20 Secrets Behind Kirsten Dunst And Jake Gyllenhaal's Relationship

What does it take to become a Hollywood It Couple? There's an undefined combination that has to occur: star power, critical acclaim, spectacular good looks, and an unguessable X factor that not all people possess. Whatever the mixture must be, Jake Gyllenhaal and Kirsten Dunst had it from 2002 to 2004. In that brief stretch of time, the two actors were seen in tabloid headlines on what seemed like a daily basis.

The media's insatiable hunger for celebrity news stories fixed firmly on the relationship between Dunst and Gyllenhaal, thanks largely to how attractive the two of them were. It certainly didn't hurt that Dunst was coming off some of the biggest successes in her entire career, starring as Mary Jane Watson in the first Spider-Man film in 2002. Gyllenhaal, meanwhile, was known for his indie success with Donnie Darko. 

The couple may have been young, but that didn't stop fans and the media from leaping on their every interaction. With this list, we'll take a look back on the two-year relationship. All kinds of wild secrets emerged from it after it concluded, ranging from their friends to their dog to their habits in and out of the bedroom.

These are 20 Secrets From Jake Gyllenhaal's Relationship with Kirsten Dunst.

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Young Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal
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20 They were introduced by Jake's sister

Young Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal

Much like Jake and Kirsten, Jake's sister Maggie is also a respected actress with a long career in Hollywood. She got her start at the same time Jake did, with the film Donnie Darko. Jake's real-life sister played his on-screen sister in that movie, but she didn't stop there.

She was also Kirsten Dunst's costar in Mona Lisa Smile. The two actresses hit it off in that film, but more importantly, as many news sites were quick to point out when the couple eventually broke up, Maggie was actually responsible for introducing Jake and Kirsten in the first place.

Mona Lisa Smile may not have been much of a hit with critics or audiences-- despite making plenty of money at the box office, it isn't really remembered today-- but it had at least one lasting impact.

Jake and Kirsten obviously hit it off when Maggie introduced them, as their relationship started almost immediately after.

It's not clear to what extent Maggie remained in the couple's lives after introducing them-- obviously, she still has a relationship with her brother Jake, but whether she stayed friends with Kirsten is another matter. Then again, Kirsten and Jake didn't exactly stay friends (more on that later), so the outlook may not be too good.

19 Their relationship lasted less than two years

We know, we know. For those who lived through it, it seemed like it lasted much longer. It may come as a surprise to those who had to read through tabloid headline after tabloid headline devoted to the couple, but Jake and Kirsten started dating in September of 2002, and didn't announce their split until July 2004. That means that even if you believe they broke up right when they announced it (and you may not, but more on that later), their relationship didn't even last two full years.

This seems like a short amount of time when you think about how committed they appeared to be, but it shouldn't really be a surprise.

After all, Gyllenhaal was only 22 years old when they started dating, and Dunst was even younger. Celebrity magazines always seem to be rooting for every couple to go all the way to marriage, but it just isn't realistic to think that a relationship between two people in their early twenties is going to last very long.

Think about it this way: remember your significant other from when you were 20 years old? Did that relationship last? Is it really a surprise that a 20-year-old didn't commit to the sturdiest of romantic relationships? We didn't think so. This may have been a serious relationship, but it wasn't a surprise when it ended.

18 They didn't stay friends after the breakup

One of the most common lines from any breakup is that the couples hopes to "stay friends." In fact, representatives for the two actors actually said exactly that when they announced their breakup to the world. Selling the image of an amicable split, saying the two would remain friends forever was the gentlest way to keep both celebrities' images intact. The reality isn't so pleasant, as it turns out.

In December of 2009, Allure asked Kirsten about her former relationship with Jake, and what she said directly contradicted her spokesperson's words from 2004. "It would be nice to see him," she said, "But we're not good friends."

This was only a small part of the interview, but naturally it was the one every media outlet reported on. Media attention on the couple was so frenzied that any hint that the breakup hadn't actually been so amicable was snapped up. Apparently, while the two do see each other from time to time, they don't really keep in touch.

Jake has been noticeably reticent to discuss his personal life in any way. He seems to be somewhat shy about his past relationships, as he never wants to discuss them at all. Maybe that's just a function of him not wanting to engage with those people anymore.

17 The paparazzi were a constant pressure

As we've established, but the paparazzi loved Jake and Kirsten. After all, not only were they attractive young stars, they had both appeared in critically acclaimed films. That meant they could sell tabloids not just to people looking for the latest rumors about hot couples, they could pull in a much wider audience thanks to the two actors' name recognition.

