Kirsten Dunst had no idea ‘Bring It On’ would be such a runaway success

Image via Universal Pictures

Since she was a kid, Kirsten Dunst has held her own against Hollywood’s biggest star with roles in ’90s movies like Jumanji and Interview with a Vampire. With all that experience, you’d think she’d have a sixth sense (perhaps a spidey sense?) when it comes to the box office.

It turns out even seasoned Hollywood vets like Dunst fly blind when it comes to knowing whether they have a hit or a flop on their hands.

Dunst was 18-years-old when she made Bring It On, a movie about rival cheerleaders, in 2000. Two years later, she would play Mary Jane in Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man.

Dunst told EW the movie was a low-budget film that that didn’t have many cheerleaders at Universal, that is until those box office returns started coming in.

Dunst played high school cheerleading captain Torrance Shipman, who had to contend with inheriting a team with routines stolen from a rival group of cheerleaders, setting up a showdown between her squad and Isis, led by Gabrielle Union. The movie was more than just bubbly teens jumping around; it tackled some serious issues about race, white privilege, and cultural appropriation.

The movie was a surprise hit and helped to define teen comedy in the early 2000s. It still has a lasting pop culture cachet and spawned several less iconic sequels and a Broadway musical with Lin-Manuel Miranda on the writing team.

“Even my friends — who tell me how it is — will be like, ‘I’ll get the door, Tor,'” the actress said. “I never thought that movie would be as big as it is.” 

What’s weird is that even though it was a smash, Dunst was worried the movie would potentially pigeonhole her and detract from her ability as a serious actress.

“It’s nice to enjoy these things, but your young self always judges you so hard,” she said.

There was no guarantee the movie was even going to get made. Screenwriter Jessica Bendinger said that trying to sell the script was quite the uphill battle. 

It’s one of those crazy Hollywood stories. Universal passed in the room. It was a male studio executive, who I remember was throwing a basketball up in the air while he was talking to us. He was like, “Let me stop you. It’s going to be a pass.” He was trying to be a good guy and not have us waste our time and energy. Then I went to Beacon [Pictures] and I was like, “You guys aren’t going to want this. Nobody wants this, so I’ll say it for you.” I was really at the end of my rope, and sure enough [executives] John Ketcham, Caitlin Scanlon and Max Wong really rallied to buy it. Miracles happen.

Bring It On made $90 million in theaters on a budget of $11 million. Dunst is currently getting a ton of Oscar buzz for her role in Jane Campion’s Netflix film The Power of the Dog, a Western also starring Benedict Cumberbatch.