“Beauty to me is a form of self-love, because it’s also taking the time to take care of yourself, like from the inside out,” says Elle Fanning sitting on a sofa in a suite at the Hôtel Le Majestic in Cannes. “Even if it’s about makeup or how you do your hair, it still means that you’re taking the time in the day to look at yourself in the mirror and give a moment to yourself and be creative with how you want to show yourself off.” The ambassador for Rabanne’s Fame fragrance, her presence lights up a room, both during the interview, with her long blonde hair framing a pink makeup look, and the prior evening, when she appeared at a small party on a terrace on the Côte d’Azur. “Hello, I’m Elle, delighted,” she introduced herself one by one, while her dress jingled: she wore a metallic creation from the brand that made her look like a fairy in a suit of armor.
Fanning’s professionalism is the key to her becoming a respected actress in an industry in which she has worked as long as she can remember. “The first movie I did, in I Am Sam, I played my sister at a younger age, when I was two years old. I don’t remember much of that. I know I visited her on set, and they said, ‘oh, I look so much like my sister that they should use me in those scenes.’” Her sister, Dakota Fanning, comes up in the conversation over and over: “We were talking last night. She’s the best.” Two years ago they founded their own production company together, Lewellen Pictures, following in the footsteps of many colleagues who have decided to take the reins of the stories: “We are very good partners. We balance each other out in the business world.”
Fanning has grown up on sets — by age 15 she had already worked with Sofia Coppola, David Fincher, Alejandro González Iñárritu and J.J. Abrams — and has hooked younger generations with the series The Great, in which she plays Catherine the Great of Russia. “The Great has given me so much! I feel like I’ve evolved as an actress, but also as a person through playing Catherine, because Catherine is such a strong, outspoken leader. Especially in my producing role on The Great, I’ve learned to grow my confidence and be a bit more outspoken in that position.” She knows fame well: “There’s a responsibility that comes with it, especially now that I’m a young woman and have younger girls that are looking up to me. You want to use your fame wisely and in a good way. Of course, there’s a dark side to fame that I feel like my sister and I both have avoided. We were child actors and you hear those stories, but we had such a great family and really good people around us, and we had a normalcy to our lives of going to regular school, so we avoided that version of it. So now there’s also a very fun side of fame too, getting to be in Cannes and walking the red carpet, and I enjoy those things and getting to do what I love. I guess it comes with the job that I chose, but I love doing that job. I care most about the work.” Being a star also comes with the pressure of beauty standards, which Fanning has suffered both in Hollywood and with her classmates. “I think everyone feels that way, whether you’re in front of a camera or not, because we have social media. You’re comparing yourself to other people a lot of the time and looking at all these images. No one is immune to feeling that way. It gets better as you get older because when you’re young, that can kind of overtake you.”
Today, she has enough experience to stand up and to trust her instincts. That is how she chooses her next jobs: “If you have to deliberate a long time on a project, and if you’re really trying to figure out if you should do it or not, ultimately, I don’t end up doing it, because I really like the gut reaction from the initial time I first read something, and having that feeling that I can’t let anyone else do this part, I have to be the one to bring it to life.” She is very comfortable playing with fashion: “I’ve always really loved fashion and felt like I could express myself through clothes. From a young age, I went vintage shopping and went to thrift stores and would mix that into my own wardrobe and just love putting things together. So it’s just a part of my identity. It’s like a creative extension of who I am and what character I want to be that day,” Fanning says while looking over the Croisette beach.
Cannes is a special destination for her: she was a member of the jury of its prestigious festival in 2019, and she celebrated her graduation here in a theatrical Zuhair Murad dress: “I was promoting The Neon Demon. It was on my senior prom, so my date came out with me and we had a whole prom date. My mom was with us and gave us the corsage and the boutonniere and the flowers, and we did photos and had the best night ever. I think it was more fun than prom. It was pretty special,” Fanning recalls with a half smile. She has spent her entire life navigating between glamour and being simply Elle.
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