More often than not, the term “child star” provokes a feeling of unease, as we’ve been reminded far too often of the negative impact a life in the spotlight can have on a young person.
But for every child star who’s come out worse for the wear, there have been those who have emerged relatively well-adjusted despite their extremely unorthodox upbringings.
Both Dakota and Elle Fanning broke into the business before they had even started to lose their baby teeth (more on that later), and they have remained in the public eye ever since.
After receiving early critical acclaim for their performances in such films as I Am Sam, Super 8, and War of the Worlds, the sisters have branched out into the modeling world, posing for some of the flashiest brands around, including Marc Jacobs and Tiffany & Co.
Throughout their lengthy careers, the two sisters have largely managed to stay out of the tabloid headlines, and they continue to present themselves as two highly-intelligent and down-to-earth individuals. But in Hollywood, it’s near impossible to not get caught up in at least some kind of controversy now and again.
Here are 17 Dark Secrets No One Knew About Elle And Dakota Fanning.
17 Dakota dated a much older man
Notable age differences are far from uncommon in Hollywood relationships, but in many cases, they can spell trouble.
While that may not have exactly been the case for Dakota Fanning, the actress did previously date model Jamie Strachan, who was 13 years her senior. Though Strachan isn't as well-known as Fanning, the U.K. model has worked with some of the biggest names in his industry, including Gucci, Michael Kors, and Kelvin Klein.
The two were first spotted holding hands in New York City in 2013 when Fanning was only 19-years-old and Strachan was 32 — a pretty significant age difference for someone who’s still a teenager.
However, the two ended up calling it quits in 2016, and Fanning currently appears to be dating Henry Frye, a former college basketball player from the University of Vermont.
16 Elle drew backlash from the LGBT community for one of her roles
In 2015, Elle Fanning starred in the family drama 3 Generations alongside Naomi Watts and Susan Sarandon. Here, Fanning plays Ray, a 16-year-old who wants to transition from female to male but must first receive legal consent from his biological father.
However, despite the film’s efforts to highlight the adversity that transgender individuals face, 3 Generations ultimately received backlash from the trans community for once again casting a cisgender actor in the role of a transgender character.
This has been an ongoing problem in Hollywood that dates back to films including Boys Don’t Cry and has continued in more recent projects like The Danish Girl and Transparent.
While the director of 3 Generations did acknowledge the controversy over casting Elle Fanning and the need to make trans actors more prominent in Hollywood, she maintained that she wasn’t in a position to single-handedly fix the entire system.
15 Dakota has a secret Instagram for creeping on people
As far as most celebrities her age go, Dakota Fanning seems to have a relatively laid-back approach when it comes to her social media presence. The actress hopped on the Instagram train late — joining in 2016 — and despite over 2 million followers, she has only posted approximately 200 photos in the last couple of years.
However, during a recent interview on Late Night with Seth Meyer to promote her new show, The Alienist, Dakota revealed that she also has a secret Instagram account that’s hidden from the public eye.
Fanning was understandably reluctant to disclose her exact reasons behind the secondary account, though she did let slip that she uses it to suss out if people have been lying to her — which might not be quite as useful now that the secret is out.
14 The story behind Dakota and Kristen Stewart’s on-screen kiss
After starring in four films together, Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning have developed a friendship that has extended beyond the screen, which might have made it a little awkward when the two were required to lock lips in a scene from their 2010 film The Runaways.
In the film, Stewart and Fanning star as real-life rockers Joan Jett and Cherie Currie who front-lined the all-female band The Runaways throughout the 1970s. The film also touched upon the romantic relationship between Jett and Currie, which meant the two actresses would share a passionate on-screen kiss.
However, things were slightly more complicated since Fanning was underage at the time. Stewart told Access Hollywood that “I wasn’t allowed to grope her,” hinting that the law may have prohibited this scene from being as passionate as the filmmakers would have wished.
13 Nicholas Winding Refn’s weird reason for casting Elle in The Neon Demon
Ever since writer/director Nicholas Winding Refn wowed audiences with 2011's Drive, plenty of A-listers have wanted to team up with the eccentric Danish filmmakers, which happened for Elle Fanning in Refn’s latest feature.
The Neon Demon is set within the fashion industry and follows up-and-comer Jesse (Fanning) as she is preyed upon by the older models who are jealous of her youth.
The Neon Demon divided critics, with many turned-off by grotesque scenes of violence. Possibly even creepier than the story itself is the reason Refn gave for casting Fanning, saying that it allowed him to “live out my perverse dream of being a 16-year-old-girl, which I think every man has inside of him.”
