The former child star, who is now 24 and garnering career-best notices for her work on a Hulu comedy series and limited series, reflects on growing up in the industry alongside Dakota, when she took ownership of her career and what led her to projects on the small screen.
Elle Fanning is a gifted actress who is already a widely respected veteran at the age of just 24. She is the younger of two sisters — Dakota is four years older — who both made tremendous impressions as child performers en route to impressive careers as young adults, with no major personal bumps along the way. Of her work on the big screen, she is perhaps best known for 2010’s Somewhere and 2017’s The Beguiled, both directed by Sofia Coppola. But she has also starred in films big and small under the direction of, among others, Francis Ford Coppola, J.J. Abrams, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, David Fincher, Cameron Crowe, Sally Potter, Jay Roach, Mike Mills, Nicolas Winding Refn, John Cameron Mitchell, Tony Scott, Terry George, Ben Affleck and Woody Allen.
This year, Fanning played substantial parts on and executive produced two TV programs, both for Hulu, and both of which could bring her Emmy nominations to go with four prior Critics Choice Award noms, two Golden Globe Award noms, one Spirit Award nom and one SAG Award nom. The first is The Great, a comedy series on which she portrays Catherine the Great, who arrived at the Russian court of Emperor Peter III with a twinkly eyed vision of life as his wife, mother of his heir and reformer of an empire, only to get a rude awakening. And the second is The Girl From Plainville, a limited series on which she portrays Michelle Carter, a high school student in Massachusetts who encouraged her own boyfriend to kill himself, and then, after he did so in 2014, wound up on trial for involuntary manslaughter.
During a recent episode of THR’s Awards Chatter podcast, Fanning reflected on all of the above and more. You can listen to the full conversation or read excerpts of it below.
Where you were born and raised, what did your folks do for living?
I was born in Decatur, Georgia. My mom played tennis in college. My dad was a professional baseball player for the St. Louis Cardinals. And my mom’s dad was a quarterback in the NFL for the Eagles. Everyone was very sports-affiliated.
When you were still a baby, your family left the South and moved to L.A. What brought that about?
Basically, my sister was put in a lot of activities. My mom wanted her to find her thing. She tried out soccer, she played the violin for a bit, and one of the activities was this play camp. My sister was five, and she has a photographic memory, so she could memorize all of the lines and was just kind of this wonder child. They told my mom that she might do good at commercials, or print, or get a movie, who knows, so you should go to New York or L.A. My aunt, my mom’s sister, already lived in L.A., so my mom was like, “We can go visit your aunt and see how this works.” So my mom and my sister went to L.A., my dad and I stayed in Georgia, and my sister ended up getting 10 commercials in a week. My mom called my dad and was like, “We’re not coming back to Georgia for a while.” And so I flew out to L.A. and we never went back.
How did you wind up alongside your sister in your first movie, I Am Sam, in 2001?
I would come to the set a lot because my mom had to take care of both of us, so Jessie Nelson, the director, knew me. I was 2, I think, and they needed a little girl for a flashback scene. They’re like, “Oh, let’s just use Elle! Is that OK?” And my mom was like, “Fine. She obviously looks like Dakota.” So they put me in a little costume and I had to swing on a swing with Sean Penn and sleep in the grass. That was my big debut.
You and Dakota both, of course, continued to appear in larger parts over the next few years. Let’s just pause for a moment to note: Neither of you ever took an acting lesson?
No, we didn’t do any formal training or anything like that, so basically our whole learning experience was working with big actors and directors, on the spot.
Category: The Great
Revolution is a Mother! This matriarch is ready to make her mark when The Great Season 2 premieres November 19, only on Hulu.
“Huzzah!” was the reaction from the set of season 2 of The Great, where Elle Fanning, who was in the midst of filming, learned she had nabbed her first-ever Golden Globe nomination.
“It was pretty exciting. Everyone obviously yelled ‘huzzah’ because that’s what we do on our show,” Fanning told Deadline.
She was nominated for Best Performance By an Actress in a Musical or Comedy for her performance as Catherine The Great in The Tony McNamara-created Hulu series, which picked up a nomination for Best Television Series.
Speaking on the show’s success, “I think it’s such a specific tone and I think it’s a beautiful, escapism to a historical world,” Fanning opined. “It’s very opulent, but there’s such a groundedness to it. It has that dark satire, comedic sense of humor that you can laugh at it but then the emotions really hit hard.”
The Great is a satirical show that tells the story of the rise of Catherine the Great from outsider to the longest-reigning female ruler in Russia’s history with only a few occasional facts.
Like Catherine, Fanning found herself with a new set of powers when she signed on to also produce the series. “I felt like I was, as Elle, coming into my power and learning my authority and navigating that world, which is often male-led,” she shared. “I found myself there and had to find my voice in a sense. Catherine is the same way. She’s finding her power.”
With Season 2 on the horizon, Fanning didn’t give away much but hinted at what’s in store for Peter and Catherine’s already complicated relationship.
“Catherine, I feel, has a real soft spot for [Peter], which gets to be explored. Their relationship gets way more twisted. So we have a lot working together.”
Source: Deadline Hollywood