Celebrity can be a nasty beast for anybody to wrangle with, no matter how prepared one might think they are. It changes every aspect of life and once it is obtained, it becomes almost impossible to give back. While this life style takes a heavy toll on adults, the effects are felt ten fold for children who encounter fame at such a young age. Few people know what fame does to children better than Dakota and Elle Fanning.
The two sisters both started their professional careers before either of them were ten years old. Since then, the actresses have both accumulated impressive filmographies that run the gamut from kid friendly fair to hard hitting dramas. Even into their young adulthood, there are no signs of them stopping anytime soon.
For all this talk of the drastic effect fame has on young people, the Fannings themselves seem to be well adjusted adults. They generally steer clear of controversy and haven't been known to cause trouble. That's not to say, however, that their childhood doesn't harbor any interesting secrets. Some of these little known facts are tame, others are not, and some are wildly interesting. One thing they all have in common though is they show just how atypical the life of child stars can be.
So here it is, 17 Secrets Behind Dakota and Elle Fanning's Childhood.
17 They Were Not Close
It is perfectly natural for siblings to go through troubled times in their relationship. Family drama, friends, a large age difference, and invasions of privacy are all issues that can really compromise the amity between the family members. After all is said and done though, the siblings often reconcile, forging an unbreakable sibling bond.
Dakota and Elle, much like most siblings, were not close during their childhood.
This tidbit was first revealed by Dakota during a Marie Claire interview. The older Fanning sister cited their four year age gap as the principle reason for their relationship being the way it was. Additionally, the differences in their career paths made it hard for them to relate to each other. Dakota was wildly famous and revered for her childhood projects such as I am Sam, while Elle's career wasn't as notable until she got older. Fortunately, the two are said to be very close these days.
Anybody who grew up with siblings surely has gone through a similar experience with their sister or brother, especially if the age gap is around four years. The difference between ten years old and fourteen years old is staggering, but two people who are twenty and twenty four years old have much more in common and can easily support each other.
16 Their Childhood Home
It goes without saying that the two sisters brought in a sizable income for themselves and their family. That is not implying that they were being exploited, as their parents already had their own success (more on that later). It does mean, however, that they were able to live more lavishly than even the average financially successful house hold. This is particularly evident in the extravagant house the family lived in during the actress's younger days.
The enormous abode is located in Studio City and was purchased in 2003 by the Fanning family for more than a million dollars. As of 2017, the more than sixty year old house is worth almost three million dollars, ultimately making it a worthwhile investment. The whole place has a classic feel, with antiquated chandeliers hanging in almost every room.
We imagine most readers' childhood homes were not as luxurious as what the Fannings were living in. They definitely worked for the money they got and it is good to see that they reaped the benefits of their acting gigs with this fine house. Given how young they were when they first moved in, we hope that the two appreciated just how impressive a house it really was.
15 Elle Played Her Own Sister's Character
Every older sibling most likely remembers consistently being irritated by their younger relative always following them around and doing exactly what they do. Maybe some of them were honored to be admired so much that it inspired copycat behavior, but we are willing to bet that it mostly got on their nerves. In fact, it was probably a major source of contention between the two kin. Elle and Dakota were no different, but copy cat behavior for them meant portraying the same character in a movie.
On at least two occasions Elle played a younger version of Dakota character. These two instances occurred in I am Sam and the Steven Spielberg produced miniseries Taken (not to be confused with the Liam Neeson action film). This was Elle's first exposure acting and helped her establish her own career on the screen. Other than these times, the two rarely crossed paths in their professional life.
Elle has successfully avoided being accused of riding her sister's coat tails. Her first professional gigs may have come from her Dakota, but she has proven that she is her own unique talent. Besides, who among us has not gotten a job because of the people we know?
14 Those Aren't Their Real Names
There is nothing strange about name changes in show business and often times it is transparent. Everyone knows Childish Gambino is really Donald Glover, for example. Other times though, name changes are hidden for a variety of reasons. It could be to preserve the illusion that the more marketable name is in fact who the performer is. Real names can also be hidden to prevent confusion with already established performers with the same name, like how David Bowie's real name is David Jones, the same name of a member of The Monkees. The Fanning's also go by different names, but their case is a bit different than usual.
