The young actress doesn’t hit the milestone until February!
iFanning told me the other day while promoting her new movie,The Last of Robin Hood. “I kind of want to go do karaoke even though I’m terrified to do it. But I think if I’m 21 maybe I can have something to help me.”
Or she could celebrate at one of Lisa Vanderpump’s restaurants. Fanning admits Bravo’sReal Housewives franchise, especially The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills, is a guilty pleasure.
“I love Lisa,” she said. “I met her actually. I had my 16th birthday at her restaurant before theReal Housewives of Beverly Hills was a thing. I saw this fabulous woman with this cute dog and then it turned out it was Lisa Vanderpump.”
The Last of Robin Hood (in theaters tomorrow) chronicles the real-life affair in the 1950s between teen actress Beverly Aadland (Fanning) and the much older Errol Flynn (Kevin Kline). Along for the ride was Beverly’s overbearing alcoholic momager Florence (Susan Sarandon).
The gossip columns of the day had a field day with the trio. Florence alleged in her 1961 book The Big Love that Beverly was just 15 years old when she and the 50-year-old Hollywood icon started having a sexual relationship. Flynn, others have speculated, may have been led to believe by Florence that she was already 18.
“I don’t make any statements on what’s right or wrong in the movie,” Fanning said. “I didn’t bring any personal morals into it or what I thought, if they were doing the right thing or the wrong thing.”
Fanning said, “It’s not my story and I don’t really know anyone who that is their story. Mother and daughter relationships are so complicated and they’re so nuanced. It’s hard to make judgments.”
“I just try and live the only way I know how,” Fanning said. “I just do my thing. My job is to be in films and then I have a really wonderful full personal life and it’s personal to me.
“I’m just so weirded out that anybody would want to know about me,” she said. “I don’t want to know about anybody else’s life. I don’t know what anybody want to know about mine. You don’t know me or anybody who’s really in my life so I don’t know why it’s that interesting.”
Type Dakota Fanning’s name into Google and the search yields everything from the trivial (Awwww! She and boyfriend Jamie Strachan dress alike!), to the substantial (a discussion regarding her NYU studies on women in entertainment), to the already-filled-in prompt: “Dakota Fanning feet.” Hmmm. As a whole, the headlines cement one thing: There’s an insatiable curiosity to learn something—anything—about the starlet’s off-camera life. Yet, the 20-year-old, who can be seen this Friday in The Last of Robin Hood, is ambivalent about the topic.
“There’s a lot of information put out there about actors and their lives and what they do,” she says. “So, when someone sees [me] in the flesh, they feel like they know [me]. They want to see if [I] really exist. But they don’t know [me]. It’s confusing for them—and then it’s confusing for me.”
And those chance encounters with fans can go utterly awry. Earlier this year, a complete stranger spotted Fanning in a restaurant and plopped down next to her in a booth. “I’m really fascinated by some of the interactions I have with people and the normal boundaries that should be universal for all,” she says with a laugh. They “go out the window if you are a known person.”
In Robin Hood, Fanning channels those feelings of stolen privacy to illuminate the life of Beverly Aadland, an underage, unaccomplished ’50s ingénue, whose affair with Hollywood screen legend Errol Flynn (played by Kevin Kline) finds her in the hot seat. Here, the 20-year-old discusses love with an older man, paparazzi, and a potential Fanning biopic:
The controversy was sparked mostly by the 30-year age gap between Flynn and Aadland. Do you believe the two were actually in love?
I never met Beverly—she passed away before my involvement with the movie—but [the film’s directors], Richard [Glatzer] and Wash [Westmoreland], developed a relationship with her and spoke with her at length. She truly felt, even at the end of her life, that it was real love. That she really loved him, and that Errol really loved her. I took notice of that.
In the first five minutes of the movie, your character descends from an airplane and is hounded by paparazzi and their flashing cameras. What was that like for you?
It was a bit surreal to film it for the movie. I’ve never fainted before [as I do in the film], but I’ve definitely had experiences that were similar.
