The Stunning Transformation Of Elle Fanning

Elle Fanning is practically Hollywood royalty. Along with her sister, Dakota Fanning, the blonde beauty is one of the industry's brightest young celebs. The actress got her start as a child star and, as of this writing, has more than 60 roles under her belt — a prodigious number by any standard. While it would be easy to dismiss Fanning as someone who lucked into her stardom after her older sister opened the door, Fanning has worked incredibly hard to get to where she is today.


Fanning's career spans most of her life — dating all the way back to 2001's I Am Sam which means she has quite literally grown up in front of everyone's eyes. And she has grown up to be a stunning young woman, brimming with both talent and ambition, and who has flourished in an environment that is not easy navigate. From her early years of child stardom to her status as a leading lady, here's a close look at how Elle Fanning has transformed over the years.

Elle Fanning was born in the south, but considers L.A. home

Elle Fanning has spent most of her life in Hollywood, but her roots are in Georgia. The actress spent the first couple years of her life in the southern state before the family moved to support her sister Dakota's acting career. Fanning told Interview that she has few memories of Georgia so although her parents still think of it as home, she's definitely a California girl.


Fanning revealed to The Guardian in 2017 that the cross-country move to La-La Land was initially planned to be a temporary one. Even Dakota, who is four years older than her sister, feels the family's stay in L.A. is still just an extended trip and that the family will one day go back home to Georgia. Fanning said that she tells her sister that their life is in Hollywood now, though, reminding Dakota that "we are never going back."

Elle Fanning can't even remember her first role

Elle Fanning wasn't even two years old when she landed her first acting role in I Am Sam, playing the younger version of her sister Dakota's character. Fanning was so young at the time that she can't remember filming it. The actress told Interview that her first clear memory of being on set was when she starred in The Door in the Floor at four years old. Fanning said she doesn't remember much, but she does recall liking the costumes and being "excited" for one scene in which she "got to eat grilled cheese."


While some may assume Fanning began working so young due to having a pushy stage-mom, the actress is adamant that her mother was anything but. Instead, she praised her mom to The Guardian, saying she "sacrificed so much" to move to L.A. to pursue "a child's dream." She added that, while her family moved for Dakota's sake, the decision also helped her find her passion for acting — something she isn't sure she would have found without her mother's sacrifice and commitment to her daughters' careers. "I had the luxury of knowing what I want to do because of her," she said.

Elle Fanning's childhood was normal in many ways

While Elle Fanning began acting at a very young age, she still managed to live a somewhat normal childhood. Her parents worked to keep her grounded in spite of her growing fame. Fanning was homeschooled by her grandmother for several years and although she told Interview she enjoyed it, she didn't have any friends who were her own age.


Fanning's mother ultimately decided to send her daughter to school when she was in fourth grade so that she could socialize with her peers. "It's cool because I've realized things about myself that I wouldn't have if I weren't in school," said Fanning.

Fanning was also kept off of social media when she was younger, explaining that her parents are "very protective" and "very Southern" people who raised her to have "Southern manners." The actress added that her parents looked at social media as "scary" and didn't want people to know too much about their daughter.

Elle Fanning grew up idolizing Marilyn Monroe

Elle Fanning has a lot of acting inspirations but the biggest is Marilyn Monroe. Fanning has idolized Monroe since she was a child. In fact, the icon was a major inspiration to her growing up. Fanning told Interview that she was just seven years old when she first saw a picture of Monroe and was instantly "mesmerized." She dressed up as Monroe the next Halloween and began to watch her movies.


"It was interesting to me that she did mostly comedies but her life was so tragic," said Fanning. She added that part of her fascination with Monroe is that she could always tell "there was something deeper" to the actress and that "there was more to her than just her blond hair."

Vogue remarked in 2017 that Fanning "studies Marilyn's interviews the way some study paintings by Cézanne." The star remarked to Vogue that Monroe's emotions were always evident in her eyes. "She didn't know how great she was," she said of the tragic figure who's had such an impact on her life.

