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A consummate film actor since the age of 7, Dakota Fanning is ready to shake things up as she takes on the small screen and makes her directorial debut
On a snowy day in Manhattan, Dakota Fanning is huddled over a cup of mint tea, diplomatically weighing the pros and cons of living in New York City. Predicated by her acceptance to New York University, Fanning found an apartment in a prewar building in Nolita and has been based here for the past six years.
One of the pros is that the city has given her a newfound sense of freedom. “This is the only place I’ve ever lived by myself,” she explains. Evidence of her willingness to try new things is on practically every street corner thanks to billboards promoting TNT’s The Alienist, Fanning’s first major television series. “I just heard three people scream my name as I was walking here. I’m like, ‘Oh, f—! What did I do?’ But they were just saying ‘hey,’ so I said ‘hey’ back. I was like, ‘It’s gotta be because of those billboards.’ ”
Based on the Caleb Carr novel set in 1890s New York, the 10-episode psychological thriller (co-starring Daniel Brühl and Luke Evans) sounded almost too good to be true. Fanning had just come off promoting American Pastoral, so the timing was perfect. The only hang-up was that it meant moving to Budapest, Hungary, for the better part of 2017 to film the show. “I was like, ‘Whoa, that’s so far and such a long time to leave your life,’ ” she says. “Movies are made in eight weeks, you know?”
She decided to think of it as doing a semester abroad and, in the end, wholeheartedly embraced her Hungarian sojourn—the spa culture, “family” dinners with the cast and hosting out-of-town friends. During the workweek, Fanning (who is notoriously prompt for everything) would arrive on set to be laced into an old-fashioned corset. Her character, Sara Howard, is a strong-willed young woman who stands up to sexual harassment as the first female employee at the New York City Police Department. “As we were filming, we were like, ‘God, didn’t we read an article that’s kind of about this, like, yesterday?’ ” she says. “I think that it does go to show how history repeats itself. To move forward, you have to do something different because it’s been this long and these situations are still happening.”
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It was nearly eight years ago that actress Dakota Fanning, then just 16 years old, attended her first fashion show, Miu Miu’s Spring 2011 collection during Paris Fashion Week. “I was so excited to be there. It was very surreal that I was getting to sit in the front row and I was in Paris,” she recalled. “At the dinner afterwards, Rihanna was there. I wore a pink leather dress that they made for me and a pink cardigan that I still have. I got to meet Mrs. Prada and have had this relationship with Miu Miu ever since.”
Now 23 and a fashion staple, Fanning is officially taking that relationship with Miu Miu to the next level, directing the latest installment of Women’s Tales, the brand’s ongoing short film series. Fanning’s 10-minute feature is called “The Apartment,” and officially premiered last night during London Fashion Week.
A few hours before the debut, Fanning was posted up in the brand’s towering store on New Bond Street in eager anticipation of the evening’s premiere. “I’ve known about Women’s Tales for awhile and I’ve been to the Venice Film Festival when they’ve premiered the films there for two different years,” she said.” It was said that if I wanted to do one and when I wanted to do one, there would sort of be a spot for me… The timing was right and I was very excited to do it with Miu Miu and the people I felt I had a real friendship with. I’m somebody who thrives on personal connection.”
Of course, it was Fanning’s chance to fulfill her lingering desire to get behind the camera, which she’s held since she was acting on sets at five years old. “I’ve always had such a great, important relationship with the directors that I’ve worked with, and so many of them have stayed in my life over the years and have become really good friends,” she said. “That relationship is everything when you are working on a film because that person is someone you go to with all of your questions and that you rely on… I had been talking about doing it for so long, and eventually you have to do what you are constantly talking about.”
The Hollywood star talks control, clothes, and break-ups for Miu Miu Women’s Stories.
“I like to control things,” says Dakota Fanning, “and at a certain point, I realized that even being behind the camera, you can’t. You think being a director means being in charge of everything?” she laughs. “You’re wrong.”
Fanning’s in London for her directorial debut, a partnership with Miu Miu Women’s Stories called The Apartment. The 11-minute short film stars Eve Hewson as a young woman going solo, and it’s got bits of everything—breakups, cheap wine, art projects, and of course, designer dresses.
At a post-screening panel with Millennial screenwriter (and Golden Globe nominee) Liz Hannah, Fanning revealed her on-set anxiety, her future career strategy, and what happened when she started living alone in New York City.
Here are highlights from the room where it happened…
I’ve always been a very calm person—well, maybe not calm. I guess it’s more that I’ve been a very confident person… When you’re directing a movie, you’re viewed as a leader, but you’re also totally reliant on everyone else. People keep asking your opinions on everything—from the big stuff to things like, “Dakota, red napkins or blue napkins?”—and admitting you don’t know anything about napkins, “I don’t know, what do you think?” That’s the hardest part. But part of my job [as a director] was that I hired other people to make this movie with me, and I knew I needed to trust them. (We went with the blue, by the way.)
I was worried in the beginning about having a main character always wearing Miu Miu and being amongst other people who were dressed really plainly. That seemed really strange to me, so we made sure every character had some Miu Miu. But we knew going in there would be standout moments with special pieces, like a white dress, and [Miu Miu] socks!… We also knew the cinematographer, Bobby Bukowski, was going to use the fabric as part of his shots… you would literally see [Eve Hewson’s] life through her clothes.
An apartment as a witness to someone’s personal history, the kind of universal space in which we all find ourselves as we evolve into adulthood. An apartment as protagonist of the latest chapter of Miu Miu Women’s Tales, directed by Dakota Fanning and starring Eve Hewson, Tom Sturridge & Christina Rouner #MiuMiuWomensTales #MiuMiu
The actress joined forces with Miu Miu—and friend Liz Hannah, of The Post fame—to create the 15th short for the Italian label’s Women’s Tales series.
When Miu Miu asked Dakota Fanning to direct a short film (her first), she looked close to home for subject material. The final product? “Hello Apartment,” a spot-on, vivid portrait of how the spaces where we spend our formative years shape us into adults who may, someday, return to them and, all at once, remember everything. It also serves as an ode to Fanning’s own real-life apartment.
“Hello Apartment,” which premieres in London on Monday night, marks the 15th commission from Miu Miu’s Women’s Tales, which has previously featured shorts from legendary auteurs (Agnès Varda), groundbreaking directors (Ava DuVernay), and experimental multi-hyphenates (Miranda July and Chloë Sevigny). For the film, Fanning drew on her own formative first-apartment experiences. As she told Vanity Fair, “Even though my apartment’s very different from the one in the film, the experience of it is the same.” With the help of The Post writer and her friend Liz Hannah, Fanning perceptively captures how, as she put it, our homes become “shrine[s] to experiences” with the passage of time.
Told through the perspective of a Pepto pink-haired young woman named Ava (played by Irish actress Eve Hewson, of The Knick) who has just moved into an airy Brooklyn loft, the film traces her first love (with Tom Sturridge), loss, and inevitable red wine spills. It all comes with the knowing wisdom of a woman who’s been there and lived to tell the tale. Decades later, a much older Ava returns to this memory-charged, sunlit space to say, “Hello, apartment.”
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