Night Moves: An interview with Dakota Fanning
Dakota Fanning is the lead actress of upcoming eco-thriller Night Moves by Kelly Reichardt. We caught up with her to talk about the role, as well as her career, personal life and what advice she would give to young girls who want to embark on the same path.
Michelle Williams said she had to learn to bake bread to prepare for Meek’s Cutoff (Kelly Reichardt’s latest movie). Was there anything you had to learn?
Not a specific skill, but there were a lot of physical activities and labour in the movie: preparing the fertiliser, filling the bags, loading the bags onto the boat…
Kelly loves to do long takes, six/seven minutes each, and this made me feel like I was putting this stuff together for real. We had to look like we were doing it. The characters are just amateurs with big ideas.
Your character seems to trust Josh (Eisenberg) over Harmon (Sarsgaard), but then there’s an incident and she avoids Josh: what happened?
Josh and Dena have a friendship, she talks a lot, she’s extroverted, jokes around, throws in ideas… Jesse’s character is the opposite, introverted and a loner. The friendship is weird, there is a sort of trust between them, and then there’s a switch. After what happens there’s a strong change, for all of them.
What do you think about the characters’ activist ideas?
I admire my character’s passion for these issues. They took their passions to an extreme level. I could relate to that and understand its source.
How did you prepare for the role; did you do research on environmental activism?
Kelly sent me a lot of articles and material; I looked at some of them. I liked that Dena, even if she is knowledgeable, also has a naïve quality – she speaks before she thinks. I didn’t want her to be a stereotypical activist so I didn’t want to have all of the knowledge either.
We filmed in Oregon and the negative environmental effect is very obvious to you there. I wanted a more emotional reaction to the issues as opposed to just knowing the facts.
Did you change your lifestyle after reading this?
I’ve always tried to turn lights off, small things… this is what the movie is about: the choice that people make. I’ve always tried to do the best that I can.
How was working with Jesse (Eisenberg) and Peter (Sarsgaard)? Jesse just told us he had to apologise for acting so mysteriously on the set.
Jesse and I spent a lot of time together. We got along really well; we got along better than Dena and Josh but there was that same sort of trust and bond. Peter and I worked together before, he is a really special person. Even the crew was so wonderful, it made for a really nice time.
How did you respond to the pressure and expectations of high profile roles in your career?
I think that I did it really… I always do my job and enjoy it; it’s what I love to do and I don’t do it for any other reason than that it makes me happy and fulfilled. Whatever attention, fans are just a bonus – that doesn’t feed me; you can never please people all of the time. You have to do it for the love of acting.
How do you choose roles? What attracted you to the Night Moves script?
This film does totally fit me. Working with Kelly, it was almost the most wonderful I have ever had it. I can’t express how much I needed it, when I was doing it.
I try to do different things, in terms of choosing roles. I like to keep it interesting – you don’t want to get stuck doing the same thing. It’s an instinctual thing for me when you read a movie, meet a person, fall in love with the character: you just kind of know it’s right.
Was it important not to be sucked up by the business in order to keep your feet on the ground?
It was important. From my experience, I have such a full life as an actor but I also have an amazing life outside of it with family or in my apartment by myself. I enjoy that just as much – and going to school. That was important for me too because I wanted to have that experience.
Did you cheer?
It’s the typical thing; I wanted to do it in high school and it was really fun, but I couldn’t do it now. I probably could remember some of the stuff. It was a while ago now!
Sandra Bullock says Hollywood is like high school: you can’t control the opinions. Do you agree with her?
It’s totally impossible to control opinions, whether you are an actor or in whatever job, or in high school. Everybody has judgements and opinions. I try to make good decisions for myself and my own happiness, and my career. For my personal life, it’s the only way. Know what’s important for you.
You have a quite young teenage audience; what do you think they are going to get out of this movie?
I’ve done so many different kinds of movies for different people… younger, older – it’s a good mix. I hope they enjoy it; I always wanted to be in a movie like this, honestly. I love Kelly’s style of making films, it’s just very realistic and natural. We had takes that were like six minutes long, where we were just driving and not speaking. So much can be said in those quiet moments and Kelly really takes advantage of that. I hope people enjoy it as much as I did.
How has the position of female directors in Hollywood changed?
I have worked with a lot of female directors, which is great. It’s always cool when you work with one because there are still just a few in the grand scheme of things. For this particular movie, I don’t know if her being a woman played a role, but she was the leader of the crew and took care of us and led us on everything. The people she works with love her and respect her so much because she gives so much to you.
Scott Haze said that to be directed by James Franco was the most wonderful experience of his life. What do you think of an actor becoming a director?
I’d love to do it one day – direct something – because I value the relationship with the director so much; it’s so important to me. I have worked with so many amazing people. I’d love to be there for another actor. Obviously, if you are an actor you have some sort of insight and understanding of what they are going through. It’s an extra thing you could bring to the table.
How is it going with your side job with Marc Jacobs?
I’m officially done with that campaign but I loved working with him. It’s always really fun to work with him; he’s a great man.
How do you feel about being observed by the paparazzi?
It’s really not normal; I love that my life when I’m not working is quite boring. I live in NYC most of the times: so many people around, subways, cabs, buildings… it’s easy not to be noticed. It’s a weird thing and I don’t think it’s normal, I think it’s strange. It’s obviously a part of my life and there’s nothing I can do about it so I can’t let it affect me.
Showbiz is a competitive world. What is your advice for young girls who want to take the same path?
If you truly want something you should absolutely go for it and never compromise who you are or what you believe in just to get ahead. I truly believe that if you are conscious of doing the right thing, being good to people, kind and honest, even it doesn’t seem to pay off I think that in the end it will.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor