.
Because, even if a kiss between father and daughter doesn't make you uncomfortable as a viewer, the fact Dunst didn't want to kiss a man 20 years her senior on the lips - and made a complaint about it, a brave thing to do for a child in her position - should be enough to ensure it never happened.
Hollywood is filled to the brim with uncomfortable moments like these where young child actors play roles far too mature for them. Take Jodie Foster in 1976 film Taxi Driver, for example, where the then 12-year-old played a teenage sex worker in sexually explicit scenes (though they used a body double for any nude shots). Speaking on The Graham Norton Show a few years ago, Jodie opened up about filming, saying: 'They were very uncomfortable about my character. Nobody knew how to direct me. Scorsese [the director] would say something like "unzip his fly" and not know what to do so he would hand it over to Robert De Niro and then Robert would tell me what to do.'
And on the set of Pretty Baby in 1978, Brooke Shields was put through very uncomfortable, similarly mature scenes by the director and her mother, leading to controversy at the time. Shields played Violet, a young girl who lives in a brothel with her mother, a sex worker. After Violets virginity is sold off, she too becomes a sex worker. Shields was only 11 when they filmed the movie and it features numerous scenes of her topless and in overtly sexual situations.
Children should never be involved in so-called romantic scenes with an adult in the first place.
Since some of these films are now decades old, you would hope the experiences of women and children working on film sets had improved since. But more recently, Natalie Portman has spoken out about the sexual terrorism she endured as a 13-year-old (in the 90s) and in 2018, a 29-year-old Emma Watson said she had experienced the 'full spectrum' of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry, after beginning her career in film at just nine.
In many ways, weve taken great strides. New set roles like intimacy co-ordinators now mean that choreographing and safeguarding for sex scenes is more commonplace, and the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have given some people the strength to speak up when something isnt right. But there is still work to be done.
Children should never be involved in sex scenes, or any sort of romantic scene involving partner work with an adult, in the first place. The importance of boundaries and whats deemed appropriate in the workplace (film set or elsewhere) has been a hot discussion for some years now, but children seem to have gotten lost in the discussion. For children, who cannot consent to acts like these and do not truly understand the weight of the scenes theyre creating - nor the fame that will follow - it's clear that they struggle to make these choices themselves. Instead, the adults surrounding them should create an environment where the choice is never made - where they feel safe.
Actors like Dunst should be able to look back on their childhood roles with nostalgia and pride, not wincing at being made to kiss a man 20 years older than you.
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