Meet the young star who will soon steal you heart away in Sofia Coppola’s Somewhere, the lovely and poised, Elle Fanning. Though it’s easy to compare her with her sister because much like Dakota she’s extremely beautiful and talented, she’s very much her own spirit. Her role in Coppola’s film will no doubt put her on the map — which is a good thing because she’s got a hell of a line-up of films ahead of her.
Find out how she keeps it all together and lives as much of a normal life as possible while being a part of a very Hollywood family and making a very Hollywood film…
Your character had to be good at two things, cooking and ice-skating, were you good at both of those already?
Yes, I’ve always loved cooking. So that sort of came naturally, but the ice skating I really had to work on. I’d done ballet before, so the posture and the grace sort of helped. But I’ve never figure skated or done any spins or jumps on ice or anything. So I had to train for about three months with these two trainers and I got up every morning before school at about 5, and I went after school to the rink as well.
Once I got a little better Sofia came and watched me and picked out a song she wanted me to dance to. So she worked with the choreographer to get the feeling of it. I learned the whole routine, which took a while, and after it neither Sophia or Steven saw me ice skate until that day. Everyone was in the stands, the whole crew, and they were clapping and it felt really good. I wasn’t the best, but I think it was a perfect amount. It was fun.
We heard and you and Stephen have a lot in common?
It was weird because one day we named about 20 things that we had in common off our fingers. We both went to the same school, we’re both from Georgia, we both bite our nails. We both like things crispy and well done – our food. So we just went on and on one day, it carried on to the next day!
What was the process for you to get the role?
When I first met Sofia, I didn’t know anything about the script or anything. I just met her and she wanted to get to know me. It was a really long time until I saw her again so I thought, “Oh I didn’t get the part” – I was sort of bummed out. And then she called me back and told me to come and read some lines at the Chateau, I guess she wanted to see our bond together. Once she saw us do the lines and things we started filming the movie and did all the rehearsal stuff.
How did you and Stephen prep your relationship:
We did a lot of stuff. Sofia wanted us to really get to know each other. She sort of scheduled things she wanted us to do. He came and picked me up from school one day and we went to Pinkberry, this frozen yogurt place. After that I took him to this one pottery store where you can make your own pottery – Color Me Mine. He made an ashtray, of course, and he drew a cigarette on there with smoke coming out. He wasn’t really quite sure how to do it, I was like “you have to paint everything or it won’t glaze over when they burn it.” And then I did a soap dish with an ice skate on it and I put “Cleo” on it. And we both made this wine glass that said Somewhere and we gave it to Sofia at the end, which was fun. When we went to pick up the glaze version, his turned out really good! He put all these multi-colors on it but it just turned out all orange.
What was it like filming at such a famous location in LA like the Chateau?
The Chateau is really close to my house so I just got up in the morning and went over there and spent the whole day there basically. Beforehand we did a lot of rehearsals at the Chateau because our characters really had to know it well. Before the movie and the rehearsal stuff I’d never really been there that much – but of course I’d heard of it. It’s this really iconic place. Mostly I just knew it was the hotel where Marylin Monroe stayed, because I’m obsessed with her, I love her! So, that’s basically he only thing I knew about it. Then we found out a lot of secrets. You know the ping pong area with the bushes around it? If you look in the bushes and really search there are ping pong paddles and ping pong balls stuck in there so people can come and know where they hid them and grab them so they’ll always have them. We were always rummaging through the bushes.
What was one of the craziest moments at the Chateau?
We were there, like, every day. Let’s see. I don’t know if there was anything super crazy as extreme as the movie. Steven stayed there during the whole movie but I think it gets way wilder in the night time, I wasn’t there during that period.
Is the place very cliched Hollywood?
When you come off the elevator there are people hanging out in their sun glasses and high heels. The Chateau is sort of like the third character in the movie, it’s so alive, like a real person.
Feel like Eloise?
Yeah, because we were, like, going everywhere. Running through the halls. Also, the elevator there is so slow. It’s the slowest thing ever! So we always took the stairs. We had races up the stairs to the 5th floor where our hotel room was.
Working and Learning With Hollywood Legends:
You have a movie coming up with Sofia’s father Francis, right?
Right now I’m doing two movies, one’s called Super 8 with J.J. Abrams, the next one is Twix Now And Sunrise which is with Francis. In February I’m doing another movie called We Bought A Zoo with Cameron Crowe – we’re almost done with Super 8, it’s very secretive. There are kids in it. I can’t really say anything, we just filmed in West Virginia and then we came back and now we’re filming more in LA, we wrap the 16th. He has kids so he’s really good with knowing everything. It’s cool to go to Sofia’s set which is so calm and sort of small and J .J’s set is so big with explosion and things like that.
Are Francis and Sofia similar?
I can see where Sofia gets all her talent. He’s such a legend, it’s so weird to be actually looking at him. At the same time he’s just this Italian guy. His set is as calm but his voice is much louder than Sofia’s.
Have they taught you secrets or told you any cautionary tales on growing up in Hollywood? Does the Coppola family help shield you from it?
I feel like I know people who went through that and I think Sofia sort of based in on that. I do my normal thing and go off and do movies so I’m not so involved. Like, Johnny in the movie, he only has his movies and that’s it. He doesn’t really have another life. I feel like you should have another place to sort of go off to.
As you get older are you going to try to maintain a separate life?
For sure. I feel like my family will really help me with that because they really care about me. Johnny doesn’t really have anyone who cares about him.
“Film family” come together then splits apart – have you stayed connected?
Right after the movie ended we were so sad. You always feel like you’re never going to see them ever again. But then we went to Venice together, we were all reunited, some of the crew came. Then Steven called me and said “We won the Golden Lion!” That was great. Me and Sofia e-mail a lot, we keep in touch and I talk to her kids and her daughters and stuff. We’ve really kept together in this one. And now we’re doing all this, it’s good, I do see them.
What’s it like going to school at Campbell Hall?
It’s fun, I just started 7th grade, it’s on a hill our school. Elementary is on the lower grade then you move up on the hill and you’re in middle school then you move up and you’re in high school. So we’ve moved up on the hill! It’s fun to, just, sort of be normal and go to regular school. That’s something that my parents and me and my sister really wanted. It’s good that we have that. My school is really good, they let me leave and bring my work with me so I can do it on set and keep up with my classmates.
Do you have a lot of fans at school?
Yeah, I was home schooled up until third grade. Once my sister went to high school in 9th grade, I went to fourth grade. Then it was, like, everyone was really excited. I think they were mostly excited because I was the first girl that’s ever come into that grade – they always had boys come in – I was one of the first girls. I think they were mostly excited about that, the girls had another girl! It’s really great to have that. The schools in LA are used to having people in the industry.
Does Dakota help you in school? Do you fight?
We definitely do get in arguments – I guess every sister does. It’s a thing. You have to. She hates me when I wear her clothes, it’s the worst thing ever. We’re about the same size. I’m two inches taller than her – but I still can wear her clothes and she hates it!
When do you have time to have fun?
It was good because Somewhere was sort of filmed in the summer so I got to go to school all year. If I have any free time, I love ballet, normally if I’m not doing a movie I’d go 5 days a week ballet lessons. I love staying busy. For a while, I wasn’t really doing much and now everything’s happening.
In February, we haven’t really started it yet, it’s called We Bought A Zoo with Cameron Crowe. They are all Super 8 kind of things – it’s based on a true story. There’s going to be a lot of animals in it. I think in January we start doing the rehearsal with the animals because they have to get to know us. Like, tigers and lions and flamingos and stuff.
Check out Elle Fanning in Somewhere this Friday, December 24th in theaters!