Fan­ning has the flame

Ac­tress wants to keep busy, di­rect one day

The Daily Press (Timmins) - - ENTERTAINMENT - Bob Thompson

Elle Fan­ning has enough range to play a saint or a sin­ner.

For ex­am­ple, she was Princess Aurora in the fan­tasy Malef­i­cent and now she por­trays a south­ern preacher with a sor­did past in Ben Af­fleck’s Prob­hi­tion-era mob movie Live by Night. Based on Den­nis Le­hane’s crime novel, the film fea­tures Af­fleck as gang­ster Joe Cough­lin who moves from Bos­ton to Tampa to set up shop.

Co-star­ring are Si­enna Miller, Zoe Sal­dana, Chris Messina, Bren­dan Glee­son and Chris Cooper, but Fan­ning stands out with her por­trayal of Loretta Fig­gis.

“Loretta is very dam­aged, and she’s had a tragic life,” says the 18-year-old from her home in Los An­ge­les. “I was the most scared when I started play­ing her be­cause she re­ally af­fected me.”

In­deed, Af­fleck de­cided three years ago that the ac­tress was the per­fect against-type per­former for the role. When the pro­duc­tion fi­nally came to­gether he re­con­nected with her.

“I first met with Ben for the role when I was 15,” she says. “There was no pos­si­ble way I thought I would get the part, but Ben de­cided I would be able to play her so I was re­ally ex­cited.”

As it turned out, Fan­ning had only a 10-day win­dow to do the role when the time came but they de­cided to make it work.

“I re­ally just sort of popped in, and had no re­hearsal, so my adrenalin was al­ways gush­ing,” Fan­ning says. “I tried to use my nerves to my ad­van­tage.”

Since most of her scenes are with Af­fleck’s Cough­lin, Fan­ning had a few other things to over­come, as well.

The ac­tress is a big fan of Af­fleck, the ac­tor, di­rec­tor, writer and pro­ducer, so she had to get past her stargaz­ing quickly. And, she had never per­formed op­po­site an ac­tor who was di­rect­ing.

“At first, I was anx­ious be­cause he’s the di­rec­tor and act­ing in the movie and most of my scenes are with him,” Fan­ning says. “I wasn’t sure how that was go­ing to work, but it turned out to be an ad­van­tage for both of us.”

In fact, Af­fleck’s ac­tor side of the equa­tion in­formed his film­maker ap­proach “so I al­ways felt the di­rec­tor trusted to me to cre- ate the best mo­ment pos­si­ble.”

The sup­port also gave Fan­ning the con­fi­dence to have Loretta con­front Af­fleck’s bad guy in an un­com­pro­mis­ing way.

“He’s a tough guy, but they have some things in com­mon,” the ac­tress says of the char­ac­ters. “They both have lots of flaws, and in a way, that makes them equals.”

Mean­while, the pos­i­tive Live by Night ex­pe­ri­ence with Af­fleck was enough to en­cour­age her film­mak­ing as­pi­ra­tions.

“I would love to di­rect some­day,” Fan­ning says. “Even when I was younger, I al­ways thought of be­ing a di­rec­tor be­cause on set they are so in charge, and they get to cre­ate this thing that be­longs to them.”

As it is, it’s the ac­tress life for her. She also has a co-star­ring role por­tray­ing a dys­func­tional teen in 20th Century Women with An­nette Ben­ing. And Fan­ning re­cently wrapped The Beguiled, her film re­union with writer-di­rec­tor Sofia Cop­pola af­ter they made 2010’s Some­where to­gether.

Malef­i­cent 2 is in the early pre­pro­duc­tion stage, but she says she would hap­pily re­unite with An­gelina Jolie for the se­quel.

“I like to keep busy,” she says. “I feel this won’t last for­ever.”

And yes, she does have a dream project.

“I would love to play Ste­vie Nicks in a movie,” she says of the Fleet­wood Mac singer and song­writer. “She’s the coolest lady and I re­ally like her mu­sic.”

On the per­sonal front, Fan­ning grad­u­ated from “a nor­mal high school” and still lives with her par­ents in L.A. Col­lege may or may not be in her fu­ture.

Still, she’s come along way. She was three when her fam­ily moved to L.A. from Ge­or­gia, so older sis­ter Dakota could au­di­tion for roles. Like her sis­ter, Elle had im­me­di­ate suc­cess in the film in­dus­try.

Count on her to cope with the grow­ing fame and for­tune.

“My par­ents taught me not to take any­thing for granted and al­ways be hum­ble and grate­ful,” Fan­ning says.

Hand­out

Elle Fan­ning as Loretta Fig­gis in the dra­matic crime thriller Live by Night. The ac­tress had to over­come be­ing starstruck when work­ing with Ben Af­fleck, the film’s star and di­rec­tor.

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