Elle and Dakota's real first names are, respectively, Mary and Hannah.
The names they go by are in fact their middle names. According to Elle this custom has nothing to do with show business and that even their mother goes by her middle name. Potentially it comes from southern culture, but the actress herself is even unsure of that.
The glory of a middle name is that there is another name to fall back on if you don't like your first name. Of course, if neither name strikes your fancy it is entirely possible to chose a new one.
13 Royalty In Their Blood
A lot of people make the claim of having royal blood and most have it somewhere inside them if they trace their lineage back far enough. Most of the time it is something boring people bring up in their vein attempts to appear interesting. In reality, there is really nothing special about having it and even direct members of the family are simply fortunate enough to be born into the clan. However, when an already fascinating celebrity has ties to royalty, it is just one more thing makes them more alluring.
As it turns out, the Fanning sisters are related to the royal family through King Edward III. This particular king resided over England for about fifty years in the middle of the fourteenth century. What's more is that this connection makes them cousins with Kate Middleton, though there's no word on whether they share the same ability to fashionably wear tiny hats.
As nice of a tidbit as this may be, it has no bearing on their actual lives or the reason for their fame. Even if they were not related to royalty they would still be as successful as they are today. Still, it must be nice to say you are kind of a princess.
12 Marilyn Monroe Obsession
Nearly everyone finds themselves enamored with a certain celebrity at least one point in their lives. Maybe it's because of their superb talents, striking looks, lifestyle philosophy, or a combination of the three. It doesn't take long for it to go from simple fascination to a little bit creepy, with some people starting to amass memorabilia related to the particular star. However, we won't judge when someone's adoration goes too far.
The younger Fanning's admiration for the iconic starlet began when she first saw The Seven Year Itch as a young child. Since then the actress has been completely taken with the Hollywood icon. She studies her interviews and has done deep research into her idol's tragic life. Of the deceased actress Elle says she was far more talented than she realized.
It's true that Marilyn Monroe was a mesmerizing presence on screen, though she's mostly remembered as a cultural icon. It seems though that Elle's adoration runs deeper than just acknowledging Monroe's influence on fashion and culture. Where ever Marilyn may be now, we hope she appreciates being adored by contemporary talents.
11 First Professional Gig
Everybody has got to start somewhere and that starting position may not always be so glamorous. Jay Z was a dealer in illegal substances before his enterprising rap career, Sting was an English teacher before becoming a rock star, and the Beastie Boys were a surprisingly great hardcore punk band before converting to hip hop. Some of these previous examples are sad while some are perfectly appropriate and reasonable first steps of an artistic evolution. Dakota Fanning got her start at six years old on a Tide commercial.
In the commercial, Dakota plays a character named Lizzy. The segment is narrated by Lizzy's mother who describes her daughter's very unique personality centered around her affinity for a specific pink dress. Just as the mother is describing the necessity of the garment, Lizzy spills what appears to be chocolate pudding all over herself. This is where Tide With Bleach Alternative comes to save the day with it's advertised ability of eliminating stains.
Even though the advert is just thirty seconds long, Dakota is heavily featured. One can only imagine the months of preparation the then six year old actress had to do to truly embody the character of Lizzy and deliver a full fledged story to audiences in just half a minute.
10 Their Parents' Careers
For child stars, the occupations of their parents plays a vital role in the way their careers develop. The earliest young performers like Jackie Coogan and Jackie Cooper all got their starts because several members of their immediate family were all involved in the business in some way. Sometimes the parents were not successful themselves, so they did what they could to exploit their own children.
Fortunately for Elle and Dakota, their mother and father's own achievements meant they did not have to worry about being taken advantage of.
The father of the Fannings, Steven, was a was minor league baseball player before going into the sales business. Their mother, Heather, was an even more accomplished athlete, having been a professional tennis player. The sports lineage goes back even further than just the parents, though. Heather's sister is a former ESPN reporter and their grandfather, Rick Arrington, played in the NFL for three seasons.