How was your off-screen time with Susan Sarandon, who plays Beverly’s mother, Florence?
She’s truly an amazing woman and actor. She’s the definition of a strong woman: She speaks her mind, has opinions, and is adamant about them in a nonjudgmental way. I admire that—somebody who can be strong and not alienate people.
Costuming is such an imperative part of this film. How does it inform your everyday wardrobe?
Even when I’m not working, or even if I’m just by myself, I think about how I want to portray myself that day, or who I want to be that day—and that goes into what I want to wear. I enjoy fashion; I enjoy clothing; I enjoy the workmanship that goes into clothing.
What would be your thoughts on a Dakota Fanning biopic?
God, no. I really hope not. I’m not that interesting—yet.
Dakota Fanning is reasonably sick of people telling her that she is so “grown up.” Sure, the young star’s entire youth was practically documented by Hollywood, but that’s no reason for anyone to be surprised that she, you know, has gotten older. One of the things that sets Dakota apart from actors newer to Hollywood is that the star has consistently played characters close to her age — and now that she is 20, she’s able to take on more adult roles.
Those who remember the cherubic blonde from Cat in the Hat or Uptown Girls might be surprised by Dakota’s role in The Last of Robin Hood. Playing against a much older Kevin Kline, the two retell the scandalous story of playboy Errol Flynn and the 17-year-old Beverly Aadland, with whom he allegedly had a two-year tryst with in 1957. (For those keeping track, yes, that would be statutory rape.) The story is Tinseltown legend and since it ended with Flynn’s death, it seems like a particularly sordid affair, one that fascinates Dakota — she did grow up under the glare of Hollywood, after all.
You have a lot of friends that are both in and out of Hollywood, right?
“Yeah. I mean, most of my friends are from high school. It’s a great balance.”
Once upon a time, the studios had a star in a narrative, and a world that they wanted to create. They didn’t just sell you on a picture — they sold you on the story of a leading man/woman, too. Do you think that it is the same today or is it harder now?
“Now, it’s not only a studio; now it’s everyone. The world has some idea of who they want you to be and who you’re supposed to be, and that’s difficult because the media has grown. Now, everyone is allowed into other people’s lives in a weird way. So, for this movie, it was interesting to explore a time when there was still a lot of mystery to the industry and the people that were in the films. I mean, there are no pictures of Bette Davis with no makeup on, coming out of her home. It’s a whole different thing.
Do you feel like Hollywood — or the press — tries to put you in a box? Like they want you to be a reflection of what they’ve created?
“Yeah, and I totally reject all of that. My job is to be an actor and to portray different characters and be all different types of people. I think people take who they think you are in your personal life, and try to apply that to movies. So, I totally don’t even go there or buy into it, because it would drive me crazy. If I had a quarter for every time people have said ‘I’ve watched you grow up’ or ‘You’re so grown up’… I’d have a lot of money.”
Well, we’ve watched you grow up — I’ll give you a quarter — but now you’re officially taking on adult roles. What is it like doing sex scenes, now?
“That is a whole other thing. It’s funny, because in this movie, especially after everything I just said, I was playing someone who’s 15. I’m just getting to now portray those women in movies and it’s exciting to get to do new things. It’s weird when you do grow up doing movies. I can kind of think back on each year of my life and think about what movie I was doing. It’s evolved and changed [and] I hope that it continues to do that. You see so many people who are 30, and they play people in high school. That’s the amazing thing about acting. You can do that — if you choose too.”
But, then you see somebody like Susan Sarandon, who’s gone with these roles and is blazing paths for funny, sexy women.
“I admire her so much. Working with her was one of the most amazing things about making this movie. She’s really incredible.”
What was it like to seduce somebody who’s much older than you?