Speak for yourself, Refn.
12 Dakota’s earlier films weren’t exactly kid-friendly
During Dakota Fanning’s childhood, the actress starred in plenty of R-rated features that would be highly inappropriate for a viewer her age.
These films included Tomcats, Trapped, Hide and Seek, Hounddog (more on that later), and Man on Fire, where Fanning appeared opposite Denzel Washington.
In Man on Fire, Fanning played nine-year-old Pita, the daughter of a wealthy Mexican businessman who is kidnapped and held for ransom despite the highly-trained bodyguard (Washington) who was assigned to protector her. A gruesome tale of revenge ensues, in which Washington's character takes down anyone who took part in Pita’s kidnapping.
Considering how movies are made, it’s hard to know how much adult content Fanning was exposed to on set, though one would only hope that Fannings’ parents waiting a number of years before they let their daughter watch many of these movies in their entirety.
11 Dakota appeared in a banned perfume ad
In 2011, a then 17-year-old Dakota Fanning appeared in an ad for the Marc Jacobs’ fragrance Oh, Lola!, which would go on to be banned in the United Kingdom.
The ad, which featured Fanning holding a large perfume bottle between her legs was declared too “provocative” in the U.K. — where their country’s Advertising Standards Authority is known for being particularly stringent.
Although the photos weren’t revealing in the slightest, some drew a comparison between the name of the fragrance and the controversial 1955 novel Lolita, which paints the underage female protagonist in an alluring light; the Advertising Standards Authority also noted that Fanning looked younger than 17.
Considering the ad itself, both Fanning and Marc Jacobs said they ended up laughing off the supposed controversy and thought that it was only creepy because of the ideas that others were projecting onto the photo.
10 Tom Cruise buys Dakota shoes for her birthdays
Dakota Fanning and Tom Cruise first appeared together in the 2005 sci-fi hit War of the Worlds, where the two shared nearly every scene together. According to Fanning, this has spawned a lifelong friendship between the two stars, which involves Cruise sending Dakota gifts every year for her birthday.
The tradition began on the set of the movie when Cruise reportedly gifted Fanning an iPod. The actress thought the gifts would eventually stop when she turned 18, but they’ve kept coming, with Fanning revealing during an interview with Andy Cohen that “It’s usually shoes.”
While Cruise may be the most polarizing figure to spoil Dakota Fanning, he’s far from the only one. Kurt Russel even went so far as to buy the young actress her own horse after appearing together in Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story.
9 The family moved to L.A. so Dakota could pursue an acting career when she was only five
You probably don’t remember exactly what you were doing at the age of five, but there’s a good chance it didn’t involve uprooting your family and moving them halfway across the country.
By all accounts, Dakota and Elle Fanning were extremely bright children who participated in ballet and community theater at an impressively young age. Dakota even learned how to read by the age of two.
Sensing their daughter's extreme potential, Dakota's parents moved the entire family from Georgia to L.A. so their five-year-old could make her big break into the industry.
Though this may be a common occurrence amongst the families of child stars, it doesn’t make it any less suprising when two adults decide to put such a heavy investment into their child. Of course, it didn't take long for the move to pay off with Dakota landed her first major role by age seven.
8 Elle started acting when she was only two
Dakota’s first paid acting gig in Los Angeles was a Tide ad before she landed guest spots on a number of hit shows, including ER and Malcolm in the Middle. But it was in 2001 that Dakota broke big with her performance in I Am Sam alongside Sean Penn.
Coincidentally, this role also played a big part in Elle’s career, as she was cast to play a younger version of her sister when she was just two years old.
This is often what happens when one child becomes a star — their other siblings ended up getting pulled into the vortex. And the younger they are, the less they have any idea of what they’re getting into.
We’ve seen plenty of child stars grow up and resent their parents for putting this burden on them. Fortunately for the Fannings, everything has seemed to work out surprisingly well for both sisters.
7 Dakota had to wear fake teeth as a child
When the Olsen twins played Michelle on Full House, the two had to wear dentures to preserve the show's continuity, as they didn’t lose the same baby teeth at the same time.
However, Dakota Fanning has had a long history of dental problems which also required her to wear fake teeth while working as a child actor.
The topic became a recurring theme in many of Dakota’s talk show interviews, where the young actress would show off how many teeth she'd recently had pulled and what kind of dental gear she was currently sporting.
