“Ginger & Rosa”
Roger Durling with Actress Elle Fanning
Roger Durling: The amazingly gifted Elle Fanning. Thanks for coming Elle.
Elle Fanning: Ah, thanks you guys.
Durling: I’m still very emotional. This is my second time seeing the film, and it’s still so emotional to watch your performance. You were twelve years old when you auditioned for this part?
Fanning: Yes, I was. I went in to meet Sally, and I was twelve. I remember I auditioned two scenes for her, and I was so nervous because I had to do an English accent. And I’ve never done an accent for anything before and obviously Sally is from London. She grew up where Ginger grew up, East London, and I had to do the accent and I was so nervous. I remember, right when I met Sally, that we just immediately clicked from our first hug. She loves hugs. So for our first hug, we really bonded. We have a really intense relationship, I feel like.
Durling: And she wasn’t looking for a British actress? She was just looking for the best actress for the job?
Fanning: Yeah, when we talked about it, it was mostly if you can relate to the experiences, and the different emotions that Ginger has to go through. That’s what she was looking for, if you can sort of attach yourself in that way. Ginger has to go through really hard concepts. She wanted to find someone who could relate to those concepts in a way. Sally and I talked about it. She did grow up in that period where there may not be a tomorrow. The whole world could end the next day, which is very scary to me.
Durling: What was scary about it? Did it have to do with the character’s growth?
Fanning: Yeah, I think that and also the concept that the world could end and that was very frightening. I’ve never really thought about that before and I know that teenagers of that time always had this on their minds. I might wake up and I might not wake up the next day, because with the press of a button, the whole world could be blown up, which is very scary.
Durling: The audience knows you for Super 8. And they know you for other American productions. How was it different to work with Sally Potter? You had to shoot in London, right?
Fanning: Yes, definitely, she really wanted it to be London because the whole soul of the story has that little London feel. We all filmed on location, in actual houses. Even all the boat scenes were on an actual boat. The whole crew crammed in there together. I thought it made it feel so real, and it made everything come to life, I felt. She also wanted to film the story in chronological order. With all the characters, we could really relate back to memories that actually did happen yesterday. Our emotions would build and build, and then we could reflect on scenes we have done and emotions we have felt just the day before, which really helped because it’s sort of the growth of all our characters. You’re building layers and layers of different emotions, and then that sort of comes to that final scene where everything basically just explodes. She built up to that point.
Durling: And the young actress that plays your best friend, Rosa, Alice Englert, has never performed in a movie before, right. Did you help her out? What was your relationship with Alice like?
Fanning: Yeah, I remember meeting Alice over in London during our rehearsals. We did a long week of rehearsals with everyone. We all got together, and basically, we analyzed the script, every word. And I met Alice for the first time over that rehearsal period. Sally wanted us to capture that quality of best friend. I definitely have a best friend, I know that everyone at some point has had a best friend, and it’s that thing where you sort of talk in a secret code. In a way, you have little hand gestures, or where friends just get you. We wanted to capture that. From our first meetings we sort of talked about that, but it was funny because we, instead of trying to make that happen, it actually just happened from our first moment. We hung out together and created that closeness, which is sort of crucial to the two characters.
Durling: And what was it like, working with this incredible assemble? You have Christina Hendricks, playing your mom, and you have, Ed Benning, Albert Plaith. What was it like to have that supporting cast around you?
Fanning: Yeah, it was incredible. I felt everyone was so perfect for their character, and they just brought so many qualities. I love them, I love watching them work. It’s amazing. We really got close and everyone was working together to make this. It took everyone. It was amazing to watch all those people.
Durling: You tapped into some really emotional scenes: the scene at the boat, the scene with watching your father, with Rosa, and then of course, the final sequence where you’re so emotional. What was that process like? Does it come natural to you to tap into those emotions?
Fanning: Yeah, I think to me it’s mostly about imagining, and putting yourself in that position. I’ve never experienced those experiences, but it’s about creating and making believe that you have. So, I tried to put myself in her place and feel. She’s gone through so much. She has that on her mind that the world could end, and then this horrible disaster, Rosa and Roland. Best friends always have the same opinion on basically everything, but as they get older, Ginger and Rosa are starting to have difference of opinions, which is frightening to them, and they really don’t know how to take it, or how to understand that, so it’s definitely, a lot of emotions that just explode out of her. You just have to put yourself in her place.
