LOS ANGELES—From a child star, Elle Fanning has transformed into the leading young actress of her generation. Not only is she the busiest, Elle’s movie-project choices are also the most interesting, promising to tap her considerable talent as an actress, as well as her range.
In the virtually all-female cast (except for Colin Farrell) of Sofia Coppola’s “The Beguiled,” Elle has the meaty role, after Nicole Kidman’s. She gets to sing in Max Minghella’s “Teen Spirit.”
The younger sister of Dakota Fanning portrays the title role in “Mary Shelley,” Haifaa al-Mansour’s biopic drama on the novelist behind “Frankenstein.”
Elle will also be seen in John Cameron Mitchell’s “How to Talk to Girls at Parties,” actress-director Melanie Laurent’s “Galveston,” Reed Morano’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” and Miguel Arteta’s “All the Bright Places.”
Excerpts from our chat with Elle, who looked pretty in a Dolce & Gabbana dress with dog and rose prints:
What’s your own take on the film’s plot about what happens when a man shows up in an all-female household and everyone behaves differently? Yes, the women have been living there, confined during the Civil War. Emotions are so heightened, and they’re all together.
When a new person, male or female, shows up, the dynamics are going to change. But also in another way, these women are confined in a house and suffer from the monotony of the days. They haven’t seen a man in so long. And Colin Farrell shows up. I think things are going to get a little different (laughs).
Colin was the only man in the cast. How did he fit in? Colin was a good sport. We got to kind of objectify him. He was the most naked person in the movie. I remember he was worried about his figure and stuff (laughs). He was watching his weight for his shirtless scenes. We were like, you’re such a girl right now (laughs).
We had a whole day of like a sexy calendar shoot for Colin. I didn’t work that day, but I came in just for it (laughs). Like all the girls were standing around as he was sawing wood or digging the soil. It was a montage in the movie, but I think Sofia was also stretching it out because [Colin] found it hilarious. We took photos, so we wanted to put it together like January and February (in a calendar).
Can you talk about working with Sofia Coppola over the years? I first met her when I was 11, because I was in “Somewhere.” That was a big opportunity for me that she gave me. It was the first time that I went to a big festival like Venice. I had never experienced that before. I hold such a special place for her because of that. We stayed really close ever since.
In this movie, I did see the change in our relationship a little bit, which was nice, because she saw me in an older light…I just turned 18, and went off to film “The Beguiled” without my mom coming with me. It was the first time I was alone, so I was like, great.
But also, it was the perfect movie for that to be the first experience, because it was with Sofia. I had just done a movie (“How to Talk to Girls at Parties”) with Nicole, so I knew her.
I knew Kirsten (Dunst) because she’s good friends with my sister. So it was all these women I had already known and felt safe with.
I feel like my relationship with Sofia changed in a way where we became more like girlfriends. She’d ask, would you like to go to dinner? She’d include me in those little hangout sessions, which was cool, because it’s not that I feel nervous around Sofia.
But when I was younger, I definitely felt nervous. I respect her so much. She was like a cool aunt or the big sister during “Somewhere” and now, she sees me as a friend.
Speaking of relationships, how has your relationship with your sister Dakota changed over the years? If my sister didn’t start acting, I don’t know if I would have gone into acting, too. I do think about that a lot. We’re becoming more like friends because the age gap is closing up. She is 23 and I’m 19. That isn’t such a huge age difference.
She’s letting me hang out with her friends a little more. We’re talking about different things, and we are relating on a different level.
Since she’s an actress, too, we’re supportive of each other. There’s no one that we’d rather see succeed more than each other.
I am going to London, and she’s in Budapest right now. She’s going to visit me on weekends. I’m looking forward to that and to spending time with her.
She’s my big sister, so of course I look up to her in every aspect of life—not just movies, that’s only a sliver of our relationship.
Mostly, it’s just us being family members. She is such a strong woman. I look up to her as the woman I aspire to be.
Did you and your sister have the same crushes or fall for the same guy? I’m sure there are phases where we think certain actors are cute, things like that.
Who do you admire among the actors today? Leonardo DiCaprio. He was actually the topic of our conversation today. Yeah, he’s amazing.
What was the strangest way that a boy approached you? One boy asked me at a party if I was Dakota. I said, “I am Elle.” He said, “Oh yeah, I know that.” I was like, “Why did you say that then? Is that like a pickup line (laughs)?” It was very strange.
Can you talk about your coming movies? You’re working with interesting directors like Max Minghella and Melanie Laurent. How do you make your choices? If you feel like you trust the directors right away when you meet them…It’s also the stories that they’re telling. The script is always the most important. But with Sofia, if she asked me to do anything, I’d say yes.
But with the other movies, Melanie has been to Cannes with her film, “Breathe.” And now, she’s directing again (“Galveston”).
And Max, I get to sing in that movie (“Teen Spirit”), so that’s the main reason I’m excited about it.
I like to take chances. It’s fun for me to be able to challenge myself and do something out of the norm that’s just not predictable or expected. So maybe, that’s what I look for the most.
E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at http://twitter.com/nepalesruben.
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