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Good Girl Gone Bad


Dakota Fanning

She’s the child actor it all went right for – and whose career is still going strong, which makes her something of a rarity in Hollywood. Here, the very wise and newly candid DAKOTA FANNING talks about the pressures of growing up a superstar, embracing womanhood and working with her hero, Quentin Tarantino. Interview by JENNIFER DICKINSON

Photography Matthew SproutStyling Tracy Taylor
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ON THE DOWNSIDE OF STARTING SO YOUNG “I’ve known that I wanted to act since I was six. But I was never made to do anything. If anything, my mom was like, let’s get out of here, what’s happening? But she saw [the acting bug] in me, and believed in me, and sacrificed a whole life she thought she was going to have for me. That’s why I hate when people insinuate that I was pushed to do something. The difficult part about starting so young, which I’ve totally come to accept, is that when you grow up and become a woman, people think you’re younger. The other day, my mom, my sister [Elle] and I were in Las Vegas for my sister’s 21st birthday and somebody said, ‘Are you Dakota Fanning? You’re that child?’ And my mom was like, poor Dakota. It is what it is. It never really bothered me. But I can see how it could make you run in the opposite direction and grow up too quick and not make the best decisions because you’re trying to run away from people telling you that you’re still little.”

ON THE PERKS OF GROWING UP AROUND SUPERSTARS “I got my first iPod and cell phone from Tom Cruise when we worked together [on War of the Worlds]. I got a horse from Kurt Russell [after working with him on Dreamer]. But more than the gifts, I think people went out of their way to give me a memory. Like when I turned 10, I was making a movie with Robert De Niro and there was a whole surprise set-up in the lunchroom, with my favorite food and everyone in party hats. Even on my first film, I Am Sam, for Valentine’s Day, Michelle Pfeiffer decorated my whole trailer with pink and red balloons and little trinkets and candies, then did the same for my birthday, so that’s how I remember my seventh birthday.”

“I’ve known that I wanted to ACT since I was six. But I was never MADE to do anything. My mom saw it in me and sacrificed a LIFE she thought she was going to have for me”

ON FINALLY GETTING TO WORK WITH TARANTINO “I knew Quentin was making this film [Once Upon a Time In Hollywood] and, as a fan, I wrote him a random note. Then he asked me to audition and I ended up getting the role of Squeaky, who is a real person – and so outlandish. It was a dream come true, there’s no other way to describe it. I probably would’ve played any role but the fact that it was such a juicy and challenging one made it even more exciting. The first time I met him, he was so warm and friendly. I think you can tell how much he loves movies from afar – from his films and reading his interviews. Up close he’s like that, but tenfold. Also, his sets are no-phone zones; everyone checks in their phone beforehand. I think, for him, it’s such a privilege to make movies that the thought of looking at someone playing Candy Crush [while on set] is upsetting.”

“I put VALUE on doing things the right way and moving through life with integrity. I’m a very LOYAL person…if we’re friends, then my expectation is that it will be FOREVER. That can lead to a lot of disappointment”

ON WHY SHE BELIEVES IN FOREVER FRIENDSHIPS “I’m somebody who really puts value on doing things the right way and moving through life with integrity. That includes making sure you’re working with the right people for the right reasons. It’s important that I feel close to the people who are a part of my team, and that we actually care about one another as human beings. My publicist Robin and I have worked together since I was 13; I’m 25 now. I’m a very loyal person and I’m drawn to loyal people. I’m like that with friendships, too; if we’re friends, then my expectation is that it will be forever. I don’t know how to be any other way. That can lead to a lot of disappointment when other people don’t feel that way too. But I’m lucky – I have the best friends in the world. My group of girlfriends has been with me since ninth grade. We’ve been through so much together and have done such a great job of staying connected. My best friend’s getting married next month. She’s a couple years older than me and she’s the first one to get married. It’s like life is starting to happen to everybody. We always talked about when I get married, you’ll be at my wedding, and it’s like, well, here we are. I can’t wait for all of those milestones. I can’t wait to have kids.”

