Elle Fanning is becoming a movie star in her own right. With four films released in 2014, Fanning has been staying true to more age appropriate films like Disney’s “Maleficent” and the animated feature “The Boxtrolls.” But, she’s also been extending herself into new territory and taking on more adult roles in the Joe Albany biopic “Low Down” and Jake Paltrow’s new film “Young Ones” (out this Friday in select theaters and on video on demand platforms).
“Young Ones” is a dystopian futuristic western in which water has become an endangered resource. The male protagonists played by Michael Shannon, Nicholas Hoult, and Kodi Smit-McPhee are at odds with one another and must learn to survive in spite of each other and the environmental despair. Fanning plays Mary Holm, rebellious teenage daughter and sister who is “love obsessed” with her conniving boyfriend, played by Hoult. Fanning sat down with Indiewire to discuss the nuances of her character and some of the more challenging intimate scenes. (Spoilers)
Yeah, when you read the script, it’s definitely like each guy has his own chapter in the film and their own thing. But, with Jake, the director, we talked about how I’m the housewife at home and all the guys are going through so much with the terrain and they’re doing all of that to provide for her. They’re trying to take care of her and I just love Mary’s character completely. She’s the older sibling and she tries to mother Jerome (Smit-McPhee) because obviously our mom is not there or very capable. She’s also slightly crazy because she knew what life was like before the drought happened, so in thinking about that if tomorrow we had no water and the world turned into this film, I think I would be slightly crazy too and I tried to grab onto something that I could control. And even though I don’t know if she has much control, but Flem (Hoult) is her obsession. She’s very love-obsessed with his character and she’s addicted.
You mention that you think she’s slightly crazy. She is kind of a rebel and she has the dyed hair and the bad boy boyfriend. That’s something that’s very relatable and universal—this teenage rebellion. But, it’s under such foreign circumstances of this dystopian future. How did you manage to balance those two elements?
Yeah. We talked a lot about how we wanted Mary to look and the dyed hair was actually chalk. They would put chalk into my hair every day to make it look dusty and dirty. She does rebel against her dad for sure because of dating Flem. But she believes that is a true romance. What I did like about Mary is that even though she’s dealing with a lot of adult issues, she’s still one of the most innocent characters I think I’ve ever played. She’s very childlike and they live in a remote area and she doesn’t completely know everything and maybe she should take more caution in certain situations.
But, she does transition over the course of the film. She has to grow up rather quickly.
Yes, I remember because I had these roots in the beginning and then they grew out really far. We never actually see her have the baby, but she’s still pregnant at the end, but still she looks definitely weathered down and she’s been through a lot obviously, a lot emotionally. She’s becoming more of a mother figure. She can’t just be a teenage girl anymore. That ship is completely gone and she has to grow up.
There is a lot of heavy, adult material in the film that your character must deal with—death and war, but also the sexual aspect. Was that a new acting challenge for you?
[Laughs] Yeah, it’s funny because there was never a scene that was written like that.
Right, just more intimate than any of your past films.
Yeah, of course. I felt like you’re just there and working and it gets very technical like “kiss for a shorter amount of time” [Laughs]. Just weird things like that. Me and Nick, we liked each other a lot and everyone in the whole crew and cast, we got really close because we were in this little town. So, yeah in that way, it was just a part of Mary’s character. She’s a very loving person so she definitely shows that a lot. She’s also a fixer in a way. She wants to fix people, so she’s very sweet.
You also have some pretty intense scenes with Michael Shannon who plays your father. What was it like to work with him?
He is so amazing in this movie, so haunting too. It’s never really explained why Mary despises him so much, not in complete detail. You kind of have to figure it out on your own. But me and Jake did talk about it. Whenever Mary looks at her dad, she never looks at her eyes. She only looks at his ear. So, whenever I looked at him, I would always look at his ear while acting. it’s that thing when you despise someone so much. She thinks it’s his fault that this whole thing has happened, which is very, probably relatable. You don’t know where to put your anger so you put it on someone else.
So, you’ve been really busy this year. You’ve had two films already come out in 2014 and you have two coming out soon. How have you balanced all of that?
Yeah, I’m excited! It’s always really exciting. I love it. It’s exciting to see the film when it’s all polished and done. I’m working on a movie right now in New Orleans called “Trumbo” and that’s what the brown hair is for. [Laughs] It’s very different. But, yes that’s what I’m doing. And then after that I think I’ll go back to school for a little bit.
You’re in high school full time correct?
Yeah. I go to a regular school. I’m a Junior. So, only two more years!
Wow, ok. So, do you think you’re going to follow your sister’s footsteps and go to college?
I think so, I have to find the right place for me and that’s important. My parents are helping me with that. I’m going to do the East Coast vs. West Coast schools, college tours and all that. [Laughs] I did my PSATs, but I still have to do my SATS and all that stuff later.
That’s a lot to deal with in addition to all of these films.
Yeah, definitely. It’s a major focus of mine as well.
“Young Ones” opens on October 17. Watch the trailer below: