I am so puzzled by this cover. If you don’t want Elle Fanning to grin, okay, but she is actively frowning here. Her mouth corner is turned down like a bed at the Ritz, she’s furrowing, she has actual irritation in her eyes. What did y’all DO to Elle Fanning to make her so annoyed? Was it the stringy shawl that showed off her underboob? Was it that you randomly switched out the dogs during the shoot to a pair of German Shepherds, and she didn’t understand why that mattered? (The Kenneth Ize dress in that shot, though, is amazing.) Was she, too, wondering why there’s an interior photo in Vanity Fair of a young girl in a Marc Jacobs bra and underpants? Was it because you’d taken this photo and she worried correctly that it would be dull? Did she know, instinctively, that THIS photo in a similar-but-different banal yellow dress wouldn’t actually look like her? The gist of the story, like all other stories about Elle Fanning, is that Elle Fanning is bubbly and exuberant and relatively unguarded, and so many of the photos work against that — but without doing so in an intriguing “This girl has layers” way.
As I noted, the piece leans heavily on everything an Elle Fanning profile has ever been: She’s natural, she’s preternaturally present, she’s got great instincts, she’s been working forever, she hasn’t been a Hollywood disaster story. One bonus is that Jancee Dunn got one GREAT anecdote and a good bite from Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu from when he directed her in Babel, when she was seven:
One late night, Iñárritu was directing an intense car-chase scene in the desert, in which Fanning and the boy playing her brother were being followed by the police. Says Iñárritu, “I’d explain to her: ‘Okay, after I say this word, you’ll turn to your brother and start crying, and then you will look to the man to your right, and be super scared and freak out and really start crying.’ And believe me, every single time—and I did 17 different takes—she did it right on, with the same intensity and precision.” He laughs. “And when the other kid was exhausted, she started directing him. She’d say, ‘Let me help you. When was the last time you did not receive a present that you were expecting? Just close your eyes and remember that day.’ She was giving him emotional instructions on how to make it happen in his heart.”
But the thing that really threw me — and be warned, this is pretty silly of me — is the lede. It begins by noting, “There are estimates” that she’s logged more than 60 roles in her career, and Dunn asks Elle if that can possibly be true, and Elle is like, “Hmm, I don’t know, I did write it down once,” and then pokes at her phone. The WHOLE time, I was thinking, “It’s just too bad that there isn’t some kind of DATABASE, perhaps on the INTERNET, that tells you what MOVIES people have made.” IMDb has her pegged at 61 roles — why wouldn’t Jancee Dunn just say, “IMDB says you’ve been in 61 things, can you believe it”? But even more confusingly, when Elle comes up for air, she announces it’s been 36 roles. So I guess the one time she wrote it down, it was like 8 years ago.