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Kirsten Dunst says filming “Civil War” gave her PTSD: 'I felt really empty'

Filming some of the big action sequences "shook me to my core," the star says.

Kirsten Dunst struggled with post-traumatic stress disorder after she finished production on Civil War, Alex Garland's upcoming action sci-fi about a dystopian America.

Against the backdrop of a fractured nation run by a despot leader (Nick Offerman) who has gutted government agencies, the film stars Dunst as photojournalist Lee Smith. With a group of military-embedded journalists, Lee and co. race against time to reach Washington D.C. before rebel factions descend upon the White House.

While scenes of a blown-up Lincoln Memorial were green-screened, action scenes that involved combat and car chases "shook me to my core," Dunst said in a new Marie Claire cover story. "I remember hearing them practice an explosion. We were in the hair and makeup trailer, which was very far away from set, and the whole trailer shook."

<p>A24</p> Kirsten Dunst

A24

Kirsten Dunst

In another scene set in the White House, "There's so much gunfire, and then you look at the news and it's a school shooting again," Dunst said, revealing that she "had PTSD for a good two weeks after." She recalled, "I remember coming home and eating lunch and I felt really empty."

Garland, the filmmaker behind 28 Days Later and Ex Machina, contended that Dunst "let herself live inside the film, and feel the reality of the moments." Dunst said of the film, "I think it's a cautionary tale, a fable of what happens when people don't communicate with each other and stop seeing each other as human beings."

Elsewhere, Dunst, who has been absent on screen since 2021's The Power of the Dog, said she was captivated by the script after only being offered roles of a "sad mom."

"There's definitely less good roles for women my age," she said. When she read the script for Civil War, "I thought, 'I've never done anything like this.'"

Dunst also stars opposite Cailee Spaeny, Wagner Moura, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and husband Jesse Plemons in the film. "I love working with him," Dunst said. "What's nice is that we trust each other so much." Plemons also previously told EW that he and Dunst "lean on each other for most decisions."

"As soon as there's a script or a potential project that we're deciding whether or not to do, we're usually just pestering the other one to read the script," he said. "I respect her opinion so much. I'm always curious to know what she thinks."

Civil War is in theaters April 12.

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