The two sisters obviously did not follow in their family's footsteps to the sports industry and cinema is happy about this. Despite this fact, it is still nice to come from a lineage of athletes. We're sure their parents aren't hugely disappointed with their current profession either.
Ask most actors and filmmakers and they will be sure to proclaim that receiving a prestigious award for their work is one of the highest honors they could possibly attain. There are a certain few who do not put a lot of value into these acknowledgements and accolades, but these detractors are few and far between. Some people wait their whole lives to receive just a nomination, and many never get it. Dakota Fanning, however, received her first acting award nomination at only seven years old.
The performance that earned her the nomination was for the daughter of Sean Penn's character in I am Sam. The Screen Actors Guild took notice of her part and gave her the nomination. This was a landmark occasion because it made her the youngest person to ever be nominated for an award by the guild. Even though she didn't win, Dakota did snag the prize for Best Young Actor/Actress Award given by the Broadcast Film Critics Association.
One cannot help but be a tad envious of Dakota to receive a nomination from such a prestigious institution when only seven years old. We just hope other actors did not get too jealous of her.
One of the best parts of most people's childhoods was the shower of gifts they would often receive for several occasions. Typically the two biggest gifting times were on one's birthday and on whichever holiday they celebrated during December or January. These times truly felt magical for kids and made them feel special. Even if they were having trouble at school or with the family, these moments would make them forget about it just for a short time. For Dakota Fanning, these gifts often came from legendary celebrities.
For starters, Kurt Russell bought her a horse after they starred together in the equestrian themed film Dreamer. Then, Robert Dinero gifted her a doll for her tenth birthday since they were co-stars in Hide and Seek. The most generous giver of all, however, has to be Tom Cruise. Since acting together in War of the Worlds, Cruise has given her a cell phone, an iPod, and reportedly still buys her shoes for her birthday.
We'd bet most of our readers were happy when their family members bought them books, video games, movies, or other various toys. It must be surreal for Dakota to know these legendary actors remember her birthday and send her nice gifts.
Certainly there are a few readers out there who have gone through the homeschooling experience for one reason or another. Sometimes a parent's job requires the family to frequently move, making home school a more convenient alternative. Other times it is a choice by the family to give their children an education inside the house instead of sending them to a school. Keeping the classroom in the house has both pros and cons, so some families opt to have the children go to a learning institution for their high school years. This is exactly what happened to both Fanning Sisters.
The two girls were educated primarily by their grandmother and homeschooling was necessary because of their jobs.
Typically it is unconventional and mostly illegal for children to have a profession, but of course acting is an exception. As stated before though, they eventually attended a regular school for the last four years. Some say that homeschooling leads to children not socially adjusting properly. This article won't argue for or against this point, but it will point out that homeschooling was not the factor that made the Fannings' childhoods unconventional. We're willing to bet that young stardom did that much more effectively.
6 Fear of Lightning
Each child has their own specific fear. A fear so strong that the mere thought of it causes them to freeze in terror. Sometimes it is a perfectly rational phobia, such as certain insects or clowns. Other times kids are scared of less seemingly frightening things like cats or birds. The terror of a particular thing often fades as people grow into adults, but it sometimes can stick with someone for their whole life, haunting them like a curse. Both of the Fannings happen to share the same phobia and it is one that is common among kids.
Astraphobia is the fear of of lightning and thunder and afflicted both Dakota and Elle in their childhoods. Anyone with the same phobia or who knows someone with it can testify to just how fearful a reaction they have to Thunderstorms. Lightning can absolutely cause irreparable damage to those it strikes, but there is no reason to be afraid if you have the appropriate shelter.
No word on if the sisters have since overcome their extreme discomfort with thunderstorms, but we certainly hope they have become a little braver in the face of mother nature. If not, at least they can always be unified in their fright.
5 Only Time Together On Screen (Sort Of)
When siblings are both famous movie stars everyone wants to see them star opposite each other in a film. The Olsen Twins spent most of their film career together and their whole allure came from the fact that they were constantly acting with one another. While not twins, Dakota and Elle's age difference makes it seem like a no brainer that they would play siblings in a movie at least once. However, there was only one time when they only kind of were on screen together.
