I wasn’t extremely familiar with Elle Fanning when I sat down at the Four Seasons that day. I knew she was half of an acting sister powerhouse. I knew she’d dazzled me in her performance of Aurora in Maleficent. What I didn’t know, until she walked into the room, is that she is a kinetic ball of energy; bright, sparkling and highly engaging.
The moment she appeared, there was a collective reaction to how tall and lithe she is. Mumbles of “…oh to be that young and fit again…” could be heard throughout our group. But, instead of jealousy over her youthful beauty, we found ourselves falling instantly in love with not only her contagious smile, but also her raw excitement over playing this classic Disney princess.
Elle filled the room with her charisma as she talked with us about her 39th acting credit as Princess Aurora, better known as Sleeping Beauty, in Disney’s Maleficent.
What is 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,” ’cause that’s the ultimate goal in life, I think, for any young, young girl. And especially Sleeping Beauty. She was always my favorite one ’cause I felt like I looked — you know, when you’re little you see which ones you look like the most and she was the one that I looked like the most. So I would go to Disney store and I would buy her clothes and her shoes – so to get to play this is really like a 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 that Sleeping Beauty — they’ve already done it so perfectly, you know. I have to live up to that. So I did watch the animated film right before I started filming just because I thought she has a certain physicality ’cause she’s drawn, you know, drawn a certain way. And she holds her hands like this, with these little gestures and her posture and her feet. So I tried to bring that charm to the role. But also there is… in ours there is a little more to her ’cause she’s not just a delicate princess, you know. She has some strength and she actually shows real emotion. She gets sad and feels betrayal ’cause a lot of secrets are hidden from her. So, it was nice in ours that we could make her more human than just, you know, the cartoon.
She was so very innocent to the point of being naïve. How different is the character from Elle?
EF : She is that way ’cause she’s been trapped, you know, she’s in this little cottage. She doesn’t know the outside world — raised by fairies. Definitely very naïve in that way. Everything she’s learned she’s kind of had to learn on her own and I guess, for me, I’m still as happy and as curious as she is, so I like to soak up a lot of information. We’re very similar in that way. But I guess, it is exaggerated as a fairy tale. So her naïveness is like to the point of so much. Whereas 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.
You made her very believable and you kept us very attached to her.
EF : Thank you. I, I tried to do that ’cause I know it could get boring if it’s oh, that girl is just the one who’s happy and doesn’t know anything, you know? But I thought to bring a sense to her that she’s always, you know, she’s kind of desperate to learn and she’s trying to figure things out, that’d be nice. 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 ’cause she’s like, “Normally everyone’s so terrified of me, but this little girl’s not”. Which, I think that’s what makes them have this bond that they do.
Have you been able to see the film yet?
EF : You guys have seen more than I have because you saw it in 3D and everything and I haven’t at all. I’ve seen it but all the special effects weren’t done.
What was your favorite scene to shoot?
EF : To shoot? Mine was when I pricked my finger on the spindle ’cause 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 that we did. So everything was building its way up to that monumental moment and I felt — I wanted to do it right. Everything has to be a certain way. ‘Cause 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, like, with that green and purple light. So I was like, “We have to have those lights.” So they changed [it and] made it more of a green hue and then I had the trance.
Can you tell us about your audition process and where you were when you found out you got the part?
EF : Yeah, 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 [and]there has to be an Aurora in there. So I was like, oh my gosh, I hope I get to be that. They asked me to come in, the director Rob, for a meeting. So I met with Rob and Linda, and Linda was the writer.
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 ’cause they kind of already decided that they were gonna give me the part. So they told me in there that I got it. Then they handed over the script – like the coronation of everything. I read the script in the car and got motion sickness. 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?
EF : 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 really, you have to imagine everything. You want to make sure that you’re still playing your character but, you still have to be aware of the little hand that you’re holding. But you’re not holding a hand, it’s air. We also had to do all this scanning. Whenever you had a hair change or a wardrobe change, you’d stand on this turntable and stand completely still and they turn you inch by inch and scan your body. That makes a virtual you [in the] computer and then they can take that virtual you and put you onscreen. When I did all the floating and stuff, a lot of that was manipulated.
Do you feel bummed out that you got a princess role with no singing?
EF : I know! I was thinking about that! I was like, “I’m surely gonna get to sing the song”, you know? I think that, for this one, it just didn’t happen. Also, like, Lana Del Rey – she sings that song in our trailer, and it’s so perfect ’cause our movie is more gothic. So it’s nice to have her haunting voice; a different take on it than just the original one.
Maleficent premieres nation wide on May 30th. You can get more information, watch clips and even preorder tickets on Disney.com – skip the disappointment when it’s sold out. And, trust me…it will sell out.
*Travel expenses and accommodations provided by Disney in exchange for editorial coverage on RJC. All opinions expressed will be my own.