Elle Fanning: Sleeping Beauty
By: Lynn Barker
In Beverly Hills to talk with reporters, 16-year-old Elle Fanning looked hot but a bit “dark” in black midriff top, gaucho-style Balenciaga “shorts” and some killer, high-heel wedge “mules”. Her long, very blonde hair was straight and loose as she talked about playing princess Aurora who, in all versions of the cursed princess tale, was doomed by an evil woman to prick her finger on a spindle when she reached her 16th birthday and fall, as Sleeping Beauty, into a deep slumber that could only be broken by a true love’s kiss.
Elle said that she loved working with Angelina Jolie as the evil and misunderstood Maleficent after getting over her initial intimidation. “The knot in my stomach was getting bigger and I turned the corner and there she was but not in the outfit, thank God. That would have been terrifying!” She also had a confused blast shooting a mud fight scene and tossing goop at creatures that actually weren’t there on set.
Elle is in the 10th grade at Campbell Hall where her sister Dakota went in the San Fernando Valley part of L.A. We note that, even if she took off her heels, she is much taller than we remembered.
Kidzworld: When are you going to stop growing? We were talking to you when you were a younger version of your sister.
- Elle: I know! I grew seven inches in a year when I was 12. It hurt so bad in my legs, the growing pains. It’s true. My dad also had a crazy growth spurt as well. He’s six foot three. We’re tall.
Kidzworld: You’re just as tall as Angelina now.
- Elle: I’m taller than her. It’s crazy, yeah, I know but I like being tall.
Kidzworld: When you were younger, was there a Disney princess you liked the best?
- Elle: It’s weird because mine was Sleeping Beauty. I felt like I looked like her the most when I was little. So, I feel like you gravitate toward the one you look most like. She had long blonde hair and she wore the pink dress, not the blue like Cinderella and I love pink so she was my one. So, this is like the biggest dream of my life.
Kidzworld: Are you like her in some ways or how are you different?
- Elle: We’re very happy. So I think, from that, we get excited about things and smile a lot. I think she’s a little more naïve just because she’s so trapped away and sheltered in this little cottage. I feel like I’ve experienced more things and traveled more than she definitely has. But, she’s still curious which I like about her because, in the original animated one, she’s a little one-dimensional. She’s a pretty princess and that’s kind of it, then she sleeps. It was really important for us to create a kind of depth for her that no one really knew before and have more layers and show her actually being a human and experience sadness and betrayal and real emotions instead of just frolicking around in the forest and feeding animals.
Kidzworld: In the original movie and going back to The Brothers Grimm and the “Briar Rose” story, Aurora gets three gifts from three fairies. You got short-changed here. Aurora only gets two. So, how do you feel about getting shortchanged on your gifts and if you could go back and get the other gift, what would it be?
- Elle: She did the right thing which was to say “the true love’s kiss” because I would have been sleeping more; forever and ever and never woken up but I would say, I think maybe intelligence. I think that would be good because the other gifts are grace and beauty and to never be sad. Maybe a little more substance there.
Kidzworld: You’ve gotten to grow up watching your sister Dakota. Was there any advice she gave you or did you learn through her mistakes?
- Elle: It’s funny because we never talk about films. That’s just something we never do. We’re very different and it’s nice for us to have our own thing. We do, do the same (job) but she definitely led the way. I don’t know if I would have started if she hadn’t because I played her at a younger age when I was little. Whatever big sister does, little sister wants to follow so I owe it to her for that, for opening the doors in a way. But we never read each other’s scripts or anything but it’s nice because I can just sit back and watch a movie (she’s in) with an audience and experience it. It’s fun.
Kidzworld: Do you guys cheer each other up?
- Elle: Oh yeah. We’re very supportive in that way. Hopefully, she’ll come to the premiere. She doesn’t even know the story yet.
Kidzworld: Angelina is a mother in real life. Did she become a surrogate mother to you on set or what was your relationship like with her?
- Elle: I was incredibly nervous to get to meet her. You hear that name and it’s the most powerful name ever. To get to actually meet her in the flesh, I don’t know what I was expecting. You see pictures of her and she looks so intense so I’m like “Oh, gosh I think she’s going to be really intense”. So, when I met her for the first time, I didn’t know I was going to meet her that day and everyone was saying “She’s here”. The knot in my stomach was getting bigger and I turned the corner and there she was not in the outfit, thank God. That would have been terrifying. But, she was in normal clothes and we’re both huggers so we immediately gave each other a giant hug and she shook my shoulders and she said “We’re going to have so much fun working together” and it was like the nervousness kind of went away.
- I’m like “Well, she’s still powerful when she walks into a room”. She has that presence but I got to know a more sensitive side to her when her kids were always on set and she was really playful and joked around. It was nice to have her not be Angelia Jolie. People on set were calling her “Angie” and I’m like “No!” I can’t bring myself to do that. I still call her Angelina.
Kidzworld: When Aurora first sees Prince Phillip (played by Aussie Brenton Thwaites) it’s kind of weird, right?
- Elle: I know, right? It’s even more ridiculous because it’s so exaggerated that Aurora, my character, sheltered in the little cottage, in that little bubble, when she first sees the prince charming, she’s never seen a man in her life! So it’s even more crazy that the first one she sees is the prince. But obviously, it is a fairy tale and kind of iconic in the original when she meets him for the first time and so we wanted to recreate that. I think the iconic scenes that are in the Disney animated film we wanted to keep those because there’s so much more in this movie that’s not in the other one, so many twists.
