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No dia 15 de outubro de 2021, Elle Fanning foi vista nas gravações de sua nova minissérie ‘The Girl from Plainville’.
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FOTOS DE PAPARAZZI | CANDIDS > 2021 > OCTOBER 15 – ON THE SET IN A PIER IN TYBEE ISLAND
No dia 12 de outubro de 2021, Elle Fanning foi vista nas gravações de sua nova minissérie ‘The Girl from Plainville’.
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FOTOS DE PAPARAZZI | CANDIDS > 2021 > OCTOBER 12 – ON THE SET IN TYBEE ISLAND, GEORGIA
by Stefan Pape
BERLIN – Elle Fanning has been in the industry for many, many yeas – and she’s only 22. Which makes us feel terribly old. Alas, she seems wise beyond her years as we sat down with the talented young performer at the Berlinale this year, to discuss her new film The Roads Not Taken, as she collaborates yet again with director Sally Potter. She comments on her strong bond with the filmmaker, and her aspirations to direct herself one day. She also comments about online trolls, and why ignoring them has been pretty good advice…
How much has this film make you think about thought your patience?
Elle Fanning: I don’t know, I never thought about that. I think that this this film was particularly so exciting and challenging for me. It is obviously the second time that I’ve gotten to work with Sally. The first time was on Ginger and Rosa and I was only 13. That’s a very important time in a young woman’s life. So much of my life changed from that movie and that experience, just like personally as a woman, meeting Sally and her coming into my life… I learned a great deal and really my life shifted. And she my everything. I love her dearly, like beyond measures, I would do anything for her. And now, you know, when she had asked me to do this film, I’m 21 now so definitely a different age and I’m a different version of myself. I learned so much on this movie and honestly pushed myself beyond limits. I think that is what Sally really truly does on her sets is that she pushes her actors to a place that emotionally a place that they didn’t even know existed.
So for me more learning, not as much about patients but more about learning about myself inside the places that I could go and opening up and truly being vulnerable and stripped down and extremely on my toes and intuitive, intuitive the whole time because Javier, obviously, I didn’t know how he was going to play the part before day one on set. I didn’t know I don’t even know if he knew he would talk we had rehearsal. And we you know, talked to each other of coursing you know about things about our lives and got close because the father daughter relationship is extremely important, but still, I didn’t know what to expect and I was completely full of surprises working with him and I had to be aware of all times to react in the way that a caretaker or daughter would to him in whatever state he was in, and you know, constantly being aware. So I learned a lot about myself in that way.
Like you said, Sally takes you to places that you didn’t know before. Where were these places?
Elle Fanning: They’re extremely human places if that makes sense. You just feel like you have no limits inside you and that you can truly do anything at any time. Like always expect the unexpected with Sally. And and in the scenes I truly didn’t feel like l like playing Molly. I didn’t feel like myself. Even when I watch it and I’m like, that’s not me. Like it doesn’t seem like me at all, and that’s the gift of Sally and her writing. This is a very personal story for Sally as her brother passed away of dementia and she was his caretaker. So I also felt a big responsibility. I have a very close friend whose mother is suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s right now and watching her and the way that she cares for her mother. You know, I’m not personally affected by it, but you feel the responsibility for those caretakers and those family members out there who were just unpaid you know, carers who have to sacrifice their work, their personal life is completely secondary.
I didn’t really answer the question, but I mean, it was very deep, just a very deep time. Obviously my story was a slither and the last one that Javier shot. So he had experienced the other lives and then coming into this one last. By the time you’re there, when you got to get the moments all you want is to do it. It’s just like you’re on this adrenaline high, you know? And so, yeah, you just feel like you’re a superhero. You know, she, she almost gives Javier’s character superpowers, through his illness, he kind of has a superpower to see other versions of himself, which is kind of a beautiful thing.
The crux of the story is the father-daughter dynamic. And I mean, there’s lots going on, but I feel that is the main thing in this movie. I was wondering when that became apparent to you, or if you always saw it on those terms?