The two actresses only played sisters in the 2004 dub of the cult Hayao Miyazaki animated film My Neighbor Totoro. This had actually been the second dubbing of the film as Troma entertainment, famous for films like Toxic Avenger and Class of Nuke 'em High, distributed the film to the United States in the early 1990s. When those rights expired, Disney redid the dubbing with the Fannings in the role of Satsuki and Mei Kusakabe.
After that one time, the two have acted in the same film at least twice, but never at the same time. It is understandable if they would want to avoid joint film appearances in order not to appear gimmicky.
If one stays in the celebrity spotlight long enough, they are bound to generate some sort of controversy, whether it is intentional or not. Maybe they will say something that rubs people the wrong way or take on a certain role that people feel is offensive or should go to somebody else. The interest in the incident can blow over with time or stay with the star forever and ruin their career. Dakota Fanning generated controversy before her teenage years by starring in the 2007 film Hounddog.
The film is a drama about a preteen girl, played by Dakota, whose love of Elvis helps her deal with her traumatic upbringing. The scene in particular that caused the most grief to audiences involved her character being assaulted when promised a ticket to an Elvis concert. The scene is brief and not graphic, but even the implication of such a tragedy befalling an underage girl proved too much for viewers. The film itself was not well received either, but Dakota's performance still received acclaim.
Fortunately Dakota Fanning's reputation was not blighted by this situation, as she herself was just an actress and did not write or direct the film. Additionally, it would have been pretty low of movie goers to blame a child for her part in a film.
It is no secret that films take a long time to create. Even after filming there is still a mammoth sized load of work to do in order to do create the finished product that audiences feast their eyes and ears on. For animation, the film making process can be even longer and more arduous.
This is why Dakota Fanning did not get to reap the benefits of her voice over work in Coraline until five years after recording it.
Henry Selick is the acclaimed director of such stop motion films like The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. Coraline was released in 2009 and is based on the 2002 Neil Gaiman book of the same name. Dakota Fanning voices the lead character who is a young girl. Her work was done when she was only ten years old, but the film did not see release until the actress was already fifteen.
The long wait was worth it, since it was successful at the box office and with critics. It must have been a little strange for Dakota to finally hear work she finished five years prior. It is almost like going back in time for the duration of the movie.
2 Missing Prom
Acting takes a lot of commitment and sometimes means missing out on important events. Older performers miss family gatherings, birthdays, and general family time. Considering the hefty paychecks many actors receive, one would say the sacrifice is completely worth it. When children and teens have to miss out on milestones, they often miss out on their only chance to experience it.
Elle Fanning, for example, had to miss her prom in order to attend the premiere for Nicolas Winding Refn's The Neon Demon. However, like a true gentlemen, her date flew out to France where the premiere was taking place in order to give her the prom experience away from the high school. While it seems like a nice selfless gesture, we have to wonder who foot the bill for the plane ticket; the date or the parents?
Coincidentally, prom is much like The Neon Demon. Some people loved every moment of it, while others could not stand it, were severely disappointed, or avoided it altogether. Many of Refn's films have had the same effect on audiences, splitting them into those who adored the movie or loathed it. Regardless, we'd definitely miss our proms in a heartbeat if it meant starring in an accomplished director's film and attending the premiere in France.
Many movie stars are known to be divas. With all the attention they receive, it is easy for them to lose their humility and grow big heads. Children, regardless of status, can often times be brats. There is a reason why someone who complains and argues to an irrational degree is said to be acting like a child. In reality, a small amount of misbehaving is even expected of children. For both of the Fannings, despite being both movie stars and children, behavior was never reported to be an issue.
In fact, they were both reported to be exceptionally well mannered in their childhood.
It could be that they both kept each other grounded, had parents that reminded them to stay humble, or just good old southern etiquette ingrained into them. Whatever the reason, they certainly had the right idea. One should let their talent be fantastic while their personality stays leveled and human. No one likes anyone who boasts too much.
To lay the whole truth out on the table, Elle's family has said that she has quite a temper. However, this hot blood seems to be directed primarily at her immediate family.
Which of these interested you most? Let us know in the comments!