While attention from the press wasn't exactly new to either of them, it can't have been easy dealing with that much scrutiny over every single dating decision.

For his part, Jake took the attention in stride. “Kirsten and I know what’s real and what isn’t,” he said. “We know what happens when you are both actors.” This was specifically in reference to the rampant speculation that came about after he split up with Kirsten, as rumors were flying over why this seemingly perfect couple could have broken up. Then again, rumors flew throughout their entire relationship, usually over the smallest piece of information, so they were probably used to it by that point.

Plus, the paparazzi were never able to find out some of the juiciest secrets the relationship had to offer until much later, so it's safe to say the couple was good at dealing with the attention.

16 The infamous salad pictures

Jake Gyllenhaal and Kirsten Dunst date

Ah, young love. A time in one's life to relax, embrace your significant other, and revel in all their flaws and idiosyncrasies. Or, if you're Jake Gyllenhaal, to seemingly silently judge your girlfriend over the way she eats salad.

In an incident well remembered across the internet, pictures emerged from a lunch Jake and Kirsten had at a trendy London eatery-- pictures that included Jake seemingly glaring at Kirsten while she ate a salad with her fingers. This set of photos emerged in July of 2003, yet parts of the internet have been posting about it as recently as 2016.

The photos portray a dynamic that sets Jake as the stern disciplinarian, unhappy with his significant other's table manners. Yeah, it is a little odd that Kirsten is just grabbing leaves from her salad and shoving them in her mouth, but it's weirder that Jake appears to be genuinely upset about this.

Most people would just laugh at this (people on the internet certainly did) but Jake Gyllenhaal apparently is not one of them. He looks dour, and another photo from the same day shows him frowning as he feeds Kirsten some soup, like it's a chore he has to do. Whatever the full story here is, the pictures will live forever.

15 They shared a luxury apartment owned by Kirsten

Now we're getting to the actual details of the relationship. Jake and Kirsten moved in together pretty soon after becoming a couple. The relationship hadn't even lasted two years by the time it ended, but by that point they had already been living in the apartment for some time.

Dunst was actually the one who bought the place in December 2003, an apartment in Los Angeles that she purchased for over $1 million.

It was a real luxury, too, boasting three bedrooms, two and a half baths, heated floors, and all kinds of glossy decoration. She would eventually sell it in 2009.

Gyllenhaal would go on to buy a house in Los Angeles, while Dunst moved to SoHo and bought a luxury apartment. Gyllenhaal bought his place in 2005 for $2.5 million, just a year after splitting up with Dunst, and would eventually sell it in 2014. You've got to wonder, with all the expensive places the two celebrities have lived, do they ever think back to the Los Angeles apartment they shared for that short time in the early 2000s?

One thing's for sure, they definitely appreciated the old apartment's garage, which allowed them to enter and exit without the paparazzi snapping a picture.

14 Why they broke up

Relationships can be a struggle. One of the most important skills a person in a committed relationship can have is the ability to compromise, which is certainly something Kirsten and Jake had to learn. There was one point of conflict that they apparently never managed to settle: whether to go out or stay in.

Speaking after the relationship had ended, Kirsten said that one of the main points of tension was that Jake always wanted to stay in and watch a movie. A quiet night in with Jake Gyllenhaal may sound perfect to you, but Kirsten had other ideas.

Kirsten reportedly said she wanted to go out on the town. This may sound like a fairly easy argument to compromise on-- go out some nights, stay in others-- but it evidently wasn't so easy for them. Kirsten implied that this issue was one of the main factors in the breakup, something that put real stress on the relationship and that they were never able to solve.

If this is true, maybe the relationship was never as fairy tale perfect as they believed it to be--it's a fairly minor issue for most couples, and if they couldn't handle it, maybe they just weren't meant to be.

13 They swapped places on the A-List

When Kirsten and Jake began dating, it was actually Kirsten who was the bigger star. Fresh off her success with the Spider-Man franchise, she had become the actress seemingly every director wanted to cast. Jake, on the other hand, was less of a star, having only one big credit to his name.

This may come as a surprise to our younger readers, as nowadays the tables have definitely turned.

Jake Gyllenhaal is a bona fide A-lister, who seems to hop from one prestigious, acclaimed film to the next. Kirsten Dunst is by no means unsuccessful, but doesn't have nearly the cultural cachet she used to claim.

