In this Screen Tests interview, actress Dakota Fanning talks about having her first kiss while playing a young Reese Witherspoon in 'Sweet Home Alabama' but her first kiss in real life happened in her parents' driveway.
Actress Dakota Fanning is only 23 years old, but has already been a household name for years thanks to her roles in such varied films as I Am Sam, The Secret Life of Bees, and The Twilight Saga. Most recently, she starred in Brimstone and American Pastoral, a film based on the Philip Roth novel of the same name, as Merry Levov, a teenager who becomes involved in political terrorism; and next, she is collaborating with Kirsten Dunst on an adaptation of Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar.
Lynn Hirschberg: In 2016 you starred in American Pastoral. How did the project evolve?
Dakota Fanning: So American Pastoral came to me a few years ago, with a different director and with Ewan McGregor and Jennifer Connelly attached as actors to play my parents. So we were all three attached as actors for a while and this director ended up not being able to do it. It was one of those movies that like you kept thinking, "Oh, maybe I'm going to be working on it in the fall," and then the fall would be there and then you wouldn't be working on it and, "Oh, maybe it's going to be in the spring." It just kept getting pushed and pushed and pushed and then when that director fell out that's when Ewan asked if he could direct it. And they said yes and he still wanted me to be in it--I definitely had a moment of like, "Oh no, what if he doesn't want me to do it, like okay, that would be hard," but he did so that's that.
In the film, your character is in a cult. Was it difficult for you to go to play such a dark character?
So my character's name is Merry, in the middle of the film she becomes a Jane. Jane-ism is basically a religion that believes that you do no harm to anything, so that even includes like not bathing because you would be doing harm to the water. They sometimes sweep the ground in front of them so they brush away any living being so they don't step on them, they wear masks to not harm the air when they breathe, I had a mask that was made out of pantyhose, so it's super intense. I definitely did have to go to some really dark places but as an actor that is what I look forward to and love doing the most because I like – it makes me feel like I've actually done something hard, and pushed myself and – so there's a sequence in the movie when my character is at her lowest and I couldn't wait to do those scenes. I was so excited and I could've done that the whole time.
Where was your first kiss?
Sweet Home Alabama – the first scene of the movie I play young Reese Witherspoon and that was my first kiss. I was seven years old, he was 10, it was very, you know, it was nerve-wracking.
Okay, so after that initial excitement when you were 7...
My real first kiss?
My real first kiss was in my driveway. I was 14 and I was walking him out, he had been over at my house swimming in my pool and I was walking him out and I had gotten him a gift and I forgot it so I ran back inside and he was wearing a baseball cap and when I came back out he had turned the baseball cap around and I remember thinking, "Oh my god. Oh god. That's what that means." And then, that was it. It was like against my mom's car in the driveway and then I remember coming inside and just feeling like everybody could see it all over me, like there was something like on my face. It was kind of intense so it felt like his 16-year old scruff had kind of chaffed me a little bit and so I just felt like everyone could – that I was bright red and everyone knew and everyone could tell. I just remember being like, "Oh, everyone knows." And I knew my sister was probably like looking outside, like she's such a weirdo like that; she totally would do that, so funny.
That's a good one. What movie makes you cry?
Um, I've realized that when I'm feeling unsafe I need to watch the movie Almost Famous and it makes me cry and laugh and it's like the movie that I can't turn off when it comes on you know. I love it.
I love that. Is that a particular scene that gets to you?
I think when they sing "Tiny Dancer" in the van and when – when Kate Hudson – when he tells her that she was like traded for a case of beer and she says, "What kind of beer?"
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Dakota Fanning Had Her First Kiss at Age 7 in 'Sweet Home Alabama' | Screen Tests | W Magazine