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Apr 2, 2024
Dakota Fanning: The Next Chapter

Having made her movie debut aged seven, 30-year-old DAKOTA FANNING is savoring her expanding career as much as ever: “If you can still find the light in moments that are tough, then you’re still enjoying it!” Here, the actor and producer talks to MARTHA HAYES about starring in the highly anticipated TV series Ripley, finding a new sense of contentment, and what she really wants from life beyond Hollywood

Dakota Fanning is sipping on a glass of wine and scrolling through photos from her 30th-birthday celebrations four days earlier. “I’ve never had a party like it. I’ve had dinners, but this was… a party,” laughs Fanning, who took over the whole of hip Beverly Hills restaurant La Dolce Vita, hired an ice sculpture of legs “for fun”, and wore a red satin corseted Dolce&Gabbana dress.

“I was destroyed on Saturday – from the biggest hangover I’ve had in years,” she grins, today wearing a black oversized coat by The Row, as we meet at a whiskey tavern close to her house in LA’s Toluca Lake. “But I was icing my head with a huge smile. The past few days, I have felt so light.”

“I wouldn’t say I’m not a happy person, but I do think the late twenties fuck with you,” continues Fanning. “I feel happier and more conscious of what I have, rather than what I don’t have. I know who I am, and the people who know me know who I am, and that’s really all that matters. But there is something about saying that at 30 that feels different to saying it at 28.”

When you’ve been working in Hollywood as long as Fanning – who made her movie debut aged seven in I Am Sam (2001), opposite Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer (becoming the youngest person in history to be nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award) – it’s no wonder she’s ready to reflect as she gears up for her next chapter. She has worked consistently, morphing from the charming child star of movies such as War of The Worlds (2005) and Charlotte’s Web (2006) to a self-assured twentysomething in grittier projects that include American Pastoral (2016) and The Alienist (2018). She came of age in the middle, appearing in the vampire Twilight franchise (2009 and 2012).

“I still have these check-ins with myself to make sure I’m enjoying it,” she says of her career. “If you can still find the light in moments that are tough, then you’re still enjoying it!”

Fanning‘s latest project is the highly anticipated adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley for Netflix. Written and directed by Oscar-winning Schindler’s List screenwriter Steven Zaillian, and starring Fleabag’s and All of Us Strangers’ Andrew Scott as the infamous con artist, Ripley proved a complex production. It filmed between summer 2021 and spring 2022 in incredible European locations, including the Amalfi Coast and Capri, when most pandemic restrictions had lifted but many people were still not traveling. Fanning was on the other side of the world to her family and friends for months.

“I like being alone and I don’t mind getting acclimated to a place, but I felt really lonely in a specific way,” she recalls. “I felt like I was trapped. I’m sure other people can relate… It wasn’t a unique experience, but I definitely went through a rollercoaster on this.”

Having seen the results – the finished eight-part, black-and-white series – she has no regrets now. “I feel very rewarded and satisfied having seen the show; it all feels worth it,” she smiles. “It’s so different to anything I’ve ever been in.”

As the female lead, Marge Sherwood – memorably portrayed by Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1999 movie adaptation – Fanning enjoys some “deliciously bitchy scenes” with Scott, who she has been a fan of since first meeting him in 2020 at a SAG Awards after-party. “I always hoped our paths would cross,” she says. “He is so wickedly funny, warm and kind. He’s just a good person. And stunning, obviously. I worship him after working with him.”

Her role required a lot of “internal work”, which Fanning relished. “You’re seeing it through Tom’s eyes, so it left room for everyone else to decide how their character feels,” she considers. “For me, it was the balance between Marge buying what he’s saying and thinking, he’s lying – and what she does with that. It’s not a dialogue-heavy show; it’s about the push and pull between what’s being said and what’s not being said. It’s all bubbling under the surface.”

Fanning deliberately steered clear of the 1955 book (“what you’re trying to achieve is what you’ve been given, which is, ultimately, the script”), and she, Scott and Johnny Flynn (who plays her partner Dickie) made a pact to have no contact with anyone who had played versions of their characters. “I was blissfully trying to not think about Gwyneth and her extraordinary beauty and grace!” laughs Fanning of the original, which became known as a stylish cinematic moment. “I’m a huge fan of the film, but it’s so different, I hesitate to even talk about it.”