Elle Fanning's role in Wonderland made her decide to pursue acting as a career

Elle Fanning may have grown up on camera, but acting wasn't always something she thought of doing for a living. It wasn't until she starred in Phoebe in Wonderland as Phoebe, a child with Tourette syndrome and obsessive compulsive disorder, at the age of nine that she began to really think of acting as something that she could do as a career.


Fanning explained to Interview that the role of Phoebe was her first true leading role and it was the first time that she really had to dive into research for a character. As part of her research, she met with kids who were diagnosed with OCD and Tourette's, and it clicked for her that acting is about "figuring out the character."

Once Fanning realized this, she also realized that she loved the entire process of pretending to be someone else, putting on a costume, playing your part, and then transforming back into yourself when the scene is over. "So I thought, 'Well, if that's what it is, then I definitely want to do it,'" she explained.

This is how Elle Fanning learned to deal with rejection

Rejection is something everyone has to deal with in life. Actors in particular, though, have to come face to face with rejection on a regular basis as they go on auditions. While being turned down for roles might deter some people from acting altogether, Elle Fanning learned at a young age how to handle rejection.


In an interview with Net-a-Porter, the star admitted that she faced some major letdowns as a kid, including being turned down for a Guess Kids commercial as well as a role on Friends — a show that her sister, Dakota, later appeared on — leading to her vowing never to watch the show again.

While Fanning still gets rejected for roles, the fact that she's been at this for most of her life means that she's learned not to let getting turned down for a role get to her. That doesn't mean it's easy, though. "It's a constant confidence check," said Fanning, who added that after each rejection, "you have to somehow find the strength to pull it together and still want to do this."

Elle Fanning struggled to fit in with her peers

You would think that someone like Elle Fanning would be popular with her peers, but Fanning actually struggled to fit in in high school. The starlet is admired by Hollywood today for her sense of style, but that unique style didn't resonate so deeply with her classmates.


Fanning told Marie Claire that she stood out at school because of how she dressed. Fanning, who's always loved vintage clothing, told the publication that she thinks she "was possibly born in the wrong era." Although her mother allowed her to wear whatever she wanted to class, she explained that her vintage ensembles were "not the coolest thing" in her peers' eyes.

Fanning tried to change her look for a time, dressing like her classmates in skinny jeans and tank tops, but "it just was not me" and "didn't even look good," she said. Fanning finally fully embraced her style, telling Elle that red carpet events helped her "feel free to express that side of myself."

Being a teenager in Hollywood was frustrating for Elle Fanning

While Elle Fanning was a success in Hollywood from a young age, being a teen star in that environment was not easy — but not for the reasons you might expect. Fanning wasn't tempted by the fast-paced Hollywood lifestyle that lures so many young stars into a life of partying. Instead, her struggles hinged on her desire to be taken seriously.


In 2014, then 16-year-old Fanning spoke to Fashion magazine about her frustration with how teens were treated in Hollywood. "That condescending thing gets me," she said. "The 'you're young now but you'll know in a couple of years what life is about' kind of thing." Fanning disagreed with this notion, saying she didn't think that she was going to "have this huge revelation" once she became an adult. "I'm still going to be the same person," she said. She added that, no matter how old she gets, she "always want[s] to have a free spirit."

Teen Spirit finally allowed Elle Fanning to show off her singing chops

For much of Elle Fanning's early life, her singing chops remained an unknown talent to the majority of her adoring fans. That changed, however, with the 2018 film Teen Spirit, in which the actress was finally able to show the world just how versatile her talent is. As Hollywood didn't realize Fanning could sing, she wasn't approached for the role of Violet Valenski, a young singer chasing her dreams in a singing competition.


Fanning told Who What Wear that it was a role she wanted badly, and that she "had to kind of chase after it" when she saw a press release about the film. She explained that she had always wanted to sing in a film and that she had grown up singing, but that she "was not on the radar" of the film's producers.

Fanning was also able to bring her dance skills to Teen Spirit's choreography, telling Consequence of Sound that she studied ballet for years growing up. It seems Fanning was tailor-made for the role and landing it helped establish her as a triple threat in Hollywood.