Elle Fanning: That was my reality. Salma said a beautiful thing in the press conference yesterday and I was like, oh yeah, that it was very interesting in how Sally intricately wove through editing and we were always aware, Javier had to be super aware of like the cutting points, which sometimes you don’t as an actor, you don’t necessarily think about cutting but it was all very much in the script. So you’re a part of the movie. But still, I was just focused on my story. You know, as my character. I’m someone who doesn’t know anything about that night. I actually am trying to trying to know but the whole time she, you know, she’s not in his mind. She’s trying to figure it out. So, for me, my whole world was the father-daughter. And I was completely enveloped by that and making that completely real. And also it has kind of the humorous parts to there’s a lot of levity in it, as well as, of course, but that’s, you know, tragedy and comedy, can’t have one without the other. But I really appreciated Sally’s input on the scene where he wets himself and we’re in the bathroom and Sally allowed us to kind of ad lib and she’s like, just get Javier to take his pants off. And so like little moments like that were so sweet. And the father daughter story, to me, was the most important for for my world because it had to be you know, in order to make it work.
We can see how the city has become a kind of aggressive place for them. So wanted to know if you ever feel overwhelmed by the city. What’s your relation with New York?
Elle Fanning: Oh man. Yeah, New York. I live in LA so definitely very different. I know my sister lived in New York for seven years, so I would visit her her a bit. So yeah, maybe it is too aggressive for me. I like visiting but I could never live there probably because it’s a little bit too hectic and I’m a hectic person anyway. So when when you put those two together it wouldn’t do you any good.
You are 21 years old, but you’ve you almost spent two decades of your life in this profession. Do you ever feel like a veteran on set?
Elle Fanning: There was a weird thing that happened not too long ago where I wasn’t the youngest person on the set. And that was so freaky. Like, there were kid actors. You know what their mums on the set. I was like, that used to be me and they had to go do school. I’m not that… I don’t feel old, but I’ve always used to be the youngest on the set. On this one I was, though.
So did you find that just by proxy of working with Sally again for the first time since you were 13, it made you quite reflective over your career? The last time you worked with her you were a child. So I guess the dynamic between yourself and Sally and your role on the films that would have been so wildly different?
Elle Fanning: Yeah, definitely reflecting for sure. Just thinking of the memories of those days, but I actually I really feel like our dynamic is the same, our dynamic is completely the same. And I hope it always stays the same. We’re extremely affectionate with each other, like hugs and staring, there’s just something we’ve talked about before, this weird kind of energy connection that I just feel like I’ve known her my whole life. I guess I have. I saw her getting an award for something, and they showed a clip of Ginger and Rosa and I mean, I haven’t seen it since I was at the film festival back then or something. And we looked at each other. I was like, I look so young. I was thinking like, wow, all the things that I I didn’t know yet or what Sally taught me and how I don’t know.
You’ve grown up on screen. Is it weird for you to go back and see yourself as like a 10 year old in a movie. How does that feel to see that?
Elle Fanning: Yeah, it’s I guess it’s not weird for me. Yeah, I wouldn’t say it’s that weird because it’s just a part of my life. It’s like a photo album or something. Of course it’s a bit embarrassing because you’re like, oh, no, I looked like that? Or I did that? It’s a bit cringe-worthy sometimes. Just like in a normal sense, but I don’t know. It’s kind of nice, most kids don’t get to watch all that. Like, that’s neat. It’s pretty neat. Not everybody has that. And to really see the evolution of yourself, when your body of work is laid out from such a young age. I think you can you can really learn from that. But I’m not because I can’t watch any movies that I made.
When you started it was all more or less a game or was fun. When did it become serious? When did it become a job? Or was it always serious?
Elle Fanning: It was always like, this is a professional thing that I knew was a job, but it was fun. I knew that it was a job, but it was also like, oh, I got to just do what I do at home which is just dress up and play things? I was a total ham growing up, I looking at the home videos of me, I’m dancing in the camera and performing. So if you’re gonna put me in a setting where I get to be a character and have a whole set, and perform literally in a giant dollhouse, That was the life, and that’s how I looked at it when I was young.
I’ always had this sort of sports mentality. I mean, my family are all sports people, so before big scenes it feels, I don’t know, it feels like very athletic. You have to do the home run, like a boxer before the fight. You have to prepare yourself for that, it doesn’t just fall into place. It’s not a physical thing like it is for athletes, but it’s mental.
Did you ever have a back-up profession?
