NEW YORK -- This year's Oscar nominations are announced on February 8, and Kirsten Dunst is looking for her first Academy Award recognition after a long career that began as a child growing up in New Jersey.
She has already earned a nod from The Screen Actors Guild for "The Power of The Dog," which many critics feel was one of the best movies of last year.
Dunst grew up in Brick Township, where she started acting at the age of 3. Her long resume includes roles as Spider-Man's girlfriend and one of the cheerleaders in "Bring it On," but the star has also worked for some of the world's greatest filmmakers, including Jane Campion, who directed "The Power of The Dog."
Dunst reached deep into her past to create a portrait so compelling an Oscar could be in her future, and she stars opposite her real-life partner, Jesse Plemons.
"We don't have to work at any chemistry together," she said. "It's just naturally there."
They play newlyweds in Montana back in 1925.
"It's a very delicate beginning, old-fashioned, but there's a loneliness that they both see in each other," she said.
Rose is a widow, and she and her son Pete go to live with George (Plemons) and his brother, who torments her.
"She's just trying to get through it, and she doesn't use her voice," Dunst sad. "She doesn't speak up for herself."
Dunst recalled her younger self to give life to her character.
"Yeah, living in a place where you don't have a sense of self to stand up for yourself," she said.
Dunst said she spent too much of her youth trying to please others but has shifted her approach as she gets older and more experienced.
"Not making your performance about other people or pleasing other people," she said. "But rather you know doing it for yourself and making it a cathartic experience for yourself."
That release of strong emotions gives her performance such power.
"For me, it's using whatever I'm feeling in order to make it the most alive when you're watching," she said.
The result has been Oscar buzz for Benedict Cumberbatch as the stern and tough brother-in-law, Code Smit-McPhee as her son, and for Dunst herself.
"I've worked so hard in this industry and had such a long career," she said. "To be recognized and to have all the things align in this positive way now, I can truly enjoy it."
Looking back on Dunst's body of work, it's hard to believe she has not yet received an Oscar nomination. She's an artist capable of communicating so much without words by using just the changing expressions on her face.
She also gets my personal award as the most approachable and down-to-earth star of this current moment.