Elle Fanning's family helped her seamlessly transition from child star to leading lady

While many former child stars struggle to maintain their careers in adulthood, or fall prey to the former child star curse, Elle Fanning's career remained steady and successful in adulthood. The actress never went through a wild phase as so many child stars do — although she did admit to Net-A-Porter that she does have "a healthy wild side" — and she steadily progressed into more adult material without shedding her wholesome image. Fanning credits her family with helping her navigate the transition into an adult acting career, telling Elle Canada that she has "a great family."


Fanning also said that the fact that she loves acting helped her stay focused on her career instead of getting "sidetracked" as she grew older, adding, "I just feel like I want to learn and I want to do better, so I stay focused in that way."

Elle Fanning seeks out characters with "many layers"

Being able to have control over the roles she takes on has been empowering for Elle Fanning, who told Glamour that she "didn't really necessarily have a huge choice" about the parts she took on when she was a very young actress. As she has gotten older, though, she has had more autonomy and often decides to take a role based who is helming the project and who is starring in it. She also likes to take on roles that are "challenging" to her and looks for characters "who are very different" from the real-life Fanning.


While Fanning often plays strong, empowered characters, that's not what she seeks out. In fact, she told Gold Derby that she's "kind of allergic to the term 'strong female character.'" Instead, Fanning said that she seeks out complex characters who have "many layers," and who don't "always have the right answer."

As she got older, Elle Fanning realized that her voice matters

Elle Fanning may have grown up on camera, but it wasn't until she got older that she really began to find the power of her own voice. At 21, she produced her first film, All the Bright Places. Production was unchartered territory for Fanning and she loved it, telling i-D that the new challenge enabled her "to use another side of [her] creative brain" and also helped her discover that she has "a voice in this" and that her "voice actually matters."


It was a pivotal time for Fanning and she learned a lot from the experience. The star then went on to executive produce the historical show The Great. Fanning told Refinery29 that while she "was nervous to speak up sometimes" as a producer and that she was intimidated by execs, she had realized "Hey I can do this."

Filming The Great was a big change for Elle Fanning

Playing Russian ruler Catherine the Great on The Great marked another big change for Elle Fanning, and not just because it was her first time as executive producer on a project. The show also gave her a chance to flex her comedic chops — and on television to boot.


Transitioning to TV provided a new experience for the big-screen star, and she found it rewarding. The actress explained to Refinery29 that with a television show, you have more time to explore a character. Fanning was able to take her character and "really lay out her arc and gradually build."

The production schedule on The Great was also quite different than what Fanning was used to. She told The Playlist that "the pace of shooting is so much less time" than with a film, so she felt like they "were definitely up against the clock." 

Elle Fanning's relationship with her sister Dakota has remained strong

Elle Fanning has changed a lot over the years, but one thing that has remained constant in her life is her relationship with her sister Dakota. While some might expect there to be a rivalry between the two, Dakota squashed any rumors of one in a comment to Vogue, saying that she is proud of her younger sister's success. "There's no one I want to see succeed or soar more," she told the outlet.


The feeling is mutual. Fanning regularly posts pictures of the two on Instagram and even shares home videos of the sisters having fun as kids. "I feel most complete and most at ease when you are home with me," she wrote in the caption of one throwback photo posted in honor of Dakota's 25th birthday.

In 2019, it was announced that — for the first time in their careers — the sisters would be playing sisters in The Nightingale. While the siblings previously played the same character at different ages, they'd never actually shared screen time before. "As sisters, to share our artistry with each other while bringing such a powerful sister story to life is a dream come true," they told The Wrap.


Elle Fanning has big plans for her future

Elle Fanning has accomplished a ton in her life, but there's still so much more ahead of her. Fanning has gone from a young actress following in her big sister's footsteps to a leading lady in her own right, but she's not stopping there. Fanning is determined to expand her career even further and transform her acting profession into an empire. Fanning told InStyle that among her many goals for the future are directing, recording a country album, and launching her own clothing line.


Fanning also wants to work with her sister, telling Net-a-Porter that she and Dakota want to start a production named after their grandmother, known as Gaba by the Fanning sisters. "It could be Gaba Productions," suggested Fanning. The actress also has big plans outside of her professional life, and "want[s] a lot of kids" in the future, saying "I definitely hope I'm a mother."