Elle Fanning, 18, who stars in Neon Demon as the most envied model in the fashion world, is the younger sister of actress Dakota Fanning. She began her career at the age of 13 when she starred in Super 8. Since then we’ve seen her in such movies as Somewhere, We Bought a Zoo, and Maleficent, opposite Angelina Jolie.
Today, the award-winning actress is in LA to promote Neon Demon which premiered in Australia last week at the Melbourne Film Festival. Tall and graceful Elle is perfectly cast as the ultimate model.
Apparently you just graduated high school?
Yes. I just turned 18 and I graduated high school recently so just before the L.A. premiere for Neon Demon, I was in my cap and gown graduating. But it was also my senior prom night in LA so I had to miss it but my friend, who would have gone with me, came to the Cannes Film Festival instead and so we had our prom night in France (giggles) so it was like, ‘Whoa! What could be better than that!?
You were able to attend a regular school?
Yes. Luckily, I did get to go to regular high school but before that I was home schooled by my grandma (who lives with us) but I realised, ‘I don’t have any friends!’ When you’re home schooled you’re alone. And when I was in school I was doing auditions and movies but I looked at is as an extra-curricular activity in the same way my friends had soccer practice.
In the movie you play a model who’s regarded as the ‘most beautiful’. The director told me when he met you, he asked you if you thought you were beautiful, and you said yes. Not everyone can be so bold and confident within themselves, it is a great attribute.
(she blushes). “Well, he asked, ‘Do you think you’re beautiful?’ and I’m like ‘Oh!’ I was so uncomfortable. I was giggling and nervous because that’s such a taboo thing to say. Beauty is a very uncomfortable subject for people and that’s why I consider the movie a horror film. It makes you uneasy. I kind of laughed when he asked me, I was uncomfortable but then I said yes. I think in that moment we actually realised what the movie was about. There’s a fine line between growing up, realising you’re beautiful, realising you’re a woman and the scary downfall of narcissism.
Our world has an obsession with beauty…
Yes. There’s a huge obsession with it. I just got a public Instagram. I was always actually kind of scared of social media. I never had a Facebook or Twitter anything and then I on my 18th birthday I was like ‘Oh, maybe I’ll just turn it public.’
How is it going?
It’s an interesting world. What’s so scary are these images that we see on computers that are retouched. My friends have apps that make you look skinny or make your skin perfect so you’re seeing those photos that are essentially dead photographs. That’s what Instagram is. We’re looking at those photos that aren’t real and that is becoming kind of the ultimate beauty. That’s scary so when we see a real person or we’re looking at the outside world, real flesh doesn’t seem as beautiful as these images. So I think it’s pretty scary.
When do you feel the most beautiful? In a T-Shirt and Jeans? Or in a gown?
I love dressing up so probably if I’m in a big dress because you don’t get to do that all the time so it’s a special moment when you get to dress up and you feel kind of like a princess so that’s when I feel pretty.
Some of your peers are already using botox and anti-ageing procedures. What is your opinion on that?
(laughs) Oh, I am not. I’ve definitely not done any of that. I know it’s very important to take care of your skin. My mum always says, ‘Don’t wear any make-up. Your skin is so pretty.’ I wash my face at night so I’m like very healthy about my skin but not in a needles kind of way, no.
You graduated with another actress, Ariel Winter, from Modern Family. Do the two of have much in common?
(Laughs) Our class is a very small class. It’s only like 150 students so everyone, I mean, we all know everybody. She came in around 10th grade or 9th grade and it was nice because I think that her and I were the only ones that are actresses, in at least in our grade. Yeah, it was good to have someone else there that kind of understood what it was like to because she would be away a lot as well and filming her show and then I would be off doing films, so that was cool. She’s super nice. Yeah, it was great having her there, and we graduated together.
Now that you’re 18, you can vote!
I’m definitely going to vote for Hillary (laughs). I don’t think that’s a question. We’re not such a huge political family but you get to kind of have your side of things and my friends are all talking about it and you can talk about it together so it’s exciting. You feel like you’re part of something. You get to have your say so I definitely will vote for sure.
What else has happened since turning 18?
I just got a credit card. I haven’t used it yet because now that I’m 18 that was my big gift from my parents. My mum sat me down and explained everything to me. I haven’t even used it so I have to think about what will my first purchase be on it. Probably like a dinner or something boring, you know, just to use it will be exciting. I’ve never splurged on anything. Maybe a gift for my sister or something like that, you know, but nothing insane.
Did you ever fantasise about being a model when you were younger?
I did. I grew 7 inches when I was 12 so I was always tall (I’m 5 ‘9”) so then it was like, ‘Oh, maybe modeling.’ I enjoyed dressing up around the house. I’ve never walked in a show but I watched one when I was 13 for the first time. I love fashion and being on photo shoots.
In Hollywood you’re surrounded by narcissists. How do you deal with it?
You have a sense of humour about it. We’re in the world of selfies. And I totally take selfies. It’s that culture but there’s a line when people go too far. It’s a part of the world so you accept it.