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Dakota Fanning undoubtedly has one of the most impressive careers in Hollywood. She broke onto the scene at a young age and has continued to wow us with iconic roles throughout her career. Watch above to see Fanning discuss her roles from Uptown Girls all the way to present-day projects such as The First Lady.
Dakota Fanning gives a lot of interviews, yet a great deal about her life off-screen remains a mystery. The 28-year-old actor and producer knows it, too. In fact, she embraces it: “I think people are starting to catch on.” She is someone who has lived her entire life in the limelight, winning Critics Choice Awards when most 7-year-olds were busy learning second-grade arithmetic, but Fanning has managed to do what most in her situation have tried and failed to—keep her private life, well, private. “There are [things that people don’t know]—1000%,” she says. Then again, that’s sort of been the point. “I can’t tell [you], because then my mystique is gonna be lost,” she adds.
Even so, Fanning, who is returning to the screen in Showtime’s new series The First Lady, didn’t come off the least bit guarded during our recent Zoom conversation. On the contrary, the actor was as open and relaxed as ever, perched in a bright-white spot in her Los Angeles home and looking every bit the movie star—maybe even ethereal—in a crisp button-down shirt. Her hair was slicked back in a low bun, and her wrist was decorated with a vintage gold watch. “I don’t know if people don’t think I’m fun, but I think I’m a lot less serious than people may assume,” Fanning says, noting how often her own personality is confused with those of the very serious characters she portrays on-screen. “I love to have fun, I love to make people laugh, [and] I don’t take myself too seriously.”
Everything she says is true. In the span of our 80-minute call, Fanning gushes about her dedication to reality television (“I watch all the Real Housewives, always have. I love them,” she says with a passion) as well as her die-hard fandom over Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton (“Don’t [even] get me started,” she says). She then goes into story mode about the time her laptop broke on the set of her forthcoming series Ripley in Italy and her ensuing downward spiral. Relatably, Fanning can’t wind down without her favorite not-guilty-to-her TV shows, especially after a long day of shooting. “If I enjoy something, I don’t know why I should feel that guilty about it,” she says. Thus, a quest to find an Apple store anywhere near the Amalfi Coast was underway.
Intensely dedicated to her craft, prone to Bravo binging and self-deprecation, and emanating the kind of confidence only someone who’s truly figured herself out can exude, Fanning isn’t an easy person to sum up. “I’m full of a lot of contradictions,” she says. “And there’s a very, very sweet spot in the middle of these contradictions, and that’s where I live.”
Tapping into female strength and the elemental qualities of beauty, Clé de Peau Beauté has launched a new campaign featuring acting stalwarts Dakota Fanning, Diana Silvers, and Ella Balinska for a journey towards #InfiniteRadiance. With this latest promotional push, the Japanese cosmetic and skincare brand is revelling in the kaleidoscopic essence of attractiveness, something that bypasses traditional binaries and has found a footing in an individual’s innate idiosyncrasies. S/ recently spoke with Fanning about how this ambassador position aligns with her personal morals, beauty’s true interiority, as well as her most riveting red-carpet moment.
What does a brand ambassadorship mean to you?
“When I was approached about this ambassador position, I was excited because it’s a brand that I genuinely use and have loved for quite some time. It is important for me that the partnership be genuine and with a company whose message I believe in. Everyone is so wonderful that I’ve gotten to meet virtually in Japan. I was also excited to be a part of this specific ambassadorship with Diana and Ella, two other women that I admire so much. Getting to know them, the little bit that we have had a chance to so far, has been great. It’s always fun to get to share an experience with other people.”
Female camaraderie is neatly interwoven throughout this promotional push. How have you, Ella, and Diana established a unique connection throughout the process so far?
“It was really fun to finally connect in person and get to know each other a bit. I look forward to more, whether it is having dinner or getting to do some things off the set of a campaign.”
“I was a fan of both before this came about and I’m excited for what’s to come. Also, I think it’s wonderful that Clé de Peau Beauté wants this campaign to feature women who look different, allowing people to see their makeup on different skin-tones — I think that’s super important.”
Everyone’s always like, “You’re 12” and I’m like, “No, I’m 27″. People have an image of me that’s seemingly unchangeable regardless of what the truth is.’
For an entire generation of screen-watchers, Dakota Fanning was the fresh-faced child star that dominated Hollywood during the noughties. She stood by Tom Cruise as evil alien robots took over the planet in War Of The Worlds, pouted in prep school uniform in Uptown Girls and evaded kidnappers alongside Denzel Washington in Man On Fire. She even made red contact lenses a legitimate beauty look with her role as Volturi vampire Jane in the Twilight series.
But, that was 20 years ago. Fast forward to 2022 and Fanning hasn’t stepped into adulthood so much as powered boldly through it. With starring roles in The Alienist and The First Lady, an enviable spot as Global Brand Ambassador for Clé de Peau Beauté alongside contemporaries Diana Silvers and Ella Balinska, and her own production company co-founded with sister Elle all under her belt, Dakota Fanning has most definitely left the reductive label of ‘child star’ well behind.
