Most journalists are at a disadvantage when they interview Dakota Fanning. The reason is that the 12-year-old actress is smarter and more mature than most journalists.
Oh, she claims to be a normal kid, despite spending half her life making movies. But her giggles and her braces are part of a clever disguise. She is wise beyond her years.
For this interview, the eighthgrader is upbeat and enthusiastic, though it is estimated to be the 500th interview she’s done to promote her role in the latest film version of E.B. White’s children’s classic “Charlotte’s Web,” which opened Friday.
She plays Fern, a farm girl who rescues a pig from slaughter and raises it as a pet. The pig lives in her uncle’s barn, where it converses with a clever spider (voice of Julia Roberts), a sarcastic rat (Steve Buscemi) and a barnyard full of animals.
Away from the set, Fanning displays none of the diva attitude common among movie stars. She seems perfectly normal. But how is that possible?
From the moment the public discovered her in her 2001 breakthrough role opposite Sean Penn in “I Am Sam,” it has been obvious that she is special. And her acting ability is only slightly less amazing than how well she conducts herself in interviews.
Q: You must be tired of hearing about how smart and mature you are.
A: (blushing) Thank you.
Q: So, if you’re so smart and mature, why did you go into acting? Why didn’t you become a doctor?
A: (mouth agape) Because I love it. It’s what I want to do for the rest of my life. It’s what makes me happy, and my parents always told me to do
what makes me happy.
Q: But there are so many dumb actresses who can do this work. Don’t you think you would have made a better doctor?
A: (laughing) I could have been a doctor, but I didn’t want to be a doctor. Besides, an actress can do other things, like use her position to work for
Q: Isn’t it about time for you to receive a lifetime achievement award?
A: No, never. I don’t think you should ever receive a lifetime achievement award because I think you can keep achieving things even after you aren’t
here anymore. I think you can still teach people things after you’ve gone.
Q: So, the retirement rumors are not true?
A: I don’t want to ever retire. Q: You’ve become a role model for other young actresses. Was there someone’s career that you admired?
A: Jodie Foster. I’ve always wanted to work with her.
Q: What do you admire about her?
A: Every aspect of her — she’s an amazing person, an amazing actress and an
Q: Do you admire the way she transitioned from child star to adult star, and are you concerned about your own transition?
A: I don’t worry about getting older. I’ll be 13 in February, and to me it’s just another number. I don’t worry about the transition because there’s nothing I can do about it.
Q: You’ve worked with a lot of Oscar winners, including Denzel Washington (“Man on Fire”), Sean Penn (“I Am Sam”) and Robert De Niro (“Hide and Seek”). Is there something you’ve learned from them?
A: I try to learn something from everyone.
Q: Was there something they all had in common?
A: Not really. They’re all different people, and they were all playing different characters.
If they were playing the same character, then I would be able to see what they all had in common.
Q: Are you dating yet?
Q: If you were a real person, what grade would you be in?
A: (incredulously) If I was a real person?
Q: Sure, what grade are you in?
Q: I was dating in eighth grade. What’s wrong with you?
A: I don’t care to, really.
Q: You’re putting your love life on hold for your career?
A: That’s not true. I’m sure I’ll develop that kind of a life when I feel like it.
Q: Would you date an actor?
Q: Why do you like acting so much?
A: It gives me a chance to be different people. I can only be myself in real life but, through acting, I can see what it’s like to be other people.
Q: The last time we spoke was about “War of the Worlds,” but you were already excited about “Charlotte’s Web.” Why were you so excited?
A: Everybody’s read it at some time in their lives. It means so many different things to so many people.
Q: What does it mean to you?
A: It’s about the meaning of life and the purpose for being here.
Q: Which is?
A: Life is about doing the best we can, and being the best people we can be while we’re here.
Q: Thank you. I wasn’t sure what the meaning of life was until you explained it.
A: Did you see the movie?
Q: Yes, I did.
A: Did you cry?
Q: No, men don’t cry at movies.
A: (sarcastically) Oh, right. None of the men at the screenings were crying. They said they all had an itch near their eyes. My dad was trying to push
the tears back into his head.
Q: Do you know what people are talking about when they say you’re so mature for your age?
A: I’m just being myself. Q: Do you think you’re mature? A: I wish people could see me at home. I don’t think of myself as being very mature for my
age. I just think of myself as myself.