My Visit With Elle Fanning & The Pressures of Being Aurora in Disney’s Maleficent
Elle Fanning walked into the room where we were all waiting for her as happy as can be, like she was born smiling and giggling. Her positive outlook and happy demeanor is infectious – she can turn the mood of a room just by walking in, like a ray of sunshine on a cloudy day. Although I don’t think she realizes this…
She wore a cropped black silk shantung tank, the back laced up like a corset as a nod to the gothic mood of Maleficent. Her wedge heels had bits of gold to match her delicate bracelets. Her hair was straight and light blonde and her makeup was barely there, just a hint of mascara and lip gloss, completing her rosy, fresh-faced look.
In this world of Mileys and Kardashians it’s quite refreshing to see a young celebrity acting her age and actually being a positive role model to our youth. Elle doesn’t get into the press for going out to clubs all night, drinking and driving, or being suggestive. She is famous for her talent. And talented she is. Elle Fanning is one of those Hollywood actresses that I find refreshing. She is just 16 years old and has this teenage innocence to her, like she is soaking up everything new and exciting about being a teenager.
I recently got to sit down and chat with her about her role as Aurora in the new film Maleficent, out May 30th.
What’s it like taking on the role of a Disney princess?
EF : It was my dream. When anyone asked what I wanted to be when I grew up when I was little, I would say, “A Disney princess,” because that’s the ultimate goal in life or any young girl – especially Sleeping Beauty. When you’re little you see which ones you look like the most and she was the one that I looked liked. So I would go to Disney store and I would buy her clothes and her shoes so to get to play this her, it’s really the dream.
Did you feel any pressure living up to Sleepy Beauty’s standards?
EF : Yeah, I watched the animated movie so many times and it’s like you wanna do it justice because I feel like that Sleeping Beauty was already done it so perfectly. I have to live up to that. So I did watch the animated film right before I started filming just because she has a certain physicality because she’s drawn a certain way. She holds her hands with these little gestures and her posture and her feet. So I tried to bring that charm to the role. In ours there is a little more to her because she’s not just a delicate princess. She, she has some strength and she actually shows real emotion. She gets sad and feels betrayal because a lot of secrets are hidden from her. So it was nice that we could make her more human than just the cartoon.
I felt like she was so very innocent to the point of being naïve. How different is the character from Elle?
EF: I’m still as happy and as curious as she is, so I like to soak up a lot of information, so we’re very similar in that way. But it is exaggerated as a fairy tale. She is that way (naïve) because she’s been trapped in this little cottage. She doesn’t know outside world. Everything she’s learned she’s kind of had to learn on her own. I don’t think any child can be that sheltered like she was in our time. So I guess I’m different in that way from her.
I think you made her very believable and you kept us very attached to her.
Thank you. I, I tried to do that because it could get boring if it’s “oh, that girl is just the one who’s happy and doesn’t know anything“. I thought that to bring a sense to her that she’s kind of desperate to learn and she’s trying to figure things out. And to show that she hasn’t been taught to be scared yet. She doesn’t know to be scared of things that look different. So when she does see Maleficent, she’s not scared of her, which is very strange for Maleficent because normally everyone’s so terrified of her, but this little girl’s not. I think at that what, that’s what makes them have this bond that they do.
What was your favorite scene to shoot?
When I pricked my finger on the spindle because it’s such an iconic – I mean, when I think about the original, that’s the scene I think of. And especially to film that scene, it was the very last day of filming. Everything was building its way up to that monumental moment and I wanted to do it right, everything has to be a certain way. That scene impacted me a lot when I was little. It scared me more than Maleficent did because of the way the lights were and it looked like Aurora was morphing into Maleficent with that green and purple light. So I was like, “We have to have those lights.” So they made it more of a green hue and then I had the trance and, um, so what I saw it turned out good, right?
Can you tell us about your audition process and where you were when you found out you got the part?
It’s funny ’cause it all happened really fast, a lot faster than those things normally do. I heard there was gonna be a Maleficent movie from the villains point of view you, there has to be an Aurora in there. So I was like,“oh my gosh, I hope I get to be that”. And they asked me to come in, the director Rob (Stromberg), for a meeting. So I met with Rob and Linda (Woolverton, writer). Linda wrote Beauty and the Beast, so I was excited to meet who wrote Beauty and the Beast too. And so I went and had a meeting with them and we, we just talked – I think they just wanted to get a sense of me, kind of what I was like. They didn’t describe much of the story because they kind of already decided that they were gonna give me the part. So they told me in there that I got it. And then they handed over the script. Handing over the script was like the coronation of everything. I read the script in the car and, like, kind of got like, motion sickness, reading it while driving home. But I did not stop. I just kept going. I was so excited.
Was it hard for you, without being able to see everything that was going on because of the special effects, to get where you needed to be in that moment?
It was a lot more than I’d ever done before. You’re on a set so there is a stage and things are built on it, but everything basically surrounding you, all the little fairies, those are just tennis balls or little lights. And there’s green and blue screens that you’re basically standing in, so you really have to imagine everything. It also can get a little technical too, you don’t want your performance to be prohibited by the technicality of it. You want to make sure that you’re still playing your character but you still have to be aware of the little things, like the hand that you’re holding. But you’re not holding a hand, it’s air. So you have to make sure how would I hold it if it was there? Whenever you had a hair change or a wardrobe change, you stand on this turntable and stand completely still and they turn you inch by inch and scan your body. So then that makes a virtual you into a computer and then they can take that virtual you and put you onscreen. So when I did all the floating and stuff, a lot of that was manipulated, I don’t know how it works but they did it.
Do you feel bummed out that you got a princess role with no singing?
I know! I was thinking about that! I was like, “I’m surely gonna get to sing THE song”, you know? Lana Del Rey, she sings that song in our trailer, and it’s so perfect because our, our movie’s more gothic, you know? So it’s nice to have her haunting voice, a different take on it than just the original one.
Maleficent opens nationwide May 30th and is rated PG!
*I was provided with an all-expense paid trip to do this and all Maleficent coverage.