10 Questions for Dakota Fanning

4 minute read
Rebecca Winters Keegan

By the time she turns 13 in February, Dakota Fanning will have appeared in 16 movies. Her two latest–an adaptation of the children’s classic Charlotte’s Web, in theaters this month, and the gritty indie Hound Dog, which will screen at the Sundance Film Festival in January–represent opposite ends of the young star’s growing oeuvre. Fanning told TIME’s Rebecca Winters Keegan about enduring her awkward stage, tackling grownup themes and selling Girl Scout cookies.

Who has been your messiest co-star: Tom Cruise, Denzel Washington, Sean Penn or the baby pig who plays Wilbur in Charlotte’s Web?

Actually there were like 50 little pigs. We would get them when they were little, and during filming they would get too big. It’s a misconception about pigs that they’re dirty or messy or smelly. They’re really cute, and they don’t stink. I had a really great experience with them, and I’d like to do it again some day.

So you’re saying Sean Penn was the messiest?

No, definitely not! None of the actors I’ve worked with have been messy.

Your next film, tentatively titled Hound Dog, is about some very adult themes, including sexual abuse. Can you explain it?

It’s about a young girl in the South. She has overcome some really hard things in her life through music–especially the blues and Elvis Presley. I have to sing a little bit in the movie. It’s the period where Elvis is touring in his pink Cadillac and starting to get really popular, so I had to learn about that. It stars Robin Wright Penn, David Morse, Piper Laurie. It’s about overcoming adversity and still being yourself and not having to change who you are.

This sounds very different from Charlotte’s Web, The Cat in the Hat and the other films that we think of as Dakota Fanning movies.

I’ve been lucky to do all different kinds of movies, and what they have in common is that they are all little girls going through hard things or fun things in their lives. One of my favorite movies is Gone With the Wind. And I loved The Devil Wears Prada. I like to watch all kinds of films, and it’s important to me to be in all different kinds of films too.

Will you be in Park City, Utah, at Sundance for the screening?

Yeah, I’m so excited. I’ve never been somewhere where there’s that much snow. I totally want to go skiing. I’ve heard skiing is superhard, but I’d like to try it.

Are you at all protective of your little sister Elle, 8, who has an acting career of her own now?

She’s my baby sister and my best friend, and she just does her own thing. We’re different in many ways. My sister is totally a free spirit, wild and fun and funny. Me, I’m more organized and proper. My sister, when she was younger, she didn’t care what she wore. She would put on the craziest outfits, whereas I stop to look at myself in the mirror before I go out.

You’re about to turn 13, which for lots of people is an awkward age. Do you worry about going through that transition in front of the camera?

There’s no stopping it. There’s nothing I can do about turning 13. I don’t waste my time worrying about something I can’t control.

You always seem so grownup. Do you feel more comfortable with adults or children?

I really feel comfortable with both. On the set there’s always doubles and stand-ins and things like that, so I’m never the only kid.

I hear you’d like to take a turn behind the camera.

I would love to direct someday. I’ve learned a lot from watching directors I’ve worked with, like Steven Spielberg and Gary Winick, whom I worked with on Charlotte’s Web. I would love to have that relationship with another actor.

Do you have much time for Girl Scouts these days?

Last year my sister and I sold 750 boxes of Girl Scout cookies, so we were pretty excited about that. At $4 a box, baby, it was, like, $3,000. We did it door-to-door in Los Angeles in my aunt’s neighborhood. It’s getting to be that time of year again, so my sister and I will be out there soon. People didn’t really notice it was us last year. When I knocked on one door, one person said, “Who is it?” I said, “Girl Scouts.” They said, “We’re not home.” I didn’t push it–I was like, no Thin Mints for you!

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