When she was 7-years-old, Dakota Fanning got Hollywood’s attention when she was cast in her first film, I Am Sam, alongside one of the industry’s greatest actors Sean Penn. Her career has only blossomed since her breakout performance and she has gone on to work with nothing but A-list talent, including Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro, and Denzel Washington.
Fanning, who is about to turn 15, stars in the 3D stop-motion animated adventure Coraline, opening on Friday. She talked to ComingSoon.net about her new project, how she’s actually a normal teenager and her hopes for acting.
ComingSoon.net: How long ago did you start this project?
Dakota Fanning: About five years ago. It’s been a long time.
CS: How old were you when you first started working on “Coraline”?
CS: Was it your idea to do the accent?
Fanning: That was Henry’s [Selick] idea to do the Michigan accent. [He] thought it was a good to do something that didn’t sound like me and that sounded like the character which was really cool. I think it’s good because at the beginning when we meet Coraline she’s kind of missing her friends and her family and her life back at home. So it’s kind of a reminder of where she came from.
CS: How would you describe doing a voice over for animation?
Fanning: It’s very different than what I usually do. Because I’ve worked on it for so long it’s kind of become normal. In between each movie I’ve done I’ve gone to do a session for “Coraline” and finally it’s coming out. I’m kind of going to miss that.
CS: There’s so many cool things your character does in the movie, do you ever wish it had been live action?
Fanning: Originally I was going to do a live action version of the movie and I thought it would be so neat. Then when it was going to be animated I thought, “Oh that would be fun too.” I really liked it because they could do the 3D with it. I thought that was really cool. She does do some really fun things in it.
CS: Where do you think Coraline’s confidence comes from?
Fanning: I don’t know where it comes from with Coraline. I think she just wants attention so badly and she’s kind of growing up, but yet still needs the attention like a little girl would at the same time. I think that is where a lot of children are when they’re trying to grow up. She’s kind of lonely and doesn’t get a lot of attention from her parents because they’re so busy. I think that really helps her to have her point of view of looking for something more I’m kind of bored and want something different. That leads her to take the leap and go through that door.
CS: Did you like that you were able to step away from this project and work on other films in between or was it a challenge?
Fanning: I think it definitely was a challenge, but I think it was kind of really neat at the same time to go back and re-record so it’s just you only have that one day to do it whereas live action you have as many times as you want, but one day you do that scene and then you move onto the next. For animated you can kind of do it as many times as you want. You can go back and re-record.
CS: Did your voice change at all through the process?
Fanning: Yeah Henry would see me and go, “Oh I think your voice got a little deeper.” I would have to make it a little bit higher for that session. That was one of the things about it taking such a long time. I started when I was 10-years-old and I was 14 by the time it ended.
CS: Did your affection for the story or your point of view for the film change as you got older?
Fanning: I think that when I was younger I got the message, but now I get it in kind of a bigger way. It’s not just about family and parents. It’s kind of about the world and how there’s no perfect world and we can only live with what we have. I kind of get it on a more worldly level than just a family level.
CS: The story has some dark elements to it so how were you first told about this role at such a young age?
Fanning: I read the script and then when I met with Henry, I knew it was going to be really cool and that was when it was going to be a live action film. Then we talked again when it was going to be animated and I knew that it was going to be the stop-motion animation with the 3D on top of that which I thought would be so cool and so cool to see. When I finally saw it after so many years it was so rewarding.
CS: How did you identify with the character?
Fanning: I think that we’re both kind of curious and adventuress and have never lost our curiosity as we’ve grown up. I admire that about her. She’s very brave and would do anything to save her family and I think I would do the same.
CS: If you moved to a new house would you explore it the way your character does?
Fanning: Well I haven’t moved in a long time, but now having this experience, if I moved into a new house I definitely would. When I was finishing up [the movie] I thought about if I would go through the little door and I think that I would.
CS: Did you improvise on the script?
Fanning: No, Henry Selick is very detailed and very particular. He knows exactly when you say it the right way that’s it. Then you move onto the next one.
CS: When you were younger did you have any favorite scary movies?
Fanning: “The Wizard of Oz.” At the time I thought it was so scary because the flying monkeys were the ultimate scary thing. I loved being scared when the witch came on because I thought that was such a fantasy and so amazing. I think this movie will kind of have that affect because it’s so fun and so great, but at the same time it’s a little spooky.
CS: Do you think this movie is too scary for a certain age group?
Fanning: I don’t think it’s scary. I don’t really think you can put an age limit on movies. I think it’s what kids are ready for at the time. I think sometimes people or adults underestimate kids and how much sometimes they liked to be scared and kept on the edge of their seat. I think they’ll enjoy this movie for that reason.
CS: How is it for you to watch your previous movies?
Fanning: It is kinda weird sometimes because I was so young. I was on Jay Leno the other night and they showed this clip of the first time of when I was on Jay Leno when I was like 7-years-old. I was turning red. It was crazy to see me that young. The things you say then are just so different from how you feel now. I love having [my life] documented and getting to look back at the movies to see what I was kind of like when I was younger. I think that’s great.
CS: What do you think of yourself as a young actress when you see the movies?
Fanning: I try not to judge myself when I was younger because I was still learning and growing. I know that hopefully 10 years from now I’ll still be acting and looking back at what I’m doing now to see how much I’ve learned since. I don’t judge myself. I just appreciate how much I’ve learned since then.
CS: Besides acting do you have a desire to attend college or do anything else?
Fanning: I would love to go to college. I’ve always wanted to have that experience. I think that that’s a very important thing.
CS: Are there any actresses that you aspire to have a career like or have influenced you?
Fanning: I would love to try to aspire to be Jodie Foster. I’ve always admired her. I’d love to work with her one day. She has kind of done the same thing that I hope to do when I get older. She’s a very big inspiration to me.
CS: Do you have an interest in playing a real person?
Fanning: Yeah I’ve always wanted to do that. Hopefully one day I’ll get it. I’ve also always wanted to do a period piece as well like the 1800’s or something.
CS: As a young actress, you’ve given some very powerful and emotional performances. Where did you draw those emotions from?
Fanning: I’ve never gone to an acting school. I don’t know if it has something to do with me starting young, but I don’t even say lines out loud except for when I’m in the take. When the director says, “Action,” I’m the character. When he yells, “Cut” I’m not. When I was younger it was just like playing. It was my imagination. I’d been doing it my whole life, but now there’s just cameras and I was not imagining the people anymore. They were actually there. That’s really the only difference and I’ve really tried to keep that spontaneity as I’ve gotten older.
CS: Are you going to high school?
Fanning: Yeah, a private high school.
CS: What are some fun things you do at school?
Fanning: It’s great to be able to go to school and I enjoy that. I enjoy getting up and going every morning and having that experience. When I’m working I miss that and when I’m not working I miss working so I like to have the balance of both.
CS: Do the girls at school see you as another girl and not a movie star?
Fanning: I think they realize that pretty quickly because I am just very normal. I knew that maybe some people would treat me differently, but they really didn’t. I’ve made some amazing friends and some friends that I know I’ll probably have forever. They’re really great.
Coraline opens in conventional and Digital 3D theatres on Friday, February 6.