ELLE UK caught up with the short film director, skincare lover and cinematic icon to talk all things ageing on screen, the allure of Michelle Pfeiffer and why we need to rebrand the word ‘beauty’…
Moving forward in 2022, what are you excited for in beauty?
‘I’m definitely excited to have more moments of putting on make-up and getting ready for social events that we haven’t really been able to do, so I’m crossing my fingers for that! But I also want to see more of a focus on individual beauty and uniqueness.
‘Beauty is subjective. I think some of the trends right now make everyone look the same and I want to keep seeing a lot of diversity and different ideals of beauty. Some people feel their most beautiful when they’ve got messy hair and they’re wearing pjs first thing in the morning, and I think that’s great. Other people want the full glam to bring out their beauty and that’s great too. I’m somewhere in between. I’m all about highlighting what you have and bringing out your inner beauty, and then make-up is like the icing on the cake. I like looking natural but a little dewy – you can’t speak about beauty now without using the word dewy! For me it’s more of a smart suit pant than sweatpants…’
Dakota Fanning is getting into the drinks business, for a cause. The Once Upon A Time in Hollywood star has partnered with Casa Vega, a 65-year-old Los Angeles Mexican eatery/institution on a charitable cocktail. The ‘DAKOTA Margarita’ ($14), plays up the classic margarita with honey and thyme, and profits from each libation sold this month will be donated to No Us Without You, a non-profit charity that seeks to provide food security to undocumented back-of-house staff and their families that was created in 2020 as a result of the pandemic. The Casa Vega x Dakota Fanning collaboration continues on the talent-food partnerships that have previously included The Chainsmokers, The Foo Fighters and Fall Out Boy and have launched as a means to celebrate the restaurant’s recognizable clientele and give back to those hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Let’s talk about why this margarita is unique and how it showcases who you are?
I personally haven’t had a honey thyme margarita before, so when I tried this drink for the first time, it was a whole new taste experience for me! It’s bright, a little sweet, citrus-y and exudes summer. The taste and look of the margarita sums up my mood these days as we look forward to having a better summer than our last.
The proceeds from this cocktail are being donated to No Us Without You. Is giving back personally important to you? Please explain and speak a bit about other ways you’ve given back throughout the years and the non-profits which are most impactful to you and why.
I had heard of No Us Without You through Christy Vega, and the Casa Vega’s partnership with them. I am honored to be a part of giving back to those in the hospitality industry who were hit the hardest by the pandemic. No Us Without You is truly doing incredible things to help provide relief to the most deserving of people. The meaning of community and giving back has never been more clear to me than it is now after our global experience with COVID-19. Lending a helping hand is always the right answer. [Source]
“Truth is stranger than fiction. That’s a known thing for a reason,” says Dakota Fanning. We are speaking a few days before the premiere of Last Looks, a series on Quibi that looks at real-life crimes in the fashion industry for which The Alienist star is both narrator and executive producer. (It is also produced by Refinery29.)
The show is made up of 18 episodes, with five(ish)-minute installations dedicated to covering the stories of six women. Subjects range from Anna Delvey, a faux heiress who swindled thousands of dollars from New York’s upper class (while decked out in Celine and Alexander Wang), to Patrizia Reggiani, who went from being called “Lady Gucci” to “Black Widow” after being convicted of arranging to kill her ex-husband and Gucci fashion brand heir, Maurizio Gucci, in 1998. Their stories are told through recreations and by people familiar with each case.
“Even though the shows are quite short, I think that you do get a full picture of who these people are. It’s not a one-dimensional look at each person, you really do get to see all sides,” says Fanning. “I think the show does its best to delve into their psyche and try to understand why they do the things that they do.”
The other stories include the tragic cases of Vicki Morgan, model and the mistress of Alfred S. Bloomingdale, heir to the Bloomingdale’s fortune, who was murdered in 1983; Christa Worthington, a fashion writer who was killed in Cape Cod in 2002; Ruslana Korshunova, a Russian model who died by suicide in 2008 shortly after joining a cult; and Sylvie Cachay, an aspiring fashion designer murdered in 2010.
Below, we speak to Fanning about what led her to join the project, the current fascination with true crime, and the dark underside of fashion.
The TNT original drama series The Alienist: Angel of Darkness, the follow-up season to The Alienist, is an unflinching and sinister murder mystery set at the turn-of-the-century during New York’s Gilded Age. The series follows Dr. Laszlo Kreizler (Daniel Brühl), an alienist in the field of treating mental pathologies, John Moore (Luke Evans), a New York Times journalist, and Sara Howard (Dakota Fanning), an ambitious woman who has opened her own private detective agency. Together, they are on the case of a kidnapped infant and on the dangerous path after an elusive killer.
During this 1-on-1 phone interview with Collider, Dakota Fanning talked about digging deeper into these characters for Season 2, her character’s biggest strength, what she appreciates about Sara Howard, the incredible wardrobe, the Sara-John relationship dynamic, and whether she’d want to continue playing this character for another season. She also talked about her desire to step behind the camera to direct, and that sacred relationship between actor and director.
