“It was my dream,” was Elle Fanning’s response when asked what is was like to play Princess Aurora in Disney’s latest film, Maleficent. And really, who can blame her? I’m sure at some point in every young girl’s life, she dreams of being a Disney princess.
When she was younger, out of all the Disney princesses, Elle thought she most resembled Sleeping Beauty. So I’m sure you can imagine just how much excitement and enthusiasm there was for Elle in playing this part. And let’s not forget that in addition to this role, she had the opportunity to work alongside Angelina Jolie.
During the interview with Elle, you could truly sense how honored and excited she was to have been given the opportunity for such a prodigious role. She talked about the audition process, her favorite scene and the difficulties that arise while shooting a film with so many special effects.
Did you feel any pressure living up to Sleepy Beauty’s standards?
Yeah, obviously I watched the animated movie so many times and it’s like you wanna do it justice because I feel like that Sleeping Beauty — they’ve already done it so perfectly, you know. So I did watch the animated film right before I started filming just because she has a certain physicality because she’s 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 in ours there is a little more to her because she’s not just a delicate princess. She has some strength and she actually shows real emotion. She gets sad and feels betrayal, because a lot of secrets are hidden from her. It was nice in ours that we could make her more human than just the cartoon.
I felt like she was so very innocent to the point of being naive. How different is the character from Elle?
Right. Well she is that way because she’s been trapped, in this little cottage. She doesn’t know the outside world. She was raised by fairies. She was definitely very naive in that way. Everything she has learned, she has 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 naiveness is like to the point of too 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.
I think you made her very believable and you kept us very attached to her.
Thank you. I tried to do that because 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? I thought that to bring a sense to her that she’s always 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 because she’s like normally everyone is so terrified of me, but this little girl is not. Which I think is what makes them have this bond that they do.
What was your favorite scene to shoot?
Mine was when I pricked my finger on the spindle because it’s such an iconic moment. When I think about the original, that’s the scene I think of. It was the very last day of filming that we did. So I was like, oh gosh, kind of everything was building its way up to that monumental moment and I felt I wanted to do it right. Everything had to be a certain way because 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 with that green and purple light. So I was like, “We have to have those lights.” So they changed them and made it more of a green hue.
Can you tell us about your audition process and where you were when you found out you got the part?
Yeah, it’s funny because it all happened really fast. A lot faster than those things normally do. I heard there was going to be a Maleficent movie which you know is from the villains point of view, so 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 with the director Rob, for a meeting. So I met with Rob and Linda, and Linda was the writer. She wrote Beauty and the Beast, so I was excited to meet who wrote Beauty and the Beast too. And so I went and had a meeting with them and we just talked and 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 because they kind of already decided that they were going to give me the part. So they told me in there that I got it. And then they handed over the script. So them handing over the script was like the coronation of everything. I read the script in the car and kind of got motion sickness reading it while driving home. 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?
I know! 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 like green and blue screens that you’re basically standing in, so you really have to imagine everything. It can also get a little technical too, but then you don’t want your performance to be prohibited by the technicality of it. 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. You have to make sure to hold it how you would hold it if it was there? We also had to do all this scanning of your body whenever you had a hair change or a wardrobe change. You stand on this turntable completely still and they turn you inch by inch and scan your body. So then that makes a virtual you into a computer and then they can take that virtual you and put you onscreen. So when I did all the floating and stuff, a lot of that they manipulated. I don’t know how it works but they did it.
Talking with Elle Fanning was such a treat and she was such a breath of fresh air. Super personable with such a bright future ahead of her.