2002-2006 was actually the most fruitful part of Kirsten's career, beginning with Spider-Man and continuing through her roles in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Marie Antoinette. Since then, however, she has faded from her status as perennial leading lady, as most of her recent roles have been supporting ones (like her part in Hidden Figures) or leads in smaller budget films (such as The Beguiled or Woodshock).

Dunst has an impressive career, but wouldn't really be considered an A-list star now.

Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, has been consistently landing leading roles and memorable side characters year after year. How things change.

12 The rebound relationships

Since their relationship ended way back in 2004, 16 years ago, it's not surprising that Kirsten Dunst and Jake Gyllenhaal have since found themselves new paramours. Not only that, they both became known for having extremely brief relationships, as they both have a large array of exes. In fact, many articles on the internet have been devoted to both Kirsten Dunst and Jake Gyllenhaal's relationship history.

Let's run down the list. After they broke up, Kirsten dated Josh Hartnett, Johnny Borrell, Garrett Hedlund, and Jesse Plemons (among others), while Jake dated Natalie Portman, Reese Witherspoon, Taylor Swift, and Anna Kendrick (again, among others).

Yeah, they both did pretty well in their love lives. However, the real difference between them is their current relationship status: Kirsten Dunst is now engaged to Jesse Plemons and had a child with him just this past May. Jake Gyllenhaal, however, isn't in any kind of a serious relationship--and he hasn't been in one that lasted longer than his romance with Kirsten.

In fact, Jake says that he'd love it if people would set him up with women more often, so maybe the man just needs some help meeting people. Someone, anyone, help the poor guy, otherwise he'll be doomed to date models and actresses forever!

11 They did their best to spice up the relationship

Soon after splitting up with Jake, Kirsten had an interviewUnfortunately, the news organization that published it folded in 2011 so its archives aren't easily available on the internet, but this article would live in infamy, as it contained Kirsten's frank disclosure of what she'd been doing to spice up her relationship with Jake.

Go to just about any post about the couple and you'll find out exactly what they did--and it involved, let's say, extremely aggressive public displays of affection. Here is what purports to be at least some of the original text of the article, although we can't be sure because we don't have the original source to compare.

Kirsten and Jake would apparently drive out to public places to add some danger to the physical side of the relationship, in public bathrooms, changing rooms, in their car, and by the ocean. While she said they did chicken out once or twice, backing off in the middle of a hotel hallway for fear of getting thrown out, it sounds like they were pretty bold in this practice.

While this certainly demonstrates their commitment to keeping things fresh, it didn't do too much to help, as they started this activity fairly late in the relationship, soon before they split for good.

10 Kirsten's mom thought Jake was a snob

Kirsten Dunst' mother Inez apparently has a lot of opinions over who is fit to date her daughter, and Jake Gyllenhaal didn't meet those requirements. According to an Radar article from 2014, Inez thought Jake was "too Hollywood," and too much of a snob for Kirsten. Worse still, she said those things while comparing Jake (unfavorably) to Kirsten's new man Garrett Hedlund.

Inez reportedly thought Hedlund was a much better fit for her daughter, despite that relationship also ending in a breakup. 

Radar says she specifically stated that Hedlund wasn't a "rich snob" like certain other people who came from Hollywood families.

Pretty much every remark Kirsten's mother allegedly made seemed targeted at Jake, so it seems safe to say she didn't like him much. She's not the only one to accuse Jake Gyllenhaal of being a snob. That same issue came up in later relationships with people like Taylor Swift, as several people claimed Jake has very snobby tastes in music and movies.

We'd say you're allowed to be a bit of a snob about movies when you make them for a living, but that reportedly wasn't enough for Inez, who was so glad Kirsten had moved on to Hedlund that she allegedly claimed Hedlund would end up proposing soon (this did not happen).

9 Jake kept the dog

Like a lot of young couples trying out a more serious commitment to their long-term relationship, Jake and Kirsten adopted a dog. Inspired in part by his experiences filming Brokeback Mountain, Jake wanted to be closer to animals and adopted a German shepherd, which he named Atticus in honor of the character from To Kill a Mockingbird. 

He adopted Atticus with Kirsten, and it apparently resulted in a bit of a custody battle between the two stars.

Atticus had really always been Jake's, though, so he kept him. There is one odd factual inconsistency relating to Atticus, however.