Collider: What did you most enjoy about the first season and exploring the introduction to this world and these characters, and then how did it feel to return to that for Season 2 and dig in even deeper with her?
DAKOTA FANNING: I loved that. It’s really the first time that I’ve gotten to dive into something for a second time and for another eight hours. It’s really an exciting thing to do, when you get to take a character that you’ve grown to love and that you feel like you know so well to a different level and into a new place, and I really got to do that with Sara. I loved playing her in The Alienist and seeing that she was the first female to hold the position at the police department, as a secretary, but having aspirations of more. And then, right away, in the first episode, we see that she’s opened her own detective agency and has realized that dream, and is still forging ahead to fight for people and to solve these crimes that are not being looked at because the police department is corrupt, or that people don’t care about. She’s a very compassionate, empathetic person, and I think that allows her to look at the people that she’s solving these crimes for, in a very non-judgmental way, and that’s ultimately her biggest strength.
The TCA panel for The Alienist: Angel of Darkness came right before the two-part season finale on Sunday and even though showrunner Stuart Carolan and stars Daniel Brühl and Dakota Fanning remained tight-lipped on what we could expect for the ending of season 2, they did give us insight in how it was like revisiting these characters in a new story. In particular, Fanning talked about her character Sara and how it reflects the movement of female empowerment.
In the new season, Sara has opened her own detective agency and has employed women who she is mentoring. “In The Alienist, we saw her as the first female to hold a position at the New York Police Department and we saw her wanting more,” said Fanning. “Right away in this new season, we see that… she has opened her own business and is struggling to be taken seriously as a female detective and constantly discovering and rediscovering what it means to be a modern woman 1897, the choices that women were and still are forced to make and the pressures of having a career, family and what that all means. We see her all season grappling with that.”
She added, “We get more female energy this time around and that was important to me and I was really happy to see that.”
Later in the panel, Brühl talked about how the themes of the show reflect the current landscape. “Nowadays it is important to have a political and social conscience and to stand up and do the right thing,” he said.
Fanning talked about how Sara is a disruptor and is unafraid to speak up. “I think we see even more of that power that she has discovered within herself in this new season,” she said. “It’s not always easy to do the right thing and to speak up for those who can’t use their voice. Sara uses her privilege to do that. That’s such a core value of who Sara is. I am very proud to play a character like that and learn to continue to implement that in my real life.”
Carolan speaks to the fact that it was the book that speaks to the current feminist movement and the series is just following its lead. Fanning addresses the themes that are resonating with audiences, pointing out that the books were written in the ’90s. “While the feminist movement is not only something that’s been happening currently, it’s clearly been happening for a long time,” she said. “Shows like this, that are set so long ago, really do help put the current movement we see on the news into a perspective to show the origins of them and that they existed for a long time and that 1897 is not so long ago when you really examine the socio-political aspects of the age. When you examine them today, there’s a lot of similarities.”
When we visited the set of “The Alienist: Angel of Darkness” in Budapest, Hungary last year, we were blown away by the passion and detail that was poured on the set as well as the costumes of the actors.
The period drama TV series is based on the 1994 novel of the same name by Caleb Carr is set in the mid-1890s New York City and deals with corruption, sexism, racism, anti-immigration, crime and violence — pretty much what we are still dealing with these days in the 21st century.
As Dakota Fanning, who is portraying Sara Howard, told us in a recent virtual interview in Los Angeles, “A lot of things are relevant if you watch the show. You can see and will be struck by the parallels. There is also the fight for women’s rights, injustice, and anti-immigration in this series. It shows young people that a lot of things have not changed. There are still the same conversations going on. It is what it is. The only way to change our future is by examining our past and through television and the movies, we are not only entertained and have a suspenseful mystery but we are still able to ask the hard questions.”
What is fascinating about this season are the steps that women are taking to be independent in their jobs. Your character is starting this agency but nobody wants to hire her. Can you talk a little bit about how important this reflection is?
I think that’s been the most interesting thing about “The Alienist” and now “The Angel of Darkness” are, the similarities to things that we are seeing in the world right now; a lot of the conversations with women and women in the workplace and women’s rights and all that.
In “The Alienist,” you see Sara being the first woman to hold a position in the New York Police Department and then here, you see her with her own detective agency which was definitely unheard of. And you also see the way in which Luke and Daniel’s characters view her differently from the beginning when she’s an equal from the start.
She’s no longer having to prove herself to her own team which I think was a change and seemed sort of an evolution in that and you see her have her mentees that are working at her agency seeing this sort of example that she’s setting for other young women during this time.
We still see that now with female-owned businesses and the importance of female mentors to younger women. What I also love about this show in general is mixing the real historical figures in with the fictional aspects to seeing Elizabeth Cady Stanton and the Suffragette movement and getting that sprinkled in throughout the series is really something that I’ve always enjoyed getting to see the real characters.
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The First Lady (2022)
In the East Wing of the White House, many of history's most impactful and world-changing decisions have been hidden from view, made by America's charismatic, complex and dynamic first ladies.
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