French kissing a girl? Prancing around scantily clad on stage crooning savage rock songs? Morphing into a sex kitten?
Hello -- is this the Dakota Fanning we have all come to know and love?
Yes... and no.
Fanning, who warmed hearts in films like I Am Sam and The Secret Lives of Bees, morphs into uber rock chick Cherie Currie in the new film The Runaways. The ambitious saga chronicles the rise of the famed girl band of the same name and, eventually, the fall of Currie, the band's lead crooner who was caught in an avalanche of fame alongside Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Sandy West and Jackie Fox in the mid-'70s.
As Currie, Fanning will certainly turn heads. She's actually the best thing in the fiery outing. In fact, the film, produced by Jett and directed by Floria Sigismondi, a visual muse behind videos for David Bowie and Christina Aguilera, would have wandered south creatively without her.
Twilight temptress Kristen Stewart also headlines, stepping in Jett's shoes. Actually, together, Fanning and Stewart make for a powerful cinematic force. (They also starred together in Twilight: New Moon and the upcoming Twilight outing, Eclipse.)
I recently caught up with Fanning, now 16, to discuss the film, Currie and more. Read on:
Q: How much did you know about Cherie before taking this on?
A: Not much at all. I wasn't familiar with Cherie. I knew who Joan Jett was. I think that now, that I do know so much, I hope that it will bring Cherie's story, and the story of the Runaways, to a new generation.
What was particularly challenging for you here because Cherie is definitely portrayed as complex?
She is. Because a lot of people don't know her story, you wanted to do the best you can for her. You know what I mean? But Cherie is so complex. She goes through such a transformation in this film and in her life. At first, she is the kind of good girl -- the innocent twin, less popular in school. She had to break out of that and become, 'The Cherry Bomb,' as they say. That was probably the most challenging. And also keeping that vulnerability and innocence that Cherie had at the beginning of the movie because Cherie, today, still has that.
You're 'electric' on screen but was it daunting taking this on?
I was so excited. I saw the live videos of Cherie performing 'Cherry Bomb' and that's when I knew I wanted to be part of the film. I felt so lucky I was asked to be in the film because I know a lot of people still think of me as younger, because they watched me grow up since I was 6 in I Am Sam. So to be able to do this role was really important to me.
Do you feel you turned a corner in your career here?
I think that this story is such an important story. I think, yeah, maybe. I don't know what other people will think, but for me, it's so different from anything I have ever done in my whole life.
So how do you think it has stretched you the most as an actress?
Probably the singing and the performing, because they are such iconic songs. The people who do know about the Runaways, they are diehard fans. These songs are so iconic; Cherie performing 'Cherry Bomb' is so iconic and you want to get that right. Probably one of the most challenging things was becoming another person. As an actor you're always becoming another person, but for this one, Cherie is actually alive and was on set, which was so helpful.
What was the best thing about working with Kristen?
Well, she's become one of my best friends. We've become really close. I think when you are that close to somebody ... I had this illusion of being "false" toward Kristen, but this experience was so great in that we were completely open toward each other. There were no barriers or walls that we put around ourselves. We were completely there ... just to connect in a real way. I think our relationship really translates into the movie. And it's great, because we did actually really like each other, and I think it would have translated differently if we hadn't -- that relationship [between Joan and Cherie] is so key to the movie.
When you look at yourself in this film, what comes to your mind?
Once I am finished making a movie, I kind of leave it there. There's nothing you can change. When I watch it, I just enjoy it. I mean, I had so much fun watching this movie. I've seen it four times. It's me up there but I think of it as another film. I feel this is the type of movie you can see over and over again.
You seem like a very grounded individual. What keeps you sane in a business that is often insane?
Yeah. Well ... I really truly live a normal life when I am not working and doing press. I have such a normal family. Other than my sister and myself, nobody else is involved in making movies. So I have a normal life to come home to, and live every day, when I am not on the set. And I think that is really important -- to keep that home life. I have different friends that I've made while working that are amazing. And also, I have been doing this since I was very young and it's all that I really know and that I love. And I would never want to jeopardize what I really love to do.
And what music do you listen to?
I keep saying this to people asking me about the film, but I truly do listen to The Runaways and Joan Jett every day. I got so sad when the movie was over. It was one of the most fun times in my life. I was listening to that constantly making the film. So now I just listen to the music and pretend I am still making the movie.
Chocolate or vanilla?
Coffee or tea?
Oprah or Ellen?
Oh. That's a hard one.
You can say both.
What makes you laugh most?
What makes me laugh most? My friends -- when somebody knows you so well and they know what you find funny. That's the best.
The biggest influence in your life?
She is my best friend. She's been with me through everything. What she gave up for me -- to give up her life that she had planned in Georgia, where I am from, to give me this life ... to make my dreams come true. As cheesy as that sounds, it really is true. No amount of thanks will ever be enough for her. She's the biggest role model.
Any dream roles you'd just love to sink your teeth into?
My dream role has always been to play a real person and this role was ... but I hope there are other dream roles ...
What's some of the best advice you've been given about life?
To not take it for granted -- everything can be taken away so fast; to really remember that every day and live every day to the fullest.
What's the most interesting thing you've learned about yourself lately?
I learned a lot about myself through this movie. It hit me when I was filming the scene where Cherie kind of looses the band. I put myself in that position -- could I do that? Obviously, I am not in Cherie's position -- out of control -- but that is the most amazing choice that she made and it made me question whether I could give up what I love to do and be OK with it. And I still haven't answered that.
The Runaways opens March 19.
(Photo: courtesy Apparition Pictures)