ON HOW TURNING 21 ENDED YEARS OF WORRY “Turning 21 for me was really freeing. Before that, things could be scary… I would go to a gala dinner and all the glasses would already be filled with wine and I’d hold one up for a toast and [people would say], she’s drinking wine! No, I wasn’t! Stupid little things like that. I mean, I had been to bars and clubs when somebody was having an afterparty for a premiere, but I’d never snuck in. I’d never gone anywhere I wasn’t supposed to go. I felt there was such an expectation for me not to mess up. Which could have driven me crazy, because that’s an outrageous thing to put on a younger person, who’s supposed to make mistakes. And I certainly have made mistakes, but just privately. When I turned 21, I felt like a weight had lifted; I felt more freedom to come into my own.”

“I felt there was an expectation for me not to MESS up. I have made mistakes, but privately. When I turned 21, I felt like a weight had LIFTED; I felt more freedom to come into my OWN”

ON WHY SHE WAS TERRIFIED OF DIRECTING “I lived in the same apartment in New York for seven years and, last year, I directed a short film about that with Miu Miu, as a sort of coping mechanism for preparing to leave it. I sent Mrs Prada the script. She read it and wrote me a lovely note about how she couldn’t wait [to see the finished short film]. I was so scared. It was a two-day shoot and I remember I got home at the end of the first day and looked at my boyfriend and said, ‘I do not want to go back.’ I woke up that next morning and felt like I’d drunk three bottles of wine the night before. I was riddled [with anxiety]. Then, of course, on the second day, I felt a little better and I was like, OK, if I was working for eight weeks, I can imagine each day would bring me a little more confidence. In the end, I’ve never felt more pride for something. I do want to direct a film one day. Working with my sister is a big thing, too. I would love for Elle to write something and me to direct it. We’ve always talked about that because she’s definitely more of the writer than me.”

ON LIVING THE DREAM (NOT MOVIE STARDOM, BUT STUDENT LIFE) “Going to university was something I always thought I would do, like going to a regular high school. It was never a thought not to. One day, when I have children of my own and they’re experiencing this, I want to know what they’re experiencing so I have something to add to their discussions. But, as with the high school I went to, there aren’t many options that will let you study and work at the same time, and I didn’t want to stop [working]. In the end, I chose the Gallatin School of Individualized Study in New York, which was originally created for professionals, like dancers and singers, who had a career but still wanted to go to school. You can take classes from any school at NYU. I don’t think my mom would ever have let me move to New York – which was always a dream of mine – if I wasn’t in school. Every day, my mom’s like, ‘So, when are you graduating?’ I’m almost done.”

“I definitely keep it all INSIDE until I feel comfortable. I’m actually WARY of people who are the other way. Like, you’re sharing too much and I’m worried why. That’s a RED flag”

ON LEARNING TO OPEN UP MORE “I can appear… standoffish seems too harsh. But I definitely keep it all inside until I feel comfortable. I’m actually wary of people who are the other way. Like, you’re sharing too much and I’m worried why, you barely know me and I know your entire life story. That’s a red flag. I’ve gotten better – I’ve recently wanted to share a little bit more of who I am, because I was feeling frustrated by people thinking they knew who I was. Instagram became a fun way of sharing. But it has to be authentic. I want to keep the things that I put on there real; things that I am genuinely interested in or think are funny or are about people that I really care about. I mean, me and my friends recently had a weekend together, and we didn’t take any photos or videos, and that’s how we know we had a good time. When it starts feeling like a chore to capture things or when you start to feel panicked about posting something, that’s when I have to put my phone down.”

Once Upon a Time In Hollywood is out July 26 (US); August 14 (UK)

The people featured in this story are not associated with NET-A-PORTER and do not endorse it or the products shown.