Durling: You must have known from the script that you have that big scene at the end. Was that pretty scary for you?
Fanning: It was a monster scene. It was twelve pages, and so, reading, we wondered, how are we going to shoot this twelve-page scene? Christine and I would always ask Sally what are we going to do, and Sally would never really tell us about it. She wanted to keep it sort of private in a way. We never rehearsed that scene. We shot the monster scene in two days, and the first day was basically getting all the close-ups, and the wide shots. The second day, Robbie DP was basically going around and picking up little details of hands and of feet. He did his Robbie special. He would just go around, get little details. Sally, with that particular scene, wanted it to be from beginning to end. She would never do any pick-ups on it because she felt like the emotions are building, building, and building. She didn’t want to pick up from a point, but start right from the beginning. Every time, we did it the full length.
Durling: Earlier, you said that she would rehearse all the scenes with you, but this one she did not.
Fanning: This one, she didn’t. That one was the one she wanted to keep it a secret in a way. I think she wanted us to discover it on our own, instead of her telling us. With a lot of the different scenes, we had talked it over and we made sure we sort of understood the concepts, or the underlying, sort of meaning, the layers. We never had any marks on set, like hot pink tape. We never had that. We would walk into a room on location at the beginning of the day to shoot and she’d be like, “where do you feel comfortable sitting in this room. Where does your body sort of go to?” And so, I’d be like, “I like this corner”. I’d be sitting in the corner and she sort of based everything off that. She wanted you to really feel comfortable. It was all hand-held, Robbie basically could go wherever.
Durling: How were the other actors doing on that monster scene? Were they rooting for you?
Fanning: We really got into it. I remember after that first initial day we all felt cleansed. We released everything, and it was also the build-up of knowing that the scene was coming, I think. Everyone in the scene basically had to sort of feel all the different emotions. And Sally definitely wanted to make sure a close-up on just Christina, or on just Alice, that everyone was in the room doing the scene from beginning to end, with the same emotions that they’ve always had, because everyone’s reacting to different things. Even if it was on just one person’s face, everyone was in the room doing the scene full force.
Durling: Sally is a highly artistic director. Her films are beautifully composed, and very formalistic. Were you aware of the artistic choices that she was making when you were shooting and the positions she was making you do?
Fanning: Yeah, I especially loved the artistic side of this. It was one and we haven’t even started shooting yet. On rehearsal day, we were picking out the clothes, and the hair color, because the red was very specific, so were getting the shade right, and that day it was snowing in London, and Sally was like, “oh we have to get the snow, we have to get the snow, we have to get all the different seasons”, without even knowing if we’re doing a scene that day. Sally just made up a scene out in the snow, where we’re lying back, sort of feeling the ground. I love that artistic part of it, where the scenery had to be right and all the little details, like my room with the peace sign on the wall; everything was placed in its right position.
Durling: I read an article with Sally that mentioned that you had told her that you felt that you’ve grown up so much during the filming of this movie. Would you like to comment on what she said?
Fanning: Yeah I think after I filmed it, in a funny way, I feel like I’d sort of matured just a tad. Because I sort of, with all the different emotions that Ginger sort of takes on, I felt like, “oh wow”, because that was a couple months of my life that I was really in Ginger’s world. And I sort of came out of it, and I was like,
“oh, I think I’ve grown a little bit”.
Durling: Now, you’re only fourteen years old, and you’ve worked with David Fincher, you’ve worked with Sophia Coppola. Now you’ve worked with Sally Potter and you’ve worked with J.J. Abrams. You’re an incredible, fortunate, actress. What have you learned from these different incredible directors that you’ve worked with?
Fanning: I think I’ve always sort of taken away a couple things from each movie that I have done, and each director that I’ve been really fortunate to work with. I can’t think of a specific thing that I’ve taken away, but all of them have really helped me sort of grow and learn different things, not just as an actress but in life as well, you know?
Durling: Well, it’s just so delightful to see you. You’ve been working for ten years, you act, and you sing, you sing so poised, and so delightful.