Elle Fanning: Oh, gosh. I’d probably just do something else in the profession you know. I want to direct, I’m starting to produce. I’ve produced things now. I want to get a little bit more behind the scenes. Because when you grow up as a young actor, you’re also watching the mechanics of the films that work. And it’s like, I’ve seen that my whole life and I’m so curious about the inner workings of it and I always try to talk to the crew, I get involved and I really enjoy that. I would like to pull the curtain back.
How do you navigate social media, being a young woman in the public eye?
Elle Fanning: People don’t really know what people go through, you know. People don’t know what I go through. So of course, it’s not something that I’m going to say doesn’t affect me because I have Instagram. That’s the only thing I have, but it’s like fine just like all my friends do. It’s like, it’s just images and it’s great. But then it can also be really not great people commenting and I was talking about this the other day, it’s like people want to say, ‘oh, don’t read the comments’ or whatever. It’s like, actually, that’s honestly healthy. We need to not read the comments. But at the same time, people saying rude things about you, they need to be held accountable. They say nasty stuff. I was taught that if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it at all. They need to be held responsible for that because they’re honestly ruining a lot of people’s lives. A lot of young people are hurting themselves or depressed. It’s horrible.
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How would you describe the show and your character?
The Great is a historical satire that follows Catherine the Great’s rise to power in 18th century Russia. Catherine is an idealistic young woman who finds herself in a backwards world, married to a tyrant. She quickly realises she would be a better ruler and plots to take over the throne. Catherine is romantic and naive at the start, but throughout the series her ruthlessness grows.
What drew you to the script?
I was drawn to Tony McNamara’s singular voice. The tone and world he created was one I had never read before. The effortless blend of dark, bizarre comedy and emotional realism. I read the script before I saw The Favourite so I really had nothing to compare it to. The elaborate period setting, over the top situations, yet still grounded characters all set in a high stakes environment. He truly is a writing genius! Above all, Catherine as a character was what made me have to be a part of the show. She is such a dichotomy of a person. Each page surprised me with what she was willing to do. Tony captured her struggle as a woman trying to navigate a patriarchal society and not always succeeding. She isn’t a perfect character. She is learning as she goes along with the guidance from the court.
How much did you know about your character before filming and what research did you do?
I have to admit I did not know much. I knew she was the Empress of Russia, but I did not realize all the amazing things she did for her country. Sadly, the world has reduced her legacy to a false rumour about her and a horse. She brought art, science, and women’s education to Russia. And she invented the rollercoaster! I stopped there once I learned that. Anyone who invents the rollercoaster has got to be fun! The Great does play loose with history. Our show is by no means a historical document, but hopefully captures the essence of the real Catherine the Great and what she achieved and stood for.
What are you most curious about regarding your character?
I absolutely love Catherine’s unapologetic arrogance. She has a youthful confidence, which translates to always having a way to problem solve. She loves herself and truly believes she is best for the job. Her optimism pushes her through some extremely tough situations. Throughout the series, destiny plays a beautiful role. Catherine’s love affair is not really with a man, it’s with a country. Her driving force is for Russia and fulfilling her destiny to help find reason and democracy. I would say Catherine is an activist in every sense of the word. There are two types of people. Those who sit back and watch and those who take action. Catherine runs into the flames every time.
The script knowingly plays fast and loose with history – did that mean you approached your character differently than you normally might?
Very early on, Tony told us to put away our history books. I wanted to create my own version of Catherine. I still approached her like I would any character. I guess the most different was it being a 10-hour series instead of a two-hour film. Having the luxury to explore and pace myself with a character was a blessing. Tony is also super strict with our lines. There is absolutely no ad libbing! In a way, being married to the words makes for a whole other kind of freedom. Freedom in the movement and in the rhythm of scenes.
The series is set in Russia but is filmed in English. How did you hit upon the accent you went with?
Since we are not following the history books and in actuality, we would be speaking an entirely different language altogether, it made most sense to go with an English accent across the board for all characters. Tony writes for the rhythm and cadence of the English accent. It sounds much more delicious.
What was surprisingly difficult or challenging about inhabiting this role?