Kidzworld: You seem to be starting a trend stepping into iconic stories; The Nutcracker and now this. What is it about these fairy tales that appeals to you?
- Elle: I loved fairy tales growing up. My mother would read Mother Goose and all the nursery rhymes. Because it’s so universal and everybody knows the story, I think it’s kind of a safe thing in a weird way because the story is already accepted. But, it’s always exciting to retell it in your own personal way. There are definitely twists here that are very different from the original and there is just more added.
- When you see Maleficent on screen in the animated movie, she’s the villain and she’s pure bad and that’s all she is. But, no one is pure bad or pure good. Something had to push them to make them this angry. I think there are a lot of questions when you watch that (original Disney) one. I think ours answers those questions and you find out why she’s so like this. She’s misunderstood.
Kidzworld: What’s your life like now? How will it change after the premiere of this movie? Can you walk on the streets without being called out by a fan?
- Elle: I used to get recognized as my sister when I was little all the time. Then I did Somewhere, and that changed a little bit, and people recognized me for Elle. The other day, because I guess a lot of trailers (for the movie) are coming out, a girl came up to me and said, “Are you Aurora?” I’m like, “Ohhh! Am I Aurora?” I’m still processing I’m Sleeping Beauty too so as a fan myself, I was like, “Man, that’s going to start happening more.” So I’m kind of expecting that, which will be fun. It will be really cute.
Kidzworld: You now have a doll that looks like you. How cool is that?
- Elle: (Laughing) It’s the coolest thing. My grandma went to the Disney Store and was hoarding all the dolls. She had a huge bunch of them and she went to the register, they said, “You can only take five.” It’s so weird to see myself in that way. But I think it’s a good doll. Sometimes, they’re kind of “Whoaa!” But this one is good.
Kidzworld: What was the toughest scene for you to do?
- Elle: There were a few. The mud fight scene, even though it was a tiny scene, it was very technical. I look like an insane person because I’m doing a mud fight with creatures that aren’t there so I have to know how tall they are to aim at them and know where they’re going to be placed. It kind of became a game trying to hit the bull’s eye.
- Another scene was one of my favorite ones to shoot because I felt the most attached to it, was when I prick my finger on the spindle, because as a little girl, Maleficent didn’t scare me as much as that scene scared me so that was huge. You’ve seen Aurora jumping around and being bubbly and then she goes into a trance and it’s like what’s happening to Sleeping Beauty? It looks like she’s changing into Maleficent with the purple and green light, because those are Maleficent’s colors. And so, I wanted to make sure that we had the lights there so it could feel like (the original), because I think it was done perfectly (in that animated) movie.
Kidzworld: There’s a scene where you’re floating. How did they do that with your hair?
- Elle: We kind of did a couple different floating things. At first they had to make a cast of my body so I would fit into a rig, and then they put me up. It was like three days, dedicated to floating. So they put me up on this green pole and then they put me in this green cast. Once you’re in there, you’re high up, and they would move you around. You’d be up there for like an hour. You just had to zone out. But the hair, I’d be leaning back on a green board, and they’d spread my hair out, so they could erase the green away (in post production). It looks so cool. It looks like water.
Kidzworld: Were the special effects in general, hard for you to do?
- Elle: This movie is the most special effects heavy that I’ve ever done, especially with (director) Rob (Stromberg) coming from Avatar and kind of his take on things. Whenever you have a hair change or a wardrobe change you have to stand on this turntable and they’d turn you inch by inch, you have to stand there like you can't move and they take all these pictures with your face in funny positions and basically they make a computer virtual you out of that. And I have no idea how any of it works but you do have to use your imagination. You don’t want to get too wrapped up in the technical bits of it because you’re trying to accomplish being your character the best you can instead of worrying about where things are. The special effects people put in all these characters and if the actor doesn’t believe that they are really around, you can lose it when you are looking at little tennis balls as creatures.
Kidzworld: What about the sleeping scenes? Did you really go to sleep?
- Elle: Some days I’d go in and I get dressed, put on everything and just sleep the entire day. It was so nice. Yeah, it was so funny. But then it’s like you can't really act. One time I did fall asleep laying there and it was so scary because you’re there and then that could be so bad because you can mess up the scene if you start moving in your sleep so it’s kind of hard because you had to fight yourself not to fall asleep.
Kidzworld: Did you have input into Aurora’s look?
- Elle: During rehearsal time, we had a lot of costume fittings and hair consultations. She wears a lot of peasant dresses. The spectacular dress is kind of at the end. The shape, everything was fit specifically (for me) and were obviously hand-made. All the materials could not be washed so it was like, great, I smelled! (She laughs.) It was like a special fabric, and the wig, I had princess hair, and all the style. I love clothes and all that so I had to have some say.
Kidzworld: What’s your next dream role?
- Elle: I don’t know. Something tougher, not so sweet. I think that would be very cool. People look at you and are like, “Oh, you have blond hair and blue eyes.” It’s like she’s sweet. So maybe something a little different.
Kidzworld: Maybe with Dakota?
- Elle: I’d love that.
Maleficent is in theaters May 30th!