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Staff / April 4th, 2018

Out of Character

A consummate film actor since the age of 7, Dakota Fanning is ready to shake things up as she takes on the small screen and makes her directorial debut

On a snowy day in Manhattan, Dakota Fanning is huddled over a cup of mint tea, diplomatically weighing the pros and cons of living in New York City. Predicated by her acceptance to New York University, Fanning found an apartment in a prewar building in Nolita and has been based here for the past six years.

One of the pros is that the city has given her a newfound sense of freedom. “This is the only place I’ve ever lived by myself,” she explains. Evidence of her willingness to try new things is on practically every street corner thanks to billboards promoting TNT’s The Alienist, Fanning’s first major television series. “I just heard three people scream my name as I was walking here. I’m like, ‘Oh, f—! What did I do?’ But they were just saying ‘hey,’ so I said ‘hey’ back. I was like, ‘It’s gotta be because of those billboards.’ ”

Based on the Caleb Carr novel set in 1890s New York, the 10-episode psychological thriller (co-starring Daniel Brühl and Luke Evans) sounded almost too good to be true. Fanning had just come off promoting American Pastoral, so the timing was perfect. The only hang-up was that it meant moving to Budapest, Hungary, for the better part of 2017 to film the show. “I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s so far and such a long time to leave your life,’ ” she says. “Movies are made in eight weeks, you know?”

She decided to think of it as doing a semester abroad and, in the end, wholeheartedly embraced her Hungarian sojourn—the spa culture, “family” dinners with the cast and hosting out-of-town friends. During the workweek, Fanning (who is notoriously prompt for everything) would arrive on set to be laced into an old-fashioned corset. Her character, Sara Howard, is a strong-willed young woman who stands up to sexual harassment as the first female employee at the New York City Police Department. “As we were filming, we were like, ‘God, didn’t we read an article that’s kind of about this, like, yesterday?’ ” she says. “I think that it does go to show how history repeats itself. To move forward, you have to do something different because it’s been this long and these situations are still happening.”

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Staff / February 22nd, 2018

The Hollywood star talks control, clothes, and break-ups for Miu Miu Women’s Stories.

“I like to control things,” says Dakota Fanning, “and at a certain point, I realized that even being behind the camera, you can’t. You think being a director means being in charge of everything?” she laughs. “You’re wrong.”

Fanning’s in London for her directorial debut, a partnership with Miu Miu Women’s Stories called The Apartment. The 11-minute short film stars Eve Hewson as a young woman going solo, and it’s got bits of everything—breakups, cheap wine, art projects, and of course, designer dresses.

At a post-screening panel with Millennial screenwriter (and Golden Globe nominee) Liz Hannah, Fanning revealed her on-set anxiety, her future career strategy, and what happened when she started living alone in New York City.

Here are highlights from the room where it happened…

Control Anxiety

I’ve always been a very calm person—well, maybe not calm. I guess it’s more that I’ve been a very confident person… When you’re directing a movie, you’re viewed as a leader, but you’re also totally reliant on everyone else. People keep asking your opinions on everything—from the big stuff to things like, “Dakota, red napkins or blue napkins?”—and admitting you don’t know anything about napkins, “I don’t know, what do you think?” That’s the hardest part. But part of my job [as a director] was that I hired other people to make this movie with me, and I knew I needed to trust them. (We went with the blue, by the way.)

Costume Anxiety

I was worried in the beginning about having a main character always wearing Miu Miu and being amongst other people who were dressed really plainly. That seemed really strange to me, so we made sure every character had some Miu Miu. But we knew going in there would be standout moments with special pieces, like a white dress, and [Miu Miu] socks!… We also knew the cinematographer, Bobby Bukowski, was going to use the fabric as part of his shots… you would literally see [Eve Hewson’s] life through her clothes.

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Staff / January 30th, 2018

Dakota Fanning has always been wise beyond her years. The blond-haired, doe-eyed actress got her first major role at the ripe age of 7 in 2004’s I Am Sam. Her performance as the precocious child of a developmentally challenged father (Sean Penn) earned her a SAG Award nomination the following year, making her the youngest nominee in history.

Now 23, Fanning shows no signs of slowing down. She currently stars as a police secretary on TNT’s period drama The Alienist and has a new film, Please Stand By, about an autistic woman who escapes from her group home to submit her Star Trek script to a Hollywood writing competition, arriving in theaters and on demand today. The latter was something of a-full circle moment for Fanning, as the subject matter paralleled the project that cemented her status as a leading actress. Here, Fanning discusses her new movie, learning to speak Klingon, and the need for female-focused stories.