The comedic timing and memorisation. Tony writes us some meaty speeches. My memorising muscle was stretched to its limits. I have never done theatre, but I would think our scenes felt a lot like doing a play. And the comedy of it all was a new challenge. Nicholas Hoult was no stranger to Tony’s writing, having just come off The Favourite, so Nick helped me a lot to get the speed and banter required for scenes.
The period costumes look terrific. What were your reactions to your costumes?
The costumes are drop dead gorgeous. I wish I could say they were as comfortable as they were beautiful. The corsets take some getting used to. I do not envy the ladies of the time. All of us women were so jealous of Nick [Hoult] and the other guys because they would saunter around shirtless or in robes! Corsets aside, the way my costumes tell Catherine’s journey is vital. Her silhouettes stay pretty simple and practical compared to the ladies of the Russian court. My main colors were pale blue and green. But of course, at the end there is an electric pink dress (my favourite) that summarizes Catherine perfectly. It is her birthday dress and the dress she’s going to kill her husband in! It incapsulates her femininity, youth, and boldness.
The Great is a LOT of fun to watch. At the same time has a lot to say in a world still living in the fall out of #MeToo; would you agree?
There is a particular scene I’m thinking of when Catherine says to Marial (Phoebe Fox): “if they invent something easier than buttons, we’re in trouble.” Our show is about a young woman expressing her opinions loudly and being shut down for doing so. But Catherine persists in making herself heard.
Has any of Tony’s way of seeing the world crept into your daily life?
Definitely! I now use “Huzzah” and “indeed” quite often! I haven’t started smashing glasses yet, but when the occasion calls for it, I’ll be ready! I definitely have had enough practice!
Did you have a favourite scene to film and most memorable line of dialogue?
In episode two, Nick and I have a scene at the breakfast table. It was one of our first long back and forth scenes. We’re just sitting and firing back at each other. I remember feeling so elated and having so much fun with Nick. He is such an incredible actor and human. We work very similarly and like to try off the wall ideas whether they work or not. He has made Peter entirely three dimensional. A character who on the page is so nasty and vile, Nick makes likable and charming. Also, we are always the first to crack and laugh in scenes. Once we start it’s hard to get us to stop! My favourite line of dialogue, I have to say, was, “the horse said no, and nay means nay.”
What Christmas or Holiday traditions do you always abide by or look forward to? Is there a Christmas film you return to?
My grandma’s Christmas cooking is what I look forward to most! She is from Georgia, so the more butter the better! Christmas morning, she makes these cinnamon rolls called “sugar babies” that are essentially pastry wrapped around a melted marshmallow! My favourite Christmas movie is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
2020 has been quite a year; how would you describe your own experience of it? The Great will TX in Jan of 2021 on Channel 4; How would you describe your expectations of 2021?
2020 has affected everyone. We will always remember this particular year. It has been a time of fear, loss and sorrow, but has hopefully brought us all together. Everyone on this planet has been affected by the pandemic in one way or another. It has given us a commonality that hasn’t existed for so long. This year has certainly made me more grateful and reminded me not to take the small things for granted. I hope 2021 brings peace and unity and many, many hugs!
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by Julie Kosin
Palace intrigue, canopy bed sex, tiny corsets and ballooning skirts—what more could you ask of a period drama? For screenwriter Tony McNamara and actress Elle Fanning, quite a lot, actually. He already elevated the genre beyond Masterpiece Theater chintz with his Oscar-nominated script The Favourite. For his treatment of Russian empress Catherine the Great, who famously unseated her husband Peter III with a coup in 1762, McNamara recruited Fanning as star and executive producer. “I love being terrified by a role,” she tells ELLE.com, her chirpy American twang a contrast from Catherine’s polished British cadence (disregard the fact that the sovereign was technically German). “If it’s a challenge or I feel a pressure, it’s probably the right choice.”
