Low Down
Oscilloscope "Low Down"

She may just be months away from turning sweet 16, but make no mistake about it, Elle Fanning is an actress to contend with. At the 2014 Sundance Film Festival with two very different works, the futuristic western "Young Ones" and Jeff Preiss' devastating character study "Low Down," Fanning proves her formidable range.

"Low Down" serves as bigger showcase for the actress. In the true story, Fanning embodies Amy Albany (whose memoir the film is based on), a girl forced to cope with her drug addicted father, pianist Joe Albany (John Hawkes), while coming of age during the '60s and '70s. Glenn Close co-stars as her stern but loving grandmother.

Indiewire sat down with Fanning in Park City to discuss the challenging role, her upcoming performance as Princess Aurora in Disney's "Maleficent," and how she stays grounded.

Amy is portrayed as a bit of a hermit in "Low Down." She had no friends to speak of, except for her boyfriend. I'm sure that's not something you could easily relate to given how social your profession is.

Amy [Albany] was on set every day so there was a little bit of pressure (laughs). But we never talked about the friends thing. I mean she went to school but the film doesn't really go into that. I play her at 13 and then 15, and she had the boyfriend, Cole, when she was 15. She's living in a really difficult area in a difficult time with a drug addict father. In the book, in the memoir that Amy wrote, she loved her father so much. She thought he was the greatest guy. Obviously he's such a troubled person. But I wanted to make sure it comes across that she's a survivor and strong about it, and not mad about it. "This is the best I was given so I'm going to do the best I can."

Are you one to maintain a lot of friendships in your personal life, or is it difficult to because you're so busy with your career?

I go to regular school, I'm a sophomore, so yeah! I mean when I'm not in Sundance (laughs), or when I'm not filming, I'm just at school doing teenage stuff. Going to sleepovers and stuff like that. And yeah I do, I have a lot of close friends who are supportive. The normal school thing is the best, not being home schooled or anything.

Low Down
Oscilloscope "Low Down"

Was that your decision to attend regular school?

Yeah, I mean my sister [Dakota], she went to school when she transferred into normal high school, so I went as well. We just went together to the same school. It's the best decision because I have friends my own age.

Especially as an actor I can't imagine it any other way. You have to study life!

Yeah, true. Exactly!

Amy is a silent observer for so much of the film. Were those scenes more difficult to play than the ones in which you speak?

A lot of the time in some things it's harder to not say anything because the lines aren't written on the page for you — you're just observing something going on. And you have to make sure you're thinking about everything that's happening and you want it to resonate. You have to be really in the moment, which sometimes can be harder.

The film stars John Hawkes and Glenn Close, but you're the lead. Were you nervous to carry this film?

You know, it was exciting for me. In a way, it's all told through her eyes. But John is definitely the main guy.

In Amy's life...

Yeah, I always thought he was the main person. I'm there witnessing a lot of things. But yeah being with these people who were so good, I'm just like… It's just exciting. Gave me tingles.