Kirsten Dunst says husband Jesse Plemons filmed chilling 'Civil War' scene as a favor: 'Nobody wants to play a role like that'

"Civil War" stars say mass grave scene with Plemons was the toughest day on set.

Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons
Kirsten Dunst and Jesse Plemons at a recent screening of Civil War. (Monica Schipper/Getty Images)
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Kirsten Dunst is truly grateful that her husband Jesse Plemons stepped in to film a pivotal scene for Civil War, the new film in which she has the lead role, but that didn't make the two-day shoot particularly enjoyable.

Yahoo Entertainment spoke to the stars of Alex Garland's new movie, in theaters April 12, that depicts a dystopian near-future America embroiled in a second civil war. Dunst, Wagner Moura and Cailee Spaeny play journalists traveling from New York to Washington, D.C., as the federal government is under siege by a rebel coalition called the Western Forces. On their way, the group runs into several different American groups, but it's their meeting with an enigmatic soldier — played by Plemons — that is the most unsettling scene of the film.

"Another actor was actually supposed to play that role and couldn't play it. And so I kind of asked Jesse as a favor ... to do it for us," Dunst recalls. (The pair, who have two children, wed in 2022 after six years together.)

"He was going to be with the kids and in Atlanta while I was shooting this. So he really did this as a favor because nobody wants to play a role like that," Dunst says. "And it was really very terrifying even reading it in the script, and then shooting it over the course of two days. So I'm really grateful that he decided to do that for us. And that, you know, he's such a brilliant actor, so it really came across well."

In the film, Plemons, dressed in camouflage, asks the group, "What kind of American are you?" The actors agree that this mass grave scene with Plemons, featured in the trailer, was the toughest one to shoot.

In the film, the Western Forces are made up of a California-Texas alliance, which in current times, may seem like two unlikely states to join forces given their blue and red political orientation. However, the actors all say they weren't at all surprised by the plot point — unlike many on social media.

"Why wouldn't they get together to fight a tyrant president?" Wagner asks.

From left, Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura and Cailee Spaeny
From left, Kirsten Dunst, Wagner Moura and Cailee Spaeny in Civil War. (Zoey Kang/A24)

Garland wrote the film with a specific backstory in mind: How the U.S. became engulfed in a civil war. And although this backstory is not divulged onscreen, he was willing to describe it to any cast member who asked. Dunst, Spaney and Moura, however, never thought to inquire.

"It's so interesting, none of us asked," Wagner says.

"No, we kind of accepted that you were immersed in this film immediately into this war and reading the script, I didn't even have questions about it," Dunst adds.

"We got what Alex was doing," Spaney says.

The film has stirred some controversy for the title alone, and while it is a political film with a clear antiwar message, it doesn't wallow in divisive issues. Filmmaker Alex Garland tells Yahoo he didn't seek to polarize the audience.

"Part of the intention of the film is to do with journalism and a representation of journalism. And then another part of the film is to do with division and polarized politics and populist politics, and really extremism and potential consequences of extremism. If you're gonna have that conversation, there'd be no point in having that conversation and then you yourself becoming polarized," he says.

Garland says it was not planned that Civil War would be released during an election year, but rather that's just how things happened due to "logistical requirements," many of them in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 28 Days Later writer hopes to "create a compelling, engaging narrative that has a conversation rather than a lecture."

"Because conversation is the thing that is really struggling to exist in public discourse," he says.

Civil War is out in theaters and IMAX nationwide on Friday, April 12