• kirsten dunst is hollywood's brightest star yet she still carries her security blanket
Wherever Spider-Man beauty Kirsten Dunst goes, she always takes her faithful friend - a tattered square of fabric that has barely left her side since babyhood.
She says: "It's my blanky, the brown one Mum got when she was pregnant and didn't know if I was a boy or a girl."
And if any child ever needed a security blanket, it was Kirsten, whose childhood was blighted by insecurity.
Often she would stick her fingers in her ears so she could not hear her parents Inez and Klaus arguing.
Frequently the rows were about Kirsten herself, whose pursuit of a showbiz career begn at the age of three - thanks to her mother.
When Kirsten was a toddler, people would stop Inez in the street just to tell her how cute and pretty her daughter was.
So Inez hot-footed it to New York's top modelling agency, Ford, who took Kirsten on their books.
But that was not enough for Inez. She employed an acting coach for little Kirsten - who is affectionately known as Kiki to her family.
Nearly every day Inez would drive from the family's home in New Jersey to New York to take Kirsten to auditions.
Her obsession led to huge rows with German-born Klaus. He wanted his wife to give up what he thought was a fruitless quest.
Inez refused and her persistence paid off.
Kirsten started to appear in dozens of adverts, which eventually led to her coming to the attention of a top Hollywood agent.
Kirsten - 22 today - says: "My parents fought. My dad was supportive but didn't think the commercials I was doing would turn into anything serious.
"He didn't realise me and my mum were on a mission.
"Acting was what I felt I had to do and luckily I had a mum who knew that. She has devoted most of her life to getting me where I am."
Eventually Inez went one step further in her bid to turn Kirsten into a Hollywood star. She upped sticks with her daughter and son Christian - who is four years younger than Kirsten - and moved to Los Angeles.
She divorced Klaus, who stayed in New Jersey. Kirsten was not sorry to see the marriage end.
She says: "My mum and dad are the most opposite people. Not the 'opposite attracts' types, they are 'How the hell did you ever get together?' types"
By the time Kirsten moved to Los Angeles at the age of ten she already had more than 70 commercials under her belt, a handful of TV appearances and a part in the 1989 Woody Allen film New York Stories.
In 1994 she hit the jackpot when she was picked to play vampire child Claudia opposite Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt in Interview With The Vampire.
Since then she has appeared in some 30 films. But there has been a hefty price to pay for a girl who has hardly stopped working since she was barely out of nappies.
Because of her heavy workload she did not attend school regularly and made few friends.
Her schooling was mostly given by her mother or a coach during filming or modelling jobs. The pattern was repeated in Los Angeles where she attended posh private Catholic school Notre Dame.
Former pupil Jasmine Badalian says: "No one at high school knew her.
"She came to lessons for five to ten days a year. She had a general snobby attitude."
Fellow ex-pupil Rachel Tesser says: "I was in her class but never spoke to her."
In fact, when Kirsten was still at school she made no bones about hating it, saying: "It takes up too much time. I learn so much more outside of school. I think it would be so cool if school was only half the year. I can't wait for high school to be over.
"I hate classrooms. I just can't deal with it, I really can't."
Mot surprisingly she did not date boys at schooll, preferring young actors.
There was Dustin Hoffman's son Jake and also Ben Foster, who she met on the set of the 2001 film Get Over It.
She was also rumoured to be involved with Spider-Man co-star Tobey Maguire - but hotly denies it.
For the past year she has been dating hunky actor Jake Gyllenhaal. She says: "I want so badly to have a normal guy - but for them to understand my career is very important to me and I've got to concentrate."
As for the ftuure, it is more work, work, work. Straight after finishing the gruelling Spider-Man 2, Kirsten plunged into her next movie, Wimbledon, with Brit Paul Bettany.
Kirsten, who admits she has been "working my butt off since I was three years old," says she would not have it any other way.
She adds: "I absolutely love what I do and I don't want to stop. It's all I've ever wanted."
It's all her mum Inez wanted her to do too. back to the top
• keira tops legends-to-be-poll
Pirates of the Caribbean star Keira Knightley has topped a list as the young actress most destined to become a Hollywood legend.
The "teenage beauty" beat Scarlett Johansson, Naomi Watts and Charlize Theron the top pot in the poll in Film Review magazine.
Keira was credited for her ability to appeal to audiences of both sexes and all ages, while her age (19) was also taken into account as she is expected to have a long and lucrative career ahead of her, as demonstrated by her forthcoming appearances in King Arthur, The Jacket and the sequel to Pirates.
Scarlett Johansson was second, with Whale Rider star Keisha Castle-Hughes in third place. Also placed in the top 10 were Naomi Watts (5th) and Kate Beckinsale (7th), who finished one place ahead of Underworld co-star Sophia Myles. Myles, 24, stars in the forthcoming big-screen version of Thunderbirds, but if the trailer is anything to go by, she might have to wait for stardom for a while longer. back to the top