Remember When Jake Gyllenhaal Watched Kirsten Dunst Eat Salad

From salad-gate to the infamous dressing room romp, we look back at Jake and Kirsten's two-year relationship.

2004 Vanity Fair Oscar Party
Photo: Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images


Oscar-nominated actor Jake Gyllenhaal and Emmy and Golden Globe-nominated actress Kirsten Dunst. He was 22 years old when they met, and Dunst was 20.

Kirsten Dunst and Jake Gyllenhaal pose together at the 2004 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

How They Met

Jake and Kirsten were introduced through the former’s sister, actress Maggie Gyllenhaal, who co-starred alongside Dunst in Mona Lisa Smile. They began dating soon after, in 2002.

Kirsten Dunst and Jake Gyllenhaal pose together at the Costume Institute Benefit Dance: 'Party of the Year.'
Carmen Valdes/Getty Images

Why We Loved Them

They were just two kids in love (er, maybe), making questionable decisions and moving far too fast. Both were in their early 20s when they began dating, soon after which they moved in together and adopted a German Shepherd named Atticus. When they split in 2004, Gyllenhaal retained custody of the dog. Atticus passed away in 2015 after more than a decade of being a very good boy.

Kirsten Dunst and Jake Gyllenhaal stand outdoors with their dog, Atticus.

But despite the speed at which their relationship moved, Dunst knew she and Gyllenhaal weren’t headed for the altar anytime soon. “Oh, I’m too young to get married,” she told People just two months before their split was announced. “Seriously, I’m 22 years old. It’s so annoying that they put pressure on you.”

Gyllenhaal, too, remained surprisingly grounded when it came to Dunst and the media frenzy their relationship inspired, telling People, “Kirsten and I know what’s real and what’s not,” he says. “We know what happens when you are both actors.”

When They Peaked

In the summer of 2003, Kirsten and Jake went for lunch in London. She ordered salad; he ordered soup. Perhaps it was the cranberry-hued liquor they sipped or the fact that she was 21-year-old American royalty abroad and truly DGAF, but Kirsten chose this moment to experiment with eating her salad sans fork. Jake was either disgusted or enamored with this bold show of culinary rebellion and watched her intently. This is Jirsten’s legacy:

Kirsten Dunst and Jake Gyllenhaal sit outside at a restaurant, as she eats a salad with her hands

The Breakup

In an interview with the since-shuttered British tabloid News of the World, Kirsten reportedly explained that their split came out of radically different lifestyle preferences. “He’s a stay-at-home boy and I’m an out-on-the-town girl,” she said.

Kirsten Dunst and Jake Gyllenhaal pose together at an event called A Work In Progress: An Evening With Sofia Coppola.
Stephen Lovekin/Getty Images

Dunst also reportedly discussed the ways she and Gyllenhaal tried to “spice things up” in the bedroom — or, rather, outside of it. “We had sex in cars, in the bathroom, and even by the sea,” she’s quoted as saying. And though the veracity of such an omission seems a tad questionable, there are eyewitness reports about the pair’s extracurricular activities. In May 2004 “murmurs and groans” were heard outside a dressing room at a London boutique the duo was, uh, visiting.

Gyllenhaal is far less forthcoming when it comes to his personal life, but he has broadly alluded to his former relationships (past partners include Reese Witherspoon, Taylor Swift, and model Alyssa Miller). The actor admitted to Howard Stern that he’s been in love “three times,” though he quickly (and brutally) corrected his answer to “twice.” When asked why he’d never committed, he said, “I think I probably just got scared.”

In 2005, Jake got as close to specific as he does, dodging a question about his dating life with an oddly thoughtful monologue: "I'm 24 years old and my relationships are going to be incredibly dramatic just by the nature of what they are," he began, "I'm at an age where I don't totally know who I am, so how can I know who I am in a relationship? Society gives us these ideas of what love is supposed to be and how we're supposed to act and the movies say very simply, guy gets girl, guy loses girl, guy gets girl again, and I have subscribed to that idea and I think a lot of young people of my generation have done the same and have been led to a lot of unhappiness.” Preach, Jake.

Though fans begged for a reconciliation between Dunst and Gyllenhaal, it never happened. In fact, Dunst shattered our fantasy all together in 2009 when she told Allure that she and Gyllenhaal are “not good friends.” The silver lining though: she thought “it would be nice to see him.”

Kirsten Dunst and Jake Gyllenhaal pose together for InStyle Magazine's Fourth Annual Post-Golden Globes Party to Honor Hollywood's Elite.
Michael Caulfield Archive/Getty Images

Where They Are Now

Dunst has shed her cocoon of child stardom and taken on a variety of unexpected roles, starring in experimental films like Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, and even branching out into television. Her newest project called Civil War has wrapped up filming, however not date has been set yet for release.

Taking on her first major television role in season 2 of Fargo, Dunst fell for onscreen husband Jesse Plemons, to whom she’s now married and shares 2 children. Their oldest son, Ennis Howard, was born in 2018 and their youngest son, James Robert, was born in 2021.

Kirsten Dunst poses with her husband, Jesse Plemons, at the 70th Emmy Awards.
Steve Granitz/Getty Images

Gyllenhaal has starred in dozens of buzzy projects in the past few decades, earning critical acclaim for his performance in films like Brokeback Mountain, Nightcrawler, and Nocturnal Animals. Jake also starred in the blockbuster hit as part of the Marvel-verse in Spider-Man: Far From Home back in 2019. In 2022, he starred in the Michael Bay-directed action movie Ambulance, and currently has several upcoming movies, including Road House (a remake of the original that starred Patrick Swayze), Prophet, and The Covenant.

After his split from Kirsten, Jake briefly dated Natalie Portman, spent more than two years with Reese Witherspoon, dated (and drank maple lattes with) Taylor Swift for a year, dated model Alyssa Miller for several months, and has since been linked to all of your favorite A-listers: Ruth Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Rachel Bilson, Minka Kelly, Léa Seydoux, Anna Kendrick. Since 2018, Gyllenhaal has been linked with model Jeanne Cadieu.

#TBT: Check in every Thursday as we throw it back to some of our favorite celebrity couples of all time.

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