The story of Joe Exotic and the rest of the “Tiger King” characters may have been a discovery early on in quarantining for most Americans, but Dakota Fanning was well versed in the drama by the time the show hit Netflix.
“I listened to the podcast months and months ago, so I already knew about this,” Fanning says over the phone from her home in Los Angeles, where she’s sheltering in place with her mother and sister Elle.
That didn’t keep her from binge watching the show, though, like the rest of the country, as stay-at-home orders came out in March. “I loved it. It was very fun getting to see it other than listening to it. It was another layer of excitement.”
The Fanning sisters have been keeping busy introducing their mom to the “MasterChef Junior” series, a favorite of theirs, as well as baking, doing crossword puzzle books and reading.
“Trying not to have the TV on too much, I guess,” Fanning says. “Trying to read, trying to listen to things, trying to stimulate all the senses and not just be a couch potato.”
Fanning was prepping to start shooting “The Nightingale,” the adaptation of the novel by Kristin Hannah, alongside Elle; the film marks the first time the two have acted opposite one another in a movie. Instead of acting, she’s leaning on her voice: as part of her existing work with Save the Children, she’s participating in their Save
With Stories program, via Jennifer Garner and Amy Adams, where celebrities have recorded themselves reading children’s books.
“I think that’s a really nice reprieve for people, even if you don’t have kids, to just listen to an actor or musician or someone that you like read a sweet little book,” Fanning says.
She’s also trying a new venture and has recorded her first audiobook for Audible — “Divergent” series author Veronica Roth’s adult debut, “Chosen Ones.”
“My sister had recorded books with Audible, and she had such a great experience, so I was really excited to do it based on that,” Fanning says of agreeing to the opportunity when approached.
It required a different set of skills than acting, but once she got the hang of it, she says she found herself “blazing through it.”
“It was finding the balance between when one of the characters is speaking and then switching back to the narration — that’s the thing that I wanted to make sure was clear to the listener,” she says. “And so, that was obviously something that was different from doing regular narration in a film or something.”
Fanning’s own taste in literature is varied. Prior to quarantine, she was busy studying “The Nightingale,” a more serious, emotional read, but she also goes for the occasional beach read “that is calm,” she says.
“I don’t really discriminate, and I also don’t get as much time to read as I would like usually. Every time I read a book I’m so fascinated by the power of storytelling and the way that writers are able to create a world for people, and how that world looks different for each reader — or listener in this case,” she says.
Many actors find it difficult to watch their own movies, and Fanning says she’s slowly heading in that direction.
“It depends. I started when I was so young, and when I was younger I didn’t care about it. And then as I sort of got older I was like, ‘Oh, I don’t know,’” she says. “It feels embarrassing. But I go back and forth. I don’t put pressure on myself to not do it or to do it. It’s just more of just how I feel that day.”
That said, the audiobook is proving to be a different ballgame — she’s currently having less luck with the idea of being able to listen to herself.
“I’ve been avoiding listening to myself reading the Audible book because I’m just not sure how I’m going to feel about hearing my own voice for that long,” she says. “I love Audible books, I love the experience of listening to a book, so maybe I’ll be able to dissociate that it’s my voice. Right? I’m hopeful.”
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