Over the last couple of years, Elle Fanning has started to steal the thunder from her older sister Dakota - with solid performances in such artsy auteur efforts by Sofia Coppola (Somewhere) and her father Francis Ford Coppola (Twixt), along with her attention-grabbing turn in J.J. Abrams' Super 8 (we'll pretend The Nutcracker in 3D didn't happen - like most people already do).
Twitch says that Fanning has now entered talks to play one of the more iconic fairy tale princesses around (Sleeping Beauty) in Maleficent, Disney's upcoming post-modern deconstruction of Princess Aurora's story - which tells the tale from the perspective of the titular sorceress, as will be brought to life by Angelina Jolie.
As mentioned before, Fanning is quickly becoming one of the more respected underage actresses around, so she should be a welcomed addition to the Maleficent cast (assuming she signs on). It's also an interesting bit of age-appropriate casting, as most variations on the Sleeping Beauty story see the eponymous princess fall into her deep slumber after turning 16 - whereas Fanning turns 14 next month.
This casting tidbit is also a good indicator that Maleficent won't reuse the model for this year's dual Snow White films (Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman) wherein the re-imagined version of the story's female villain plays second fiddle to a young adult princess who comes into her own as an grown woman. Rather, the Disney flick will take a Wicked-style approach - by focusing foremost on the fable's antagonist as someone with a more complex motivation, while Aurora serves as the youthful and more innocent foil to Jolie as the emotionally-hardened Maleficent.
Jolie has said that Maleficent is (at last) the next acting vehicle on her to-do list, with the indication being that production on the screenplay penned by Linda Woolverton (Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King) will commence before 2012 draws to a close. Disney also recruited an untested director in the form of Oscar-winning production designer Robert Stromberg (Avatar, Alice in Wonderland) earlier this year, suggesting the Mouse House does indeed want the ball on this project to start rolling soon.
Woolverton's script long had Tim Burton attached to direct, and Disney also eyed critically-acclaimed directors like Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) and David O. Russell (The Fighter) for the job, before hiring on Stromberg. That alone suggests Woolverton's Maleficent screenplay may have something interesting to offer - and if people like Jolie and Fanning are starring, the film could feature some narrative substance and good acting to go along with the visual eye candy (insert Jolie pun) that Stromberg will undoubtedly serve up.
We will continue to keep you posted on the status of Maleficent as more information is released.