Like its spiritual cousin, Apple TV+’s Dickinson, Hulu’s The Great is a risky endeavor. The 10-part series parleys in the anachronistic, marrying history with ribald dialogue, farcical fictions, and a decidedly modern cadence. McNamara molds Catherine and Peter (Nicholas Hoult, unselfconsciously brilliant as the insecure ruler) into a clash of wits; he is a toddler-like philistine driving the country into decay, spending his days hunting, fighting, smashing glasses of newly drained of vodka, and “eating pussy” (his favorite phrase, second only to “huzzah!”). Catherine, idealistic but level-headed, refuses to be yoked by the expectations of her dim husband, wielding her intellect like a knife and surrounding herself with a brain trust possessing the urgent desire—though not always the organization or the guts—to save her adopted country. “[With] shows about women, I think people want a ‘strong female character!’ I’m allergic to that,” Fanning says. “Catherine doesn’t always have the right answer. Sometimes she’s not the strongest or bravest person in the room. These characters like Killing Eve or Fleabag or Russian Doll—they make mistakes. Those are the characters I want to see. I wanted to make sure Catherine fit into that.”
But also, it’s a lot of fun. The Russian court is populated with an eccentric cast of characters who flesh out this delightfully absurd world, from Peter’s sexually ravenous aunt Elizabeth (Belinda Bromilow, gloriously kooky) to Catherine’s cunning lady-in-waiting Marial (Phoebe Fox, the series’ breakout star). Fanning and Hoult clearly enjoyed every moment. “There would be times we’d be like, ‘We have to get it together. We’re laughing too much,'” Fanning remembers. “The moment he even sees my mouth twitch, it’s all over.”
Below, Fanning breaks down the on-set antics and how she’s spending her time in quarantine.
It was an immediate reaction, like, “I have to be in this and I have to play Catherine.” It was such a gift that Tony had thought of me. The script I read was for a film he wrote. It only had the young Catherine as a little sliver and it spanned her entire life. Tony was like, Let’s do a TV series. The first season can be all about young Catherine’s rise to power. [He] asked me to help build it from the ground up. We got to go out and pitch the pilot to different streaming services. To be in those rooms was a real learning experience for me.
Tony and I talked about making sure that there are times where Catherine’s questioning herself and figuring it out. Because of course, Catherine the Great is a historical character. We know what she did—she overthrew her husband. She is this feminist icon completely. She took on the man. That’s so powerful. But what did it take for her to become that person? What did she have to sacrifice?
Just seeing how much editing comes into play. As an actor, once you’re done on set, you go home and you’re done. Then post-production comes in and you have nothing to do with that. But I would get dailies and watch different cuts of the episodes. Seeing how they could change so many things was really interesting.
And I also felt a lot like Catherine in finding my voice. I’d be on calls and I’d have to have the courage to speak up in situations that could be intimidating. I was learning to speak my opinion, even if it was an opinion someone was disputing. I can go head-to-head. That was a real confidence builder.
It’s mostly in the writing, but the scenes I had with Nic were my favorite because the relationship between Peter and Catherine is so layered. Nic and I wanted to make sure it wasn’t just two enemies. She’s learning from him and sometimes she’s charmed by him and pities him. He starts to fall in love with her, but she’s learning to manipulate him. It’s very complicated.
I love in episode 2, the breakfast scene we have together—Nic and I had so much fun doing that. It was our first big scene and we go at it. We work in a very similar way, and we love to challenge each other and push each other’s buttons. Sometimes I would try something out [and] I’d be like, “All right Nic, was that too much?” And he’d always do the same with me. We had such good support [for] each other.
No, we did not know this. [Laughs] Kate Middleton, is she related to him or something? This is hilarious because I think someone did an ancestry.com on us. We didn’t ask for it, a fan or something put it on the internet, and then we’re like, “Oh, okay, this is true.” I mean, I guess it is! I don’t know. Me and Dakota did the 23 and Me thing, and we have a lot of English.
I’ve been wearing a lot of comfy stuff honestly. If I have an interview or things with friends on Zoom, I’m like, how do I dress from the waist up in different ways? What you normally wouldn’t choose: good necklines, bright colors. I’ve been doing a lot of makeup, posting on my Instagram. [Laughs] I don’t know if you follow Chelsea Peretti, but she does those weird, funny makeup tutorials. I love her. And she has them on TikTok too, making fun of makeup tutorials. So I’m like, “All right, I’ll do some wax makeup.”
I will look, and I have done some [challenges]. I can do some dances, but I’m like, I can’t put these out. But I have learned. I do confess I’ve learned the “Savage” one. I know “Renegade.” It’s embarrassing, but yes.
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