Dakota Fanning is getting real again.
In The Last of Robin Hood, out Friday, she portrays teen actress/singer/dancer Beverly Aadland, who embarked on a scandalous affair with notorious lothario Errol Flynn ( Kevin Kline). Aadland and the famed swashbuckler met in 1957, two years before his death at age 50. Though Flynn thought the girl was of age, Aadland was only 15 when they met, her mother Florence ( Susan Sarandon) wrote in the book, The Big Love, on which the film is based.
Playing actual people is becoming old hat for the 20-year-old, who wowed audiences playing Sean Penn’s daughter in 2001’s I Am Sam. She later held her own as rocker Cherie Currie in The Runaways. Fanning’s next project is starring as the title character in the period drama Effie Gray, about Victorian art critic John Ruskin and his teenage bride.
We talked to the native Georgian, 20, from New York, where she attends NYU:
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Even though Beverly lived in a different era, did you relate to her as a fellow child star?
She really didn’t have the desire to go into show business. Being an actress wasn’t really who she was. That was what her mom wanted. So I was more drawn to the human aspect. I was drawn to the little girl, her naiveté, the way she sort of began maturing and becoming her own person. Then she suddenly loses herself again after Errol passes away.
How do you like playing real people?
It’s cool when I get scripts that are based on events because you know this actually happened. It takes away the need to justify anything because it’s true. There’s, like, a freedom to go with the flow because you have the facts in front of you, though the story is open to your interpretation somewhat.
Did you know about the relationship between Flynn and Aadland before coming aboard?
I met people who just know automatically what it’s about and how crazy it was. Others have no idea. I was somebody who didn’t know, so making the movie was my introduction. I just felt it was something I wanted to do. I liked going back to the 1950s. When you’re doing a project in a different time period you kind of carry yourself in a different way, and it can help you get more into the character.
What was it like working with veterans Susan Sarandon and Kevin Kline?
I just can’t say enough about Susan. She brought such a vulnerability to a character who could be unlikeable in the hands of someone less capable. As for Kevin, he was born to play Errol Flynn. There was no awkwardness [in the love scenes]. At the end of the day it’s acting, it’s a movie. I got to know Kevin well. He’s such a funny person and so charming. He really put me at ease from the beginning.
You and your sister Elle Fanning [“Maleficent”] both made it big at a young age. Any advice for a child star who wants to enter show business?
I’m used to juggling scripts and homework my whole life. But I think I would say only do it if you really want to. A lot of people think making movies is a lot more glamorous than it is.
You’ve accomplished a lot for someone who isn’t even 21 yet. Do you have a dream role?
Everything I’ve done is a piece of the dream. I just want to continue to challenge myself. You never know what’s going to come next, which is the fun part. I try to be open to everything and anything.