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Now Is Good star Dakota Fanning has spent the last 13 years in the acting game, and has been described as “an old soul” by the likes of Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg. “There are some people who still think I’m six. Which is kind of strange,” she tells TARA BRADY
THERE SEEMS little point in attaching hackneyed phrases like “All Growed Up” to Dakota Fanning. We wouldn’t dream of being so condescending towards an old pro. At 18, Fanning can look back on 13 years in showbusiness and a constellation of co-stars including Sean Penn, Denzel Washington and Robert De Niro. Hollywood hardman Kurt Russell says she’s the best actor he’s ever worked with: period. Glenn Close, who shared an unbroken 10-minute emotional showdown with Fanning in Nine Lives has described her as an “old soul”. Tom Cruise and Steven Spielberg, both of whom worked with Fanning on War of the Worlds, use the exact same phrase.
We can see what they mean. Dressed in a neat, high waisted skirt, a teeny-print white blouse and high but chunky platform heels, Fanning casts a sensible, indeterminately aged silhouette. She might have come straight from campus; she might just as easily have come from the Southern Baptist church she attends with her family.
In conversation, too, she’s characterised by a sage levelheadedness, and is apt to say things like: “The minute you start thinking that you’re glamorous, someone will remind you that you aren’t”, or, “I try to never feel intimidated because it wastes time when you could be getting to know somebody.”
You have to remind yourself that’s she’s a teenager who likes to listen to Beyoncé.
“I guess I’ve always been mature for my age,” she says. “Sometimes I think we’re all born to do something and I think that I found my something early on. It makes life easier when you’re doing something that just clicks with you. And it clicked for me.” She’s been famous forever, but she’s happy to have avoided the kind of hysterical interest that’s trained on her Twilight Saga and Runaways colleague Kristen Stewart.
“I’ve always known I’m in the public eye to a certain extent, because people recognise you on the street and stuff like that. But I’ve been lucky to have a pretty private life as well.” What does she get recognised for most? “Everything. You’d be surprised. Some people know you from Charlotte’s Web. Some people know you from The Runaways.”
And some people still think she’s a kid. Last year, Fanning’s advertising campaign for a Marc Jacobs fragrance was banned for “sexualising children”. Fanning was 17 – an old nag by the standards of the modelling industry – at the time of the “sexually provocative” photo shoot.
“There are some people who still think I’m six. Which is kind of strange. But being an actor is all about transformation. At 18, you have opportunities suddenly to do things that you never did before. At every age there’s new material. You get to start over a lot.”
Fanning has been precocious from the get-go. The eldest child of former tennis pro Heather Joy and minor league baseball player Steven Fanning was reading at age two and selecting her own projects at five. By the time she was six, the family had left Atlanta, Georgia, for Los Angeles to facilitate Dakota’s blossoming career. By seven, she became the youngest person ever to make a Screen Actors Guild shortlist for her work in I Am Sam.