In a 2015 interview with THR, Jake talks about Atticus and his reasoning behind adopting the pup. However, he also says that Atticus passed away six months before the interview took place. This is reasonable, as that's a fairly standard life expectancy for a dog. However, a year later, in December of 2016, Jake was photographed walking his dog in New York City. This dog was a German shepherd who certainly looked a lot like Atticus, and the press labeled him as such. Either one of these articles is dated incorrectly, the dog in the photos isn't Atticus, or Jake lied about Atticus' passing in 2015 (unlikely).

Regardless, at least Jake got to keep one good thing from his relationship with Kirsten.

8 Jake doesn't like talking about the relationship

Jake Gyllenhaal Nightcrawler

Dealing with romantic relationships in Hollywood is notoriously difficult. There are all kinds of pressure actors have to manage, but the main one is the media. As we've already stated, the paparazzi were particularly aggressive with Jake and Kirsten, and perhaps in response to that, Gyllenhaal has put the clamps on any kind of discussion of his personal life in the media. While Kirsten has been quoted again and again about the relationship, as she opens up at least a little when asked about it, Jake keeps a firm closed door policy.

Gyllenhaal maintains it to this day, as in a recent interview, he deadpanned a simple "I would love to not talk about my personal life" when pressed. He likes to deflect with jokes, saying that for that "kind of interview," he'd have to be lying down on a couch. One quote from that interview has Jake say he likes to enter a space "with an open heart and a mind that's strong enough to protect it." Wise words, considering how hungry for any gossip tidbit the paparazzi can be.

To this day, Jake doesn't discuss his personal relationships, and there's a solid chance that the policy began back when he was getting hounded by the press over his romance with Kirsten.

7 Kirsten didn't want to get married

Look, you're 22 years old. You're in Hollywood. You're a rising star, and a hot commodity. You have your pick of attractive roles and attractive men. Would you be thinking about settling down and getting married? If you said no, then you understand Kirsten Dunst in 2004.

While there were plenty of other causes of tension between the two that led to the breakup, perhaps the simplest explanation for why the Hollywood couple split is just the fact that they were very young. They were looking at decades-long careers in Hollywood, and they had their whole lives ahead of them. It's not really shocking that they didn't stay together forever.

Still, Kirsten would go one further. "Oh, I'm too young to get married," she said in one interview. But she didn't stop there, as she would add that she and Jake "couldn't last." Kirsten would appear to go back on these words , but in the days following the breakup, she seemed adamant that the pair had never really been right for one another.

Perhaps one of her reasons for thinking that was due to the fact that she just didn't want to get married at the age of 22-- and it turned out she was definitely telling the truth, because while she is currently engaged to Jesse Plemons, she has not married to this day!

6 Kirsten said Jake was the love of her life

Yeah, this is where things get a little muddy. While Kirsten Dunst did say that she and Jake had never been right for another in the days following the split, she appeared to go back on that opinion in the years following the relationship.

While she acknowledged that they "couldn't last," she also said that Jake was the love of her life. Not content to just say that, she kept going: "He was, is and always will be. Despite what has happened, though, I still have this whole fairytale vision in my head because I was brought up on movies and storybooks that say I’m going to find my soulmate, get married and have a perfect life. Maybe one day that will be with Jake."

It safe to say that Kirsten was feeling a little broken up over her breakup, since she was talking about the past relationship like it was a fairy tale.

Well, it wasn't, as both Kirsten and Jake have since moved on. Still, though, it's somewhat comforting to know that underneath the entire media circus, the public displays of affection and the fights over the dog, there was some genuine feeling to the relationship. At least it wasn't just a big hubbub over nothing, Kirsten really did care for Jake.

5 Kirsten liked that Jake was "a dork"

Kirsten Dunst in Spider-Man

We've talked about all the possible reasons why the relationship came to an end, but what about the reasons for the attraction in the first place? As it turns out, the behavior from Jake that read as snobbery to some was actually what Kirsten loved about him.

"Maybe I’m just a weird girl and I just needed a good freak to match me. In Jake I believe I found that. He’s a dork. That’s what I love about him," she said. We've already talked about how creative Kirsten and Jake got, but Jake's dorky side was also part of what drew Kirsten to him.

It's worthwhile to note that this quote also came after the relationship had already ended, yet Kirsten uses "love" in the present tense. These quotes clearly came at a time when Kirsten was looking back at the relationship fondly, thinking about Jake's dorkiness with the rosy glow of nostalgia.

