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Elle Fanning: ‘We need to teach young girls to own their power’

Elle Fanning: ‘We need to teach young girls to own their power’

Elle Fanning stars as Catherine the Great in the upcoming series, The Great. The 21-year-old California-born actress talks about the notorious Empress of Russia, and the legend that follows her (that she died trying to have intercourse with a horse!). Not only has Fanning become a fashion icon, she is a positive role model with wise words for young girls on power, sex and love.

Elle Fanning: ‘We need to teach young girls to own their power’

Your version of Catherine the Great is very empowering for women.

Yes, she really does symbolise female empowerment and she brought female education to Russia. Her whole reign (from 1762 to 1796) was during the Enlightenment. I was not someone that was super, super familiar with her, to be honest. I mean, she’s famous for having sex with a horse, that’s what people know her for! (laughs).

That would have been an interesting scene for you to shoot

(laughs) Well, we do allude to it because that’s the kind of show we are! (laughs)

You shot the series in London – how much of a Londoner are you?

Yes, I am a super Londoner. I stay pretty central normally and I like that part of town. I go on the Tube.

Do people react?

Well, I see that people have taken pictures of me on the Tube, funny enough. But it’s the only way you can get around there. Traffic is brutal. I also shot Maleficent in London so I feel very much at home there.

Do you have an apartment there?

Yes, I have an apartment and it’s close to a Whole Foods. I go to Whole Foods every single day, and I overheard someone whispering about me, saying, ‘She comes here every single day, and I’m super weirded out by it!’ (laughs)

You’ve played in a lot of costume dramas – why do you think that is?

Well, people always tell me that I have a very period face (laughs). I’ve heard that my whole life. I guess it’s a good thing. I’ve been in a lot of corsets in films and been transported to different eras. Actually, I hardly ever play modern day women. But I would not have enjoyed that era with corsets. It took too long for women just to get dressed.

Catherine exuded power. What’s your relationship with that word?

I think we need to make sure we teach young girls to own their power, that’s something that is very important to me. And that’s something that I felt at a very young age because I was taught: You are powerful, and you can succeed if you own it. If you own it, you can’t get knocked down by people.

So, thankfully you didn’t need to have a love scene with a horse, but you do have some pretty comical/awful sex scenes with Nicholas Hoult (who plays her husband, Peter the Great).

Yeah, completely! And I think Nick is such an amazing partner. We are such close friends and we feel so safe with each other that we actually get to have a really good time. In between takes, we will burst out laughing and we have to control ourselves with these outrageous scenes sometimes. But sex was a huge part of the real Catherine’s life. She notoriously loved sex, she was extremely comfortable with her body, and we show that side of Catherine. From the very start we learn of her sexual desires and we see her gaining that confidence sexually.

She has affairs with other men as well.

Yes, she’s actually gifted a lover from her husband (laughs).

Are you a romantic?

I would classify myself as a very romantic person. I love surprises, I love that feeling of getting someone a present that you really know that they’re going to love and seeing their reaction. I am a hopeless romantic in that way. It’s important! Guys need to know that!

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