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Kirsten Dunst is going to chase that (well-deserved) Emmy nomination high by tackling her first feature film in the director’s chair. The Fargo actress has a couple of shorts under her belt—Welcome and Bastard, which screened at Sundance and Cannes, respectively—but now Deadline reports that she’ll helm an adaptation of The Bell Jar. And with that, a collective, not-quite-contented sigh just went up across English literature classrooms everywhere, or at least the ones that are in summer session.

Dunst and co-writer Nellie Kim (no, not the Russian Olympic athlete, though that was our guess, too) have already adapted Sylvia Plath’s powerful novel into a script. Dunst has also landed Dakota Fanning in the lead role of Esther Greenwood, the novel’s protagonist who descends into madness following an internship in New York. Esther chafes at the idea of marriage, an aversion that helps get her shipped off to a mental institution, because a woman wanting to remain single in the ’60s was obviously a danger to herself and others.


Plath blurred the line between reality and fiction in her novel, which reflected her own struggle with depression. The book got a straightforward if underwhelming movie adaptation in 1979, but Dunst is apparently considering making it a dark comedy. Last year, the actress told IndieWire that she was working on an adaptation of a book that “most women have read,” (seriously, just ask your girlfriends) which she was approaching “in a funny way.” Dunst continued:

“It’s going to be a dark comedy and I already have my actress —I’ve wanted to direct for a long time. It’s based on a book, but… it really could make it any way you [wanted]. “It’s the kind of book that — it could be so, so didactic and bad or you could really make a life of something [from it]. So you really need to make your own scenes up. asf


It certainly sounds like the projects are one and the same, and presumably Fanning was Dunst’s first choice, since no other casting news has popped up in between. Filming is expected to begin early next year.