Jake liked to stay in and watch movies, and he's been known to give intensely intellectual answers to common questions in interviews. It sounds like his mind was as much a part of the attraction for Kirsten as his looks, given that he's still known to be one of the smarter celebrities around.

4 They delayed their breakup announcement

The day Jake Gyllenhaal and Kirsten Dunst announced their split was a wild one for the tabloid press. While their spokesperson was telling the media that Jake and Kirsten had broken up, he also dropped another bombshell on the press: they had actually broken up some time ago, and hadn't announced it at the time. Naturally, this came as a bit of a shock to the paparazzi who had been covering the couple, since it had apparently gone unnoticed up until that point. Then again, Kirsten and Jake had evidently done a good job faking it in the preceding months.

It was never clarified exactly when the breakup occurred, merely that it happened "some time" before the announcement.

Media outlets were quick to note that just a month prior to the announcement, Kirsten had spoken to the media to tell them how in love she was.

Her exact words were "I am really happy and in love." It's unclear whether that was simply a lie to get the media off her back or if the relationship hadn't ended by then. Regardless, the couple wasn't seeing much of each other at the time, as Kirsten was filming Elizabethtown with Orlando Bloom and Jake was getting started on Brokeback Mountain.

3 Jake is afraid of commitment to this day

Jake Gyllenhaal in Source Code

We've talked a lot about Kirsten's reasoning behind the breakup, but it's been difficult to discern whether Jake is in agreement. Gyllenhaal doesn't discuss the specifics of his personal life, but he did give a hint or two when he appeared on the Howard Stern Show, prompting media outlets to take their pick of the best quotes.

Speaking in broad terms about his romantic history, Jake was asked exactly what went wrong in his previous relationships where he was in love. Said Jake: "I think it was me. I probably just got scared." He said that he believes in monogamy, but that it's hard to put it into practice because there are so many "opportunities."

Gyllenhaal says that he envies his sister Maggie's marital status (she's married to Peter Sarsgaard), and wants to be a dad. The classic fear of commitment is just getting in his way, because there are too many chances for him to have something different than what he has in Hollywood.

Gyllenhaal is a guarded person by all accounts, and his fear of commitment has likely hurt several romantic entanglements over the years. Coupled with the fact that Kirsten didn't want to get married, is it any wonder they broke up?

2 Was Jake in love?

In the same interview with Howard Stern, Gyllenhaal was asked if he had ever been in love. As with most of his interviews about his personal life, Jake remained cryptic. "Three times," he said, before quickly amending his answer to: "Twice." Unfortunately for us, he did not elaborate which of his exes that applied to. That didn't stop media outlets from speculating, of course, poring over his previous serious relationships to see which two would be the ones he actually loved. Jake didn't help matters by immediately glossing over that and talking about how he eventually wants to get married and that he loves love itself.

Which of his former romances were the two women that Jake loved?

Could it have been Kirsten? Or maybe Reese Witherspoon, or Alyssa Miller?

Smart money probably wouldn't go on extremely short flings like Taylor Swift, Minka Kelly, or Natalie Portman, so it's got to be between Miller, Dunst, and Witherspoon. There's no way to say for certain, because Jake won't confirm anything specifically, but if we had to guess, we'd say Alyssa Miller and Kirsten Dunst were the likeliest ones. Still, to only fall in love twice over all those years of hooking up with ladies? He must really fear commitment.

1 They broke up during Jake's big break

Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain is, in many ways, a landmark film. Denoting not just changing attitudes toward LGBT people in the country, it also served as a turning point in the careers of almost everyone who worked on it. Jake Gyllenhaal is very much included in that, as he was catapulted to a higher level of stardom, even nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, the only Oscar nomination he has received to date. It's interesting, then, that this huge moment in his acting career occurred while he was on the outs with his girlfriend.

Kirsten Dunst and Jake Gyllenhaal officially broke up in July of 2004, when pre-production of Brokeback Mountain had begun. Kirsten was of course involved in her own film projects at the time (she filmed Spider-Man 2 throughout 2003 and had moved on to projects like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), but she had already had her star moment by this point.

Brokeback Mountain cemented Jake as a serious character actor and leading man material, and all but ensured that he would have a long career in Hollywood. It's funny that he made it while breaking up with the girl who had defined the last year of his public life.


Do you have anything to add about Kirsten Dunst and Jake Gyllenhaal's relationship? Let us know in the comments!

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