At just 16 years of age, Elle Fanning has spent nearly 90 per cent of her life in the movie business, having made her debut as a two year-old, younger version of her actress sibling Dakota Fanning. But this is no jaded teen actor. She gets excited about playing a Disney princess opposite Angelina Jolie’s villain in Maleficent, the big-budget retelling of the fairytale classic Sleeping Beauty that prevailed at the North American box- office.
With her long blond locks and angelic face, Fanning has starred in independent films like Somewhere as well as blockbusters like Super 8. She was 14 when she played Princess Aurora, who is cursed by Maleficent. Fanning talked to Reuters about playing a princess with more depth and finding fun in her film roles.
Is this the biggest production you’ve been in?
This is definitely the biggest scale — set-wise, big screen and Angelina. It’s pretty huge. And playing a Disney princess, going on set and being there with so many crew members was very different. It was exciting to have all the world around you.
What is your mind-set on such a big production, in a crucial role?
This one was very special to me, because Sleeping Beauty was my favourite princess growing up. I felt I looked like her the most. To be able to say I am a part of the Disney princess family…that was huge for me. In the animated (version), she has all those characteristics of a princess; she is very delicate and frolics around in the forest. In ours she does that, but she has more strength to her, there is a little bit more depth. In live action, you can really show those emotions. She feels sadness and betrayal.
What did you like about this retelling of Sleeping Beauty?
This one answers all the questions you had about the original. You get to the back story, you get to see why she (Maleficent) became this way. I don’t think anyone is born evil. I think someone has to push them to be bad. She stands up for her home, she is protecting it from mankind as well… She is a powerful lady and she is definitely in charge. There is a prince, but she is definitely the heroine. It’s definitely girl power.
Your director Robert Stromberg is a famous production designer. What is it like being an actor in a production where your director is a real artist?
I remember going into rehearsals for the first time and he showed me all these sketches. There was this room with all these mood boards. He was so excited about that, and the vibe of the film he wanted to get right. Even if I didn’t know how the characters would look exactly, he had it all set out in his brain. He had to imagine all that and also work with us as characters. He has done an amazing job.
How do you choose your roles?
You get scripts and read them. I feel like if you have to deliberate about it —’should I do this or not’? Because you are going to have to go do it for three months and play that person so you want to have a huge connection to it.
I always try to switch things up. From Maleficent, which is such a huge scale, I went and did Young Ones and Low Down which were real small independent films. I like having different experiences and obviously playing different characters because you don’t want to get bored. You want to always look different in films and speak differently. That’s the fun of it. It’s like dressing up.