She’s been in films and on the jury, and had some major fashion moments on the red carpet. Elle Fanning is back in Cannes to celebrate the 25th anniversary of L’Oréal Paris’ partnership with the film festival at a gala dinner Tuesday night.
The evening included the ladies of L’Oréal, with Viola Davis, Eva Longoria and Katherine Langford among them.
“They really lead by example. Everyone is very strong, opinionated, powerful women and L’Oréal Paris never deters anyone from speaking up and being their true sense of self. So I think for me, I’ve learned most watching them all just be entirely them and they’re entirely truthful to who they are, and I tried to live by that,” Fanning says.
She admits to it being hard growing up in the social media age, which brings a whole different type of pressure than being in the starring-role spotlight.
“You try to conform, you know, and especially with young girls these days, you want to tell them you don’t have to. There is no mold in life, even though sometimes you see a mold that you don’t necessarily fit into, and that’s OK. Everyone is completely different. We should be celebrating the power in the individual.”
Fanning prefers to let it all hang out on Instagram, including documenting a recent battle with eczema. “I posted that and showed this is [what’s happening to] my eyes. I’m embracing this and just trying to be honest. I try to be myself and not go to the dark side that you can fall into, which I have, looking at images and comparing yourself. But you have to remind yourself, it’s not real. It’s a curated life. And yeah it can be hard sometimes for sure, but that would be my message [to young girls].”
Fanning, who grew up on film after her first appearance at age three, has stepped into producing shows for “The Great” and “The Girl From Plainville.” Her years of experience on film sets — and constant curiosity about what was going on behind the camera — led her to the leadership role. “I’ve grown and I’m now very not afraid to speak up,” she says.
Fanning will admit to moments of intimidation that she has to move through, but credits her role on screen with giving her a bit of strength. “Weirdly through my character that I play [Empress Catherine in ‘The Great’] she was a very young, female leader and navigating people who were maybe not taking her as seriously as they should. And so through playing her, I learned my strength and found my voice a bit more.”
To create more powerful projects, she’s launched a production company with her sister Dakota Fanning, named after their late family dog, Lewellen Pictures.
To that end, she credits a lesson from her L’Oréal sister Longoria, who is now producing and directing her own projects. “For female roles, the conversation’s opened up, so it’s getting a bit better. But still, if the role is not out there, make it yourself, find the story that you want to tell, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”
That also means hiring women directors and crew members as a producer. “It’s not a lack of female directors, that’s not the problem. It’s the lack of opportunity. So you just have to create that space.”
Even being a producer on “The Great” doesn’t get her out of the uncomfortable corsets, though, she jokes, noting that her character was pregnant in the last series and even that state offered no relief. “I’m, like, ‘Oh, gosh, what’s this doing to my insides?’ So they’re not the most comfortable, but they are quite beautiful and they can’t help but transport you to that time and your posture and the way you walk and move.”
She’s jetting out of Cannes to shoot the third season of “The Great” in London, a place she now calls her part-time home. It’s influenced her California-girl style, adding Doc Martens and flannel to her wardrobe. “Everyone’s just very cool, easy, kind of just have messy hair. There’s like a real London girl thing like kohl-rimmed eyes. It’s the Kate Moss, like she’s the ultimate cool girl. Who doesn’t want to be her?”
Through Lewellen, the Fanning sisters have acquired several IPs that are development, she says, and Elle is working on season two of her podcast, “One Click.” The duo has their fingers in all sorts of media.
“When you find a story, you have to decide what medium is gonna best service that story. And both [Dakota] and I are interested in different things, too, so we get to mash that together. It’s kind of been a fun puzzle, piecing that together.”
While she doesn’t have any projects in the immediate pipeline, directing “is the dream.”
“I know that I will one day,” she says. “And one day maybe I’ll be in Cannes.”