What drew you to this script? It was so well-written and so moving. [Wendy] had so many quirks: her love of Star Trek, knitting, her dog … there were so many little things that were woven into her. Most importantly, the character didn’t lead with the fact that she was on the autism spectrum. There were so many other things that were more important about her.

In I Am Sam, you played the daughter of a man with a mental handicap. How did it feel to reverse roles? There were definitely some similarities. When we made I Am Sam, there were actors in the film who were developmentally disabled, and in this movie, there were actors on the autism spectrum. I was so thrilled that they were getting the opportunity to be a part of it. I got to know a bunch of them before we started filming, and the first thing I learned [from them] is that everyone on the spectrum is different, so I felt a lot of freedom to make Wendy an individual character—I didn’t base her on anyone in particular.

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Staff / January 30th, 2018

In The Alienist, Dakota Fanning—Elle’s older sister—stars as a police secretary in the late 1890s helping her male colleagues search for one of New York City’s first serial killers. The TNT series begins January 22. Then January 26, in the movie Please Stand By, Fanning, 23, will play Wendy, a young autistic woman who runs away to enter a writing contest with a Star Trek script she’s written.

What drew you to The Alienist?

Getting to see the birth of psychology and forensics. It wasn’t actually that long ago that people didn’t know about
fingerprints and things.

Your character, Sara, is conflicted about how feminine she can be in a man’s world.

Sara is coming into her femininity and sexuality. She’s someone who’s trying to be taken seriously. She’s constantly trying to prove herself, but she is confident in herself and in her own intelligence.

For a scene in Please Stand By, you had to learn how to talk Klingon.

Yeah, it was so funny. I laughed really hard doing that scene with Patton Oswalt. We had a teacher that recorded all the lines for us so that we could say them phonetically.

You are juggling college simultaneously with your acting career.

I’ve taken at least one class every semester since the beginning. I do a lot of independent studies. I’m just soldiering on and I should be done soon.

In Please Stand By, how did you prepare to play Wendy?

Meeting one person [with autism] means you’ve met one person. Every person on the spectrum has different traits. It gave me this sense of freedom that I could create Wendy and I didn’t have to model her on anything.

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Staff / August 15th, 2017

From filmmaker Neill Blomkamp and made through the experimental Oats Studios (which is looking to make original short film content that will eventually lead to full-scale feature films and series from the titles they create), the sci-fi short Zygote follows two lone survivors (Dakota Fanning and Jose Pablo Cantillo) who are forced to fight for their lives. Stranded in an Arctic mine, they must evade a horrific and terrifying creature that can anticipate any move they might make.

During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, actress Dakota Fanning talked about how she got involved with this short, wanting to work with Neill Blomkamp, why this character was appealing to her, getting to see the creature come alive, the physical challenges of this shoot, being open to further exploring this character, if they were to make a full-length feature, and why she feels like she’s in a good place, creatively.

Collider: I have to say, I really enjoyed this short, but the creature has stuck with me since I watched it. What did you think of the creature, once you saw the final visuals?

DAKOTA FANNING: I saw images of what it was going to look like, but of course, it was completely computer generated, so when I saw it for the first time, it was so much grosser than I had pictured. It was cool to see it come alive. The noise, the movement and realizing what it’s made of was so gross.

When and how were you approached about this project, and what were you told about what this would be?   

FANNING: I worked with Neill Blomkamp on his BMW commercial (The Escape) last summer. We shot for 10 days and got to know each other a bit, and then a few months later, he asked if I would be interested in doing an experimental project – a short film – for his studio and he sent me the script he had for it, at the time. I loved working with him so much and I think he’s so talented, and I thought that this idea was super cool. I was excited to be a part of something I’ve never really done before. This was the kind of character I’d never played. And then, when I got there and saw what everything was going to look like, in the end, I saw how talented the people were who were working on it. With the special effects, I learned a lot and was excited by it. Just from working with him before, he thought of me for this and the timing worked out, so here it is.

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Staff / March 14th, 2017

Film star, fashion influencer and now a Jimmy Choo muse… Dakota Fanning shares her spring/summer style diary with The Telegraph

‘Acting,’ Dakota Fanning recently said, ‘is all I have ever known.’ Now 23, she is already a veteran of the film business, having worked on films almost continuously for the past 17 years.