As it turns out, Dakota didn’t have a particular enzyme that helps break down baby teeth, so she had to have all of them eventually pulled out by a dentist. At one point, she even had to wear headgear, which she wasn’t afraid to show off during an apperance on The Tonight Show.
6 Dakota’s acting career may have peaked too soon
Although Dakota Fanning has been working steadily since her debut, when many people think of her most notable films, they’d probably remember her performances in War of the World or Man on Fire.
In fact, Dakota’s first major acting gig in I Am Sam earned the eight-year-old a Screen Actors Guild nomination for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role — making her the youngest nominee of all time.
However, Dakota’s more recent work hasn’t been received as warmly by critics, and her last eight features have all been deemed “Rotten” on Rotten Tomatoes.
That being said, her talents as an actress haven’t seemed to diminish, but rather her ability to pick hit movies. Hopefully, this will turn around with Dakota's well-received performance in TNT's prestige drama The Alienist and the upcoming The Bell Jar.
5 Elle’s acting career has eclipsed her sister's
Though Elle has been working almost as long as her older sister, most people probably didn’t get their first real look at the actress until she was cast in J.J. Abrams’ 2011 blockbuster Super 8.
Since then, Elle has starred in a number of big hits including We Bought a Zoo, The Boxtrolls, and Maleficent — where she got to portray the classic Disney princess Sleepy Beauty opposite Angelina Jolie. She's worked twice with acclaimed director Sofia Coppola. in Somewhere and The Beguiled.
Meanwhile, Dakota’s success at the box office and amongst critics has been faltering. Aside from her supporting appearance as Jane in The Twilight Saga films, most people have probably never even heard of the number of films Dakota has most recently starred in. With Elle appearing in four feature films just last year, it looks as though the younger actress’ career has finally eclipsed her sister’s.
4 Their first names aren’t really Dakota and Elle
For those that have become familiar with the careers of Elle and Dakota Fanning over the years, finding out that their first names aren’t actually Elle and Dakota is probably just as jarring as discovering that Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen aren’t actually identical twins.
As it turns out, both Fanning sisters actually go by their middle names, making their full names Hannah Dakota Fanning and Mary Elle Fanning.
This is often the case in show business for actors who would prefer to have a more recognizable or less traditional name. When it comes to the Fanning sisters, this tradition actually stems from their mother, with Elle saying that their mother has always gone by her middle name, so the two daughters simply ended up following suit.
3 Dakota's "Hounddog" controversy
Before she was even a teenager, Dakota Fanning starred in the 2007 film Hounddog, where she played a young girl who tries to escape from her impoverished upbringing in 1960s Alabama by listening to the music of Elvis Presley.
In the film’s most controversial scene, Dakota’s character is promised a ticket to an upcoming Elvis concert by an older man. The scene quickly becomes very disturbing.
Though the scene is brief and not visually explicit, the connotations were enough to incite massive backlash toward the filmmakers. Fanning’s parents also received particular scrutiny for letting their daughter be involved in the film.
Despite Hounddog being a critical and commercial flop, Dakota has continued to defend the film, saying she believes the story could help inspire hope in someone who has experienced similar adversity in their life.
2 Elle has received backlash for working with Woody Allen
In light of the #MeToo movement, many stars have expressed regret over working with writer/director Woody Allen, who was accused of abuse by his daughter back in 1992.
Three stars from Allen’s upcoming film, A Rainy Day in New York, have already admitted it was a mistake to work with the director. In fact, Griffin Newman, Rebecca Hall, and Timothee Chalamet have also promised to donate their income from the film to help victims of abuse.
However, Elle Fanning — who plays a leading role in the movie — has continued to be silent on the issue, which has drawn criticism from those who believe Fanning, along with other leading actresses, have helped sustain the career of an alleged abuser.
Regardless, the rising controversy for Allen may already be enough to hinder A Rainy Day in New York from ever seeing the light of day.
1 They didn’t get along until recently
With Elle’s career now beginning to overshadow her sister’s, you may have suspected that sibling rivalry would be at an all-time high. However, with a four-year age gap, the two sisters actually had a harder time getting along while they were growing up.
Dakota told Marie Claire, “There are a few years when you’re both experiencing such different things; age nine and 13 — nothing in common; 12 and 16 — we didn’t know what to do with each other.”
Now that they’re both young adults, it appears as though it’s easier for them to connect.
As far as working in the same industry, both Dakota and Elle have said this isn’t a point of contention as they have drastically different ideas about what they want to do with their careers.
Which one of these Fanning secrets surprised you? Let us know in the comments!
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