Photo by Mason Poole / OUTLINE / Click Photos
Words by Petra Weller
Sixteen year-old Elle Fanning is the younger sister of actress Dakota, 20, and with the success of Maleficent this year and now voicing the lead character, Winnie, in the much-awaited animated movie, The Boxtrolls, the younger Fanning is stepping out from her sibling’s shadow. In a short period of time the pretty blonde has starred in numerous movies including Phoebe in Wonderland, Somewhere, We Bought a Zoo, and Super 8. She is charming, unaffected and easy going. Wearing no makeup, she is dressed casually chic in jeans and a shirt.
You’re only sixteen and you’ve done a lot of movies. How do you feel about all that’s happening at the moment? Are you overwhelmed by it?
I guess I have been doing this for a long time because I started when I was 2, technically because I played my sister (Dakota Fanning) at a younger age in I Am Sam, so it’s something that I just love. I hope that I can still be doing it for the rest of my life. It’s something I have done before, in My Neighbor Todoro, me and my sister did that, I was a lot younger and I don’t remember it as much, but with each new movie, I feel like it’s a new experience.
How competitive are you with your sister?
We aren’t really competitive at, not with that or anything. We are very supportive and it’s very funny though because with this, she has her Coraline statue and then now I have my Winnie statue. It’s weird, because we don’t ever talk about movies; it’s something that is just very separate.
Was she the one that inspired you to do this?
Yes because she started before me and it’s kind of whatever the big sister does, the little sister wants to try it out. I tried it out and it clicked with me too. And I liked it.
How has fame affected your life?
I go to a regular school which is very nice and I was home-schooled till third grade and then in fourth grade I moved. I look at movies in a way of kind of like an extracurricular activity but on a much bigger scale, kind of like soccer practice, but on a movie set. So it’s only about three or four months that you go off, and film and when I am not filming, I am back and just at home.
What do the kids at school say?
I have amazing friends at school and I have known them for a long time, and it’s nice because they forget about it. Obviously a movie will come out like with Maleficent this year, they saw me on a poster, and my friend was like, ‘I saw you on a poster.’ I was like, ‘Well yes, I am in the movie,’ and she was so weird seeing Elle just from school on a poster. So I kind of like that they forget and it’s just no big deal.
So you can still walk on the street without being bothered?
I can. It’s been fine for me and sometimes people recognise you and ask for a picture, and that’s fine. It’s nice to meet them and it’s kind of changed since I did Maleficent. Now it’s more like little girls coming up to me and instead of asking me if I am Elle Fanning, they will ask me if I am Sleeping Beauty, and so you have to put on a little show and that’s fun to do.
I saw the pictures of the shower scene with you and Nicholas Hoult. How do you feel about doing a scene like that? Did you know him before? Were you nervous doing something like that?
Yeah, it’s funny. I was attached to being on that movie for such a long time, and I was very young when he first brought me the script. Obviously, it takes a long time to get movies eventually made, so then I was old enough to do it. But me and Nick did that scene way later in the filming, so I had gotten to know him really well, and especially, the whole crew on that one, we really got to know each other well because we were in Springbok, South Africa. It’s this really tiny town and our movie is about a town that runs out of water every two years. While we were filming our movie that’s about no water, the town ran out of water. So we are like all in it together, so I got to know him well before.
Are you interested in going to college?
I would like to go to college, both my parents did, my sister is at NYU, this year I am going to my junior year of high school. This is the year where you take the SAT and all that stuff, so my mum, she’s planning for me to go on a college tour for the East and West Coast, so that’s what we are trying to do. I have to find the place, it’s so important.
What would you want to do?
I would want to do writing. Creative writing, so I would have to find a place that’s good for that.
How do you think it would be if you didn’t have a big sister who is doing the exact same thing?
Well, my choices and decisions wouldn’t be different. I mean, obviously, she paved the way in that sense, but I would still be choosing the same things that I kind of choose. We have our own identity so much, like we would never read each other’s scripts but it’s helpful because we also have a mutual understanding. So in that way it brings us even closer because when I say, ‘Oh yeah. I have press day today,’ she knows what that means. So we get it and it’s nice to have that with your sister.
Did she give you any advice for doing animation for this film, because you said she did Coraline.
She was the voice of Coraline and yeah, she didn’t give me any advice on it, but at least I was already aware of what I was in store for in that way. So yeah, I was a little prepared ahead of time, but she didn’t tell me anything.
You always said you wanted to act with her, are you planning something?
We would love to. We are always looking and who knows when it will happen. It could be really soon or way later but there’s nothing that we have right now. I think we have our own ideas of what we would want and we haven’t mentioned it to each other lately but who knows, it would be fun not to play sisters in something and something that doesn’t have to do with looking alike but as to do with us being separate and having completely different personalities.
So what is your new goal now?
Man, that was a definitely a huge thing for me, for any girl, like, oh my God, to get to wear all the dresses and crowns and stuff, but I felt why she was a sweet character was because she was always happy and nice. I think even with Winnie, she is kind of the meanest I have gotten.
Did you like it?
I did. It was fun to exaggerate and kind of be overdramatic and I had fun with it. But you see the blonde hair and blue eyes and you think, ‘Oh how angelic.’ But it would be fun to change it up and do something unexpected.
Being an actress is a very well paying job. Are your parents strict? Do you get an allowance?
My parents are very normal parents, and I don’t even deal with the money stuff but they give me an allowance to go out to the movies with friends, like, okay, here’s this for popcorn and coke.
What kind of movies do you go see? Can you watch movies that you are in?
I have seen every movie that I have been in. There was one, Door in the Floor, I was four years old and I was not allowed to see that movie when I was four, so as I have gotten older, I could finally go back and see myself in it. But, the last movie that I saw in theaters was Lucy actually.
Would you do something like that, an action movie?
That would be fun. Yeah, I have never done anything like that, I’d have to do the training and stuff and that would be fun.
Do you have a favorite superhero?
I went to Comic-Con for the Boxtrolls and I saw so many superheroes that I had no idea existed.
What was it like going to Comic-Con?
I loved it. I didn’t get to go out on the floor where everything is because of interviews and stuff, but I saw The Simpsons walking around and it was fun to experience. I would like to go back and maybe dress up, I am very into dressing up on Halloween…
So nobody would recognise you.
Yeah, that would be cool.
It’s coming up soon. What are you going to be for Halloween?
I have a couple of ideas.