Since her debut as Sean Penn’s seven-year-old daughter in I Am Sam (2001), she has worked with the likes of Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise (playing Cruise’s daughter in War of the Worlds), starred in the Twilight saga, and last year won critical praise for her performance in Ewan McGregor’s adaptation of the Philip Roth novel American Pastoral.

Her films have grossed hundreds of millions of dollars, but Dakota herself  has remained out of the gossip columns  – crediting her parents for keeping her level-headed in an industry that is strewn with the wreckage of former child stars.

Born in Georgia, her family moved to  LA when she was six, where she was based until she moved to New York to study at NYU in between films. Her younger sister Elle has also found acting fame, most recently starring opposite Annette Bening in 20th Century Women.

We’ll be seeing a lot of Dakota in coming months: first in the dark, epic Western Brimstone, followed by the hugely anticipated Ocean’s Eight, with Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway and Cate Blanchett. Perhaps most exciting of all, she is working with her close friend Kirsten Dunst on an adaptation of Sylvia Plath’s novel The Bell Jar, which she will produce and star in, and Dunst will direct.

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Staff / October 25th, 2016

There’s something dangerous about expectations. They open the door for disappointments, stifle surprises and limit experiences. In the case of Dakota Fanning, expectations dogged her transition from child star to adult actress.

It’s not that people set the bar too high for her; it’s that they want to keep it low. At 22, why hasn’t she gone off the rails yet, as some child actors do? She fields this question in interview after interview.

“I never know how to answer that question,” Fanning said. “Like, ‘Why are you not horrible and crazy?’ I don’t know! I’m not perfect, by any means. I’ve definitely made mistakes or had times where I felt crazy or have done crazy things, for sure, but I guess I’ve just done them where no one has seen me do them.”

Some have tried to offer her an explanation. In a recent Town & Country feature, writer Mickey Rapkin suggested Fanning’s stability “may be because she was always actually a tiny adult.” But Fanning rejects that theory and isn’t interested in reasoning out her personality.

“I don’t feel that way. I don’t. No. I’ve always felt like a little bit of a contradiction, I’ve always felt very young and old at the same time. Mature and, not immature, but I sort of have a young spirit, I think,” she said. “It always just was the way that I was. I wasn’t trying to be mature. That’s why it’s always so hard to talk about—how do you talk about a way that you are? I don’t know how to do that. But I never felt like I had to be anything other than the age that I was.”

Fanning used to think, maybe, that playing dark characters provided her with an outlet to explore bad behavior without engaging in it herself, but even that doesn’t hold up for her anymore.

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Staff / September 4th, 2016

For Glamour’s September issue, we photographed 54 incredible women across America and asked them to define themselves. The results were brilliant, funny, and inspiring—read them all here—and create a stunning portrait of what it is to be a woman in America today. (As our editor-in-chief puts it: “We’re all unicorns.”) Here, Dakota Fanning—who stars in the upcoming movies Brimstone and American Pastoral—talks growing up in the spotlight, her best advice, why it’s OK to be weird.

GLAMOUR: What does it mean to you to be an American woman in 2016?

DAKOTA FANNING: Well, I think that this is a really amazing time for women. Especially in the last year for me, I’ve really been celebrating the female relationships in my life. My best friends are the same friends I’ve had since I was 14 years old. I’m very proud to be a woman—you’re part of a tribe. Automatically, you feel connected to another woman when you meet them. That’s really special. And I’ve started to really realize and feel that. There’s just something you can relate to immediately, even without knowing a woman. It’s an inherent thing, an inherent connection. I’m really appreciating it and valuing that.

GLAMOUR: What’s your best advice for the women reading Glamour?

DF: I think that we have two things going on in the world right now. We have one sort of vibe that’s love who you are, be yourself, love your flaws, embrace your body, embrace your inner beauty, all of that. And then we have another very looks-based thing happening at the same time, you know? My advice would be to go with the “love who you are, embrace yourself” vibe that’s happening right now. It’s hard to remember when you look at a magazine or when you look at pictures of people, and you forget that those people are people like you. They have flaws and insecurities. That’s so easy to forget, even for me, as somebody who’s sometimes in those magazines.

GLAMOUR: You grew up in the spotlight. Do you have any advice for a young actress coming into herself?

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