Fanning first appeared on screen at age two, as a younger version of the character played by her older sister, Dakota, in I Am Sam. Since then, she has appeared in more than 30 films, an already staggering number that’s rapidly increasing. This year alone, she plays the title role in About Ray, a film about a transgender teen, alongside Susan Sarandon and Naomi Watts, and Bryan Cranston’s daughter in Trumbo, the story of a Hollywood screenwriter blacklisted as a communist. Both are high-profile projects with complex, grown-up roles that firmly establish her as an adult actress. To say that it’s a big year is an understatement.
But it’s an important time in more ways than one—she is, finally, a senior in high school. “We have the senior patio now,” she explains, as one of the perks of finally rising to the top of Campbell Hall. “Only seniors can go on it. Underclassmen are not allowed—they get kicked off. We see an underclassman and we’re like, ‘Go away.’ And we have senior prank day, which is always a surprise. We have to think of something good....”
The question that always floats around Elle Fanning is “Well, is she normal?” The answer: Yes, but it’s a normalcy she’s worked for. “I was home-schooled, and it was only a short period of time, but I was like, ‘I have no friends,’” she explains. “My parents have known each other since second grade, and they’re still together. They didn’t start dating until college, but they always talk about their high school, and I was like, ‘I have to have that! I want to experience all the proms and be able to talk about that one kid everyone knew.’”