When it comes to her sartorial preferences, Fanning is no stranger to the fashion world. She has just starred in Loewe’s pre-spring 2024 campaign and is a long-time muse of Marc Jacobs – recently appearing in an ad for the brand almost 20 years after she first did, aged 12.

Another exciting project on the horizon is mystery drama The Perfect Couple, which also stars Nicole Kidman, Meghann Fahy and Bad Sisters actor Eve Hewson, who she calls one of her “dearest friends”. She loved getting to collaborate creatively with someone in her inner circle, and it isn’t her only experience of doing so. Fanning set up production company Lewellen Pictures with her sister and fellow actor Elle during the pandemic – and the pair are keen to branch out in their industry.

“It’s been fun to move into podcasts [the investigative One Click, which Elle narrates] and documentaries, to focus on growing a diverse portfolio of projects as much as growing our acting careers,” she says. The company executive-produced the satirical historical drama The Great and 2022 crime drama The Girl From Plainville, both of which Elle starred in, and it is said to be producing a TV adaptation of Paris Hilton’s memoir.

“Being an actor is a huge part of my identity. I don’t really know who I would be without it. But I also have a desire to set up my life and career so that I always have a choice,” she says. “Having kids is probably more important to me than anything, even being an actor. If somebody said I had to choose, I would choose having kids. I’m one of those people who has always felt that pull.”

It’s a candid statement for someone who keeps her personal life very private. “I don’t know how I’ll feel when that time in my life comes – and how much I’ll want to work. But, because I don’t have that at the moment, I’m trying to take advantage of the adventures now,” she continues. “I’m trying to push myself to keep saying yes to things that make me uncomfortable, to keep going to places for long periods of time that maybe I’m scared to do because – God willing – one day, it won’t be as easy.”

Fanning is conscious of advocating for herself and for what she wants as an adult because, growing up in the public eye, she always had someone doing it for her. She had a support network that made sure she had the milestone experiences that were important. She and her family remain close; she bought a house around the corner from them in 2019. I ask how she thinks she would fare if she were starting out in the industry now.

“It’s such a different experience,” she says. “I hate to reduce it to social media, but that’s the biggest societal difference – and I think we’re still figuring out how to use it in the right way. I’m grateful I didn’t have to contend with that; there was already enough going on.”

In her early twenties, she found social media a useful tool to control the narrative, particularly because she was so often typecast as younger than she actually was. And now, “I try to use it in a fun way and not take myself too seriously,” she says. “I share enough for my personality to come through, but I don’t need everyone to know what my bedroom looks like – do you know what I mean? The number of things I will be about to post and then I’m like, ‘No one cares about that!’”

Something that her almost-four-million Instagram followers definitely do care about is when she and her sister might appear on screen together. The movie they were supposed to be making, The Nightingale, never materialized, but that doesn’t mean they won’t pursue another opportunity. “It has to be the right thing,” she concludes. “We’re very ceremonial about ‘firsts’ in our family. Elle and me together in a movie – we will think about it and talk about it until we decide the right thing, because you can’t get it back.”

While Fanning continues to work consistently in interesting, talking-point projects – as she has done since relocating from Georgia to Los Angeles with her family, aged six – she is also determined not to forego things in the rest of her life. “I have lots of friends who are getting married and having babies – and I have a god-daughter who is three – and I have to carve out what is important to me,” she says. “I don’t want to be a person who is so consumed with my professional life that I miss all the other stuff.”

Ripley is on Netflix from April 4 [Source]

Tags: Interviews

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The Equalizer 3 (2023)
Robert McCall finds himself at home in Southern Italy but he discovers his friends are under the control of local crime bosses. As events turn deadly, McCall knows what he has to do: become his friends' protector by taking on the mafia.
Ripley (2024)
A grifter named Ripley living in New York during the 1960s is hired by a wealthy man to begin a complex life of deceit, fraud and murder.
The Watchers (2024)
A young artist gets stranded in an extensive, immaculate forest in western Ireland, where, after finding shelter, she becomes trapped alongside three strangers, stalked by mysterious creatures each night.
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When one lavish wedding ends in disaster before it can even begin - with a body discovered in Nantucket Harbor just hours before the ceremony - everyone in the wedding party is suddenly a suspect.
The Nightingale (202?)
The lives of two sisters living in France are torn apart at the onset of World War II. Based on Kristin Hannah's novel 'The Nightingale'.
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