Dakota Fanning’s been busy. She’s been working steadily all her life, but in the past three years alone, she’s delivered Now Is Good, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 2, The Motel Life, Very Good Girls, Night Moves and now she’s got The Last of Robin Hood on the way, too. She stars in that one as Beverly Aadland, the young actress who winds up catching the eye of superstar Errol Flynn (Kevin Kline). Ultimately, she falls for him too and the two indulge in a passionate affair while Beverly’s mother, Florence (Susan Sarandon), tags along to supervise.
With The Last of Robin Hood making its way into select theaters on August 29th, we got the chance to sit down with Fanning and discuss how she’s been choosing her roles lately and what it was like jumping into this true story. Hit the jump to catch what she said about working with Kline and Sarandon, honoring the truth to the situation while making the character her own, how having worked as a child actor helps her today, the book-to-film adaptation of Brain on Fire and more.
DAKOTA FANNING: Really? [Laughs] I don’t know. Being an actor, you make movies and then you move on and then you come back for a day and talk to some people in a hotel room and then you move on again and then you go to a screening and move on again. You obviously remember it, but I don’t keep up with it quite like that. I just do movies that I’m drawn to and with people that I want to work with.
Is there any specific genre or type of character that you find yourself drawn to more than ever now?
FANNING: I think I’ve always been drawn to – I mean, this movie is not a simple story, but really, at the core, it is kind of a simple story and I really like movies that are just about human interaction, people and relationships, and life experiences. I enjoy that and those tend to be kind of smaller movies and so that’s what I’ve been doing lately, I guess.
I can see that same description applying to Night Moves now that you say it. It focuses on a big event, but it’s got simple, human connections at the heart of it.
FANNING: Yeah, which I feel like the best movies do have that. If you make it about all the craziness going on, you lose sight of the people and what do you connect with? You can’t connect with an explosion.
Do you have any interest in doing a big budget, action-heavy movie again? I guess your last one was Twilight and that’s a while ago now.
FANNING: Right. Yeah, I feel like if you say you’re never gonna do something in an interview, it’s like the stupidest thing you can do. I’m totally open to whatever. I’m at a phase in my life where I’m open to everything and anything so I’m sure that I will. I hope that I will. But I also don’t choose movies based on the size of them.
That’s probably a good approach! And it looks like you’re doing just that because every role I’ve seen you in over the past few years has been so layered and different.
FANNING: Yeah, I’ll be honest, I think that’s important, too. I think it’s important to challenge yourself and to challenge other people’s idea of who you are as an actor and also keep it interesting for yourself.
Like many these days, Dakota Fanning had no idea about the story in her new film “The Last Days of Robin Hood”: that notoriously loose Hollywood star Errol Flynn (played by Kevin Kline) left this world dating underaged teen Beverly Aadland (played by Fanning). It’s a role she loved playing, even if now, at 20, she’s pretty much done playing well below her age.
Doing research into real Aadland: “I really didn’t do that much research. [Laughs] I looked at certain things, like how she looked and how she wore her hair and what her makeup was like. There’s an article from her perspective, but there’s a lot of things that are from other people’s perspective. I wanted to have my own point of view of what happened instead of reading Florence’s [her mother’s] book. Kevin did a lot of [research], so if I needed to know any facts I could ask him.
The responsibility that comes with playing a real person: “You do feel a responsibility, but you also have to let that go, to a certain extent. It’s ultimately a movie and it’s never going to be exactly the way it was. You are, in some ways, creating your own character.”
What attracted her to the role as a role: “Minus all the surreal or controversial details of the story, she was just a young girl. She was 15 — she wasn’t even starting her life yet. She got caught up in this whirlwind and she was very naive. You do see her find her way and mature and be happy and strong — and then you also she her get lost. She didn’t have anybody to rely on after Errol died. It was interesting to play someone who went full circle and around again.
Those 1950s costumes: “The first week you wear the clothes, it feels so foreign and strange. By the end it’s your dress. It feels so normal. And retro’s in now. Sometimes it’s odd to me when people wear one style of clothing all the time. I wear different things all the time. But it’s a very flattering shape, retro.
