Dakota Fanning

The Exclusive Interview

Dakota Fanning may be eleven years old, but her peers, mostly actors twice her age or older, and anyone who has met her, know her to be more of a young lady than a little girl. And if Dakota has her way, she is on her way to becoming this generation’s Jodie Foster.

“I really want to direct,” says Fanning, matter-of-factly when I ask her about her long-term Hollywood ambitions.

Born February 23, 1994, Dakota Fanning has appeared in more than five times as many theatrical movies than Jodie Foster did in her first eleven years of life. And for the most part, Fanning’s films have all opened at #1 at the box office and/or on DVD; “I am Sam,” “Uptown Girls,” “The Cat In the Hat,” “Sweet Home Alabama,” “Man on Fire,” “Hide & Seek,” and her biggest movie to date, “The War of the Worlds.”

It was for “The War of the Worlds,” that I first sat with Fanning in a suite at The Essex House hotel, overlooking Central Park South. And she had no inhibitions about being interviewed countless times during a weekend of endless publicity for that film.

“The best part of making ‘War of the Worlds’ was being able to work with both Steven Spielberg and Tom Cruise,” reveals Fanning, a true diplomat. “The second best thing was being able to scream at the top of my lungs for most of the movie.” And when I ask Fanning if in fact her shrieks were enhanced at all in the film, she gives a demonstration that undoubtedly was heard clear across Central Park.

At the time, she had already finished filming “Dreamer” and next summer’s “Charlotte’s Web,” and planned on spending her summer vacationing with her family in Hawaii, including little sister Elle, who appeared as Jeff Bridges’ daughter in “The Door In the Floor.”

I sat with Fanning a second time, a week before “Dreamer” opened, and this time, again, she was on a whirlwind publicity campaign, traveling from Phoenix, Arizona, where I sat with her, all the way to New York City, stopping in various cities, in a span of eight days – and then flying back to Los Angeles to appear with Jay Leno on his “The Tonight Show,” just in time for the “Dreamer” release. (“Dreamer” opened this past weekend at #2, just behind “Doom.”)

Fanning is quick to point out that “Dreamer,” which is inspired by a true story, is based on the life of a little boy. “My name is Cale in the movie,” she laughs, “just like his is in real life.” She had no qualms about playing a tomboyish character intent on getting her injured race horse back in form in order to compete in the Kentucky Derby.

“Working with Kurt Russell was so great. He was like a father to me on and off the set,” she exclaims. “And when we finished shooting the film he gave me my very own horse. I named it Goldie, even though it is a boy, after [Goldie Hawn, Kurt’s longtime significant other].

“And I paint his hooves with pink nail polish, and he has a pink saddle, and all of the brushes I use on him are pink, too,” she laughs, uproariously, just as any kid would.

While Fanning may be the one-in-a-billion child actors, let no one be fooled. Unlike other movie stars, with stage parents, Fanning, and her sister, too, are only doing this because they demanded to do it, and would have settled for nothing else.

And while Fanning is grounded and involved in many activities one would associate with a girl her age – collecting seashells and Madame Alexander dolls – she is also ten steps ahead of most her age. “I see all of my movies, even the R-rated ones,” she says, nonchalantly. “I wasn’t scared at all watching ‘Hide & Seek,'” she reveals, about the movie in which she co-starred with two-time Academy Award winning actor Robert DeNiro. “And I loved ‘Man On Fire,'” she exclaims, about the movie she starred in opposite two-time Academy Award winner Denzel Washington.

In addition to the current hit “Dreamer,” Fanning can be seen in “Nine Lives,” opposite Glenn Close,” which is in limited release and on its way to a wider release later this month.

And next summer, look for an update from us, as we talk to Fanning about her next movie, “Charlotte’s Web,” in which she plays the beloved Fern. “And no, I didn’t dye my hair red, for that movie,” she laughs. “But I did have my hair in pig tails for most of the movie.”