Elle Fanning on the importance of daydreaming: ‘I can sit and just think for hours’

Lenny Kravitz seen leaving Vogue party during Haute Couture Week 2020 in Paris

Look at those beautiful doggos! So pretty. Elle Fanning covers the October issue of Vanity Fair. I remember when Dakota Fanning was, arguably, the most in-demand child actor of the day, and everyone thought Dakota would effortlessly transition to adult actress and win a million Oscars. Now her little sister is the one getting all of the juicy roles in film and television. I like both Fanning sisters, but I do think Elle ended up being the more talented sister, weirdly. She’s promoting her starring role in The Great, where she plays a young Catherine the Great to Nicholas Hoult’s Emperor Peter III. The ads make it look like a cousin to The Favourite – the same kind of absurdity-at-royal-court vibe. You can read the cover story here. Some highlights:

Spending her 22nd birthday in lockdown with her mom, grandma & sister: Her mom got her a Strawberry Shortcake-themed birthday cake. “My mom got me a Strawberry Shortcake children’s coloring book one day from the grocery store too,” she adds, then winces. “I sound like I’m five. But you know what? It’s a luxury that we’re all together and taking a breath.”

Growing up partly in Georgia: “We have very Southern values, like manners and respect for elders.”

Filming The Beguiled as her first adult film:
“I was 18 and my mom didn’t have to be on the set with me anymore, which was kind of a big moment for me. My mom knew Sofia from when I did Somewhere, and [The Beguiled costar] Kirsten Dunst is a friend of ours, so she was like, ‘Okay, I feel safe that you’re on your own with people that I know.’ Kirsten and I would have slumber parties. It was the first time I wasn’t the youngest person on set, because there were girls younger than me in the film who had their moms there, and had to go off and do math homework when they wanted to hang out with everybody, just like I used to have to do.”

On Catherine the Great’s liberated sexuality: “The real Catherine the Great was very free sexually and people put her down for that. Sex is a big part of this show, and I was excited to explore that side of the work. Personally, I love being naked. I walk around naked, like, all the time. It’s a part of life!”

The Great doesn’t just star a bunch of white people: “The people at Hulu asked us, ‘Are we being completely period-accurate with exactly what Russia would have looked like?’ We wanted to go in the opposite direction of period-accurate. Who wants to watch a boring period show with a bunch of white people? We’ve seen that, and it’s so dull.”

On BLM: “Black Lives Matter cannot be a trend. This is a movement that has to stay alive, and every day we have to commit.” She wants to focus on encouraging voter turnout in local elections, which, of course, inform the larger ones that seem more and more like life-or-death moments. “I’ve dedicated myself to learning what local officials stand for, because voting in local elections is so important.”

On day-dreaming: For all her precocity and productivity, Fanning loves to just hang out in this bedroom, following her thoughts down random rabbit holes. Daydreaming, we agree, is a waning art. “I can sit and just think for hours. My mind can go to endless odd worlds and weird places. I think it tells me that I’m in the right profession, because acting is so much about the imagination. For me, it’s the key ingredient, because it’s just hard to describe”—air quotes here—“your ‘process.’ ”

[From Vanity Fair]

Daydreaming IS important. It’s important for kids and for adults. I’ve noticed this even more as I get older and see everyone with their noses buried in their phones or iPads or whatever – people today feel the need to be constantly stimulated, constantly doing things or watching things or texting or whatever. It’s refreshing when someone can just sit in a room and daydream and let their mind wander and just *think*. As for her vibe… you can tell that she’s young, but I see where the “old soul” stuff comes in with Elle too. She seems like she goes back and forth between girlishness and eccentric grandma. She’s a sweetheart though, I love her. She’s adorable.

Cover & IG courtesy of Vanity Fair.

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10 Responses to “Elle Fanning on the importance of daydreaming: ‘I can sit and just think for hours’”

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  1. kimberlu says:

    I like her, but not all her movies….while she is good acting wise, some a few years back were pretty bad stories to tell and executed poorly. these days she seems to be picking better projects for herself.

  2. Snuffles says:

    I love to daydream as well! Perks of living alone. It’s AWESOME.

    Fun fact: Elle is a BTS fan. I know because she was sitting 2 rows in front of my during an LA show with Dylan O’Brien and Max Minghella.

  3. Myra says:

    It’s one of my favourite things to do, especially when I lived by the sea. There’s something about the breeze and the smell of the ocean that makes you want to travel the world (and create different worlds) with your mind. I’ve got quite a soft spot for Elle too, she seems so sweet.

  4. Amelia says:

    She’s excellent in The Great! It’s so compelling—funny and grim and moving all at once. Totally one of the best shows I have watched in lockdown.

  5. emu says:

    That’s awesome. I used to be able to do that. Sometimes I still can… mindfulness! imagination! put down our phones!

  6. Mabs A'Mabbin says:

    I think both sisters are talented, just in different ways. Dakota is well suited for more macabre scripts calling for emotionally reserved. Elle is more decorated. Animated and curious. As far as being in one’s own head, I wish I could take a vacation from mine. I will say, my dad used to enjoy being with me because, he said, talking wasn’t a prerequisite. The hubs and kids like it too. It’s nice to hang and simply think. I can be alone by myself, and I can be alone around others lol.

  7. ce says:

    Love seeing the daydreaming comments 😭 I daydream all the time and it’s a real positive thing, even though I often wonder if I’m crazy. Love to listen to music and zone out. The best!

  8. Venus says:

    Keanu talks about the same thing. It’s very Zen Buddhist, isn’t it? I remember her in Live By Night, which was directed by Ben Affleck. She was good but I think she might have been underage at the time and the wardrobe choices were disturbing. She went without underwear on top in some scenes and it was so obvious. I don’t know if it was Affleck’s choice but I always assumed it was. Dakota was good in Once Upon a Time.

  9. Alyse says:

    I think the fact that their parents were so involved with their time on set is one of the reasons they have grown up so well! Much luckier than many child stars.

  10. EviesMom says:

    Just 5 Huzzahs for The Great!
    I was never an Elle Fanning fan – but she is brilliant in The Great as is every other cast member. Can’t wait for the second season!