Elle Fanning on iconoclast director: We had 'psychic powers'
Actress Elle Fanning says she and The Neon Demon director had 'special' connection
In the new film The Neon Demon, Elle Fanning plays a small-town 16-year-old girl who moves to Los Angeles to enter the modelling industry, a business that has all the requisite jealousy and competitiveness to make for dramatic storytelling.
But Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn (Drive, Only God Forgives) introduces the element of horror into the mix, with plenty of chills and blood and gore to satisfy horror movie buffs.
It opens here tomorrow.
At the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills, Fanning, a lovely, shy blonde waif, is fearful of this constant obsession with beauty, especially in Hollywood.
Even though she admits she loves dressing up and toyed with the idea of being a model when she was growing up, the former US child star and fashionista tells M: "I just got a public Instagram. What's so scary is that these images that we see on computers or that are retouched. My friends have apps that make you look skinny and like you've perfect skin, so you're seeing those photos that are essentially dead photographs.
"We're looking at those photos that aren't real and that is becoming the ultimate beauty.
"In a weird way I think our film's like a cautionary tale. If you're trying to reach this perfection so much, you're going to drive yourself insane. It doesn't exist, you know."
Now 18, Fanning - who started her acting career at the age of three, playing older actress-sister Dakota's younger self in I Am Sam (2001) - hasn't stopped working since, earning notices for her roles in Super 8, Maleficent and Trumbo.
How did you get the role in The Neon Demon?
I knew Nick (Refn) and I had seen Drive and I loved his style, so I really wanted to work with him. But I thought he'll never do a movie that stars a 16-year-old girl, and then I found out that he was actually making a film that was set in the fashion world and that a 16-year-old girl was the lead. So I really wanted to be in it like, right away. And then I guess we had kind of these psychic powers because he then asked me to come meet him in Los Angeles and it was like an automatic friendship that really built and I'd never worked so closely with a director before.
What was it like working with him?
You film in chronological order so everything is in sequence and I'd never done that, but it's very helpful especially for my character because she has such a big transformation. He's constantly making up new things. Halfway through filming, he said he didn't like the ending so he changed it. We really had to trust each other because it's like a free fall as well. He doesn't really give you the answers to anything. You're left to determine it on your own. I've never been so free to create before.
Did you ever want to be a model growing up?
I did. I grew like seven inches (17.5cm) when I was 12 so I was always tall, so then it was like, "Oh, maybe modelling or something". I enjoyed dressing up and (doing) photo shoots. I went to my first fashion show when I was 13. I look at it as a creative outlet...
It's a special moment when you get to dress up so you feel kind of like a princess in a way. I feel pretty.
Are you still in high school?
I just turned 18 and graduated high school. A week before that, the day before the LA premiere for (The Neon Demon), I was in my cap and gown and graduating. A lot of milestones have happened on this movie. When I went to Cannes (for the Cannes Film Festival), it was my first time ever going and also it was my prom night and so I had to miss my senior prom. But I had my friend who was going to go with me, he came out to Cannes and so we had like prom night in Cannes. It was like "Woah, what could be better than that?".
What are your plans for the future? Maybe university?
It's definitely not something that's a complete no. I'd really like to have the experience, so we'll see. I want to direct. I've always said that. I feel like now that I'm 18, maybe doors are more open that I maybe could do that. Who knows, like a short (film) or music video. And then just continue acting.
Are you good with your money?
(Laughs) I get like a little allowance. I just got a credit card. Now that I'm 18, that was my big gift from my parents, and my mum was like sitting me down and explaining everything to me.
I haven't even used it so I have to think what will my first purchase be on it. Probably like a dinner or something boring, just to use it.