Trying to avoid playing high school roles again: “I find that weird. High school was so long ago. Going back that would be weird. When I see people who are 30 playing high school students, I’m like, ‘God, that’s so strange.’ In this I was playing younger than I was. But I try not to think about age too much. So much of my life has revolved around what age I am. I’m kind of bored of it. [Laughs]”
Bonus Materials Include Interviews with the Cast and Crew
Academy Award® nominee Naomi Foner (Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen,Running on Empty, 1988)makes her directorial debut with the gentle and sensitive youth dramaVERY GOOD GIRLS, debuting on Blu-ray™ and DVD Sept. 23 from Well Go USA Entertainment and Tribeca Film. The film follows two New York City teenagers and the events that put a strain on the bond between them, during one of the last summers of their adolescence. The all-star cast includes Dakota Fanning (War of the Worlds, The Runaways), Elizabeth Olsen (Kill Your Darlings), Boyd Holbrook (TV’s “The Big C”), Ellen Barkin (Sea of Love), Clark Gregg (The Avengers, TV’s “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.”), Peter Sarsgaard (Blue Jasmine), Academy Award® winner Richard Dreyfuss (Best Actor,The Goodbye Girl, 1977) and Demi Moore (Ghost, Indecent Proposal). Bonus materials include interviews with Forner, Fanning and Olsen.
Night Moves has no message, but it does ride on some pointed questions: questions we can assume the three would-be terrorist have already asked and answered for themselves. If we are facing crisis and nobody in power is prepared to grapple with that crisis, what can an ordinary person do? What should an ordinary person do? Do we have a moral duty to take things into our own hands?
Neither Eisenberg nor Dakota Fanning is keen on protesting. Fanning says she can always see too many points of view to protest about anything. “I am definitely someone who is very logical and reasonable; I think everything through and what scenario could happen and try and look at things from all angles, so I can’t say it is something I will ever do.
“But being a part of this movie, filming in Oregon and seeing the effects of some of the issues we’ve talked about does make an impact.”
“I was very mature and calm and rational,” Dakota Fanning says of her six-year-old self. “My mum was calling me from across the playground, so I jumped from the climbing frame and ran over.” Dakota had already starred in ER, CSI, Malcolm In The Middle and Ally McBeal. Now her agent was on the line and she had a choice to make: a lead role in a TV series (the short-lived Fighting Fitzgeralds), or to play Sean Penn’s daughter in a film called I Am Sam.
She took Penn’s offer and beat Haley Joel Osment and Daniel Radcliffeto best young actor at the Critics Choice awards that winter. Orlando Bloom held her in the air so she could reach the microphone. She spoke with total composure for more than two minutes. “I want to thank God for all of the things he has given me,” she said, her legs dangling, “and for the best agents in the world.”
Dakota is now 20 and about to start her senior year at New York University, where she is majoring in women’s studies, with a focus on the portrayal of women in film and culture. “If I’m going to do both, it might be helpful for one to inform the other,” she says. She’s still working furiously. On top of the dissertation she’s writing on Bette Davis – “I’m told we have similar eyes, so I’m drawn to her,” she says hesitantly, perhaps realising it sounds a little narcissistic – she has four films released this year. In fact, she’s averaged four films a year since starting university, and has another four slated for next year.
Despite spending most of her life making movies, however, she’s surprisingly independently minded. “Dakota won’t let you do anything for her and she is adamant about that,” says Kelly Reichardt, the director of her latest film, Night Moves. “That’s very unusual for someone that’s been acting for so much of her childhood.” Likewise, her “process” is unusual, too. “She didn’t want to rehearse before we shot the film,” adds Reichardt. “I sent her a whole box of research material outlining who her character was before we started shooting, but she told me she never even opened it. I have no idea how she got the character [as well as] she did, and she didn’t like it when I asked her.” It must be unusual for a young actor to take that attitude with a director… “Yes it is,” agrees Reichardt, who’s also directed Meek’s Cutoff and Wendy And Lucy. “She is very much her own thing.”