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Playing Princess

Elle Fanning shares her experience bringing Sleeping Beauty to life in Maleficent, out now

May 30, 2014
DISNEY

Elle Fanning plays Princess Aurora, also known as "Sleeping Beauty," in the new film Maleficent.

You have likely heard the tale of Princess Aurora and the vengeful fairy Maleficent, who cursed her to endless sleep. It was most famously told in the 1959 Disney animated movie, Sleeping Beauty. But do you know Maleficent’s side of the story? That’s the mission of Disney’s new live-action film Maleficent, starring Angelina Jolie as the title character. Actress Elle Fanning, 16, plays teenage Aurora, who is cursed to prick her finger on a spindle and sleep until true love’s kiss. TFK spoke to the actress about playing the classic Disney princess.

Elle Fanning (second from left) and the cast of Maleficent pose for a photo at the world premiere of the movie in Los Angeles, California.

JOHN SHEARER—INVISION/AP
Elle Fanning (second from left) and the cast of Maleficent pose for a photo at the world premiere of the movie in Los Angeles, California.

TFK:

You’ve been acting since you were very young. Has playing a princess been a dream of yours?

ELLE:

When I was little, if anyone asked me what I want to be when I grow up, I would always say a Disney princess. And Sleeping Beauty was my favorite one, so we had a special connection.

TFK:

We see more sides of Maleficent in this version. Do we learn more about Aurora?

ELLE:

You do. I tried to make her as close to the Sleeping Beauty we all think about because she's such an iconic character. I watched the animated film again just before I did the movie and got her hand motion and little things she does. She’s very innocent and the purest and nicest you could possibly be. But in our film you get to see her be a little more courageous and brave. She has some toughness to her, which is nice.

TFK:

What do you admire about Aurora?

ELLE:

I think she sees the good in everything, and I admire that a lot.

TFK:

Do you share any similarities with her?

ELLE:

She is very happy all the time and smiles a lot, and I feel like I'm that way. I laugh and smile all the time.

TFK:

What was it like to film the famous “true love's kiss” scene?

ELLE:

It was very different to stay really still [while pretending to be asleep]. It was hard for me not to start laughing when [Brenton Thwaites, the actor playing Prince Phillip] was there. I had to be very calm and my eyes couldn’t flutter, so it was very unusual.

TFK:

Did Maleficent scare you as a kid?

ELLE:

She did scare me, but I wasn’t terrified. She interested me because she was, I think, the prettiest Disney villain. She has that angular face and elegance about her. She talks in this way that kind of put me in a trance when I was young. She's so evil but so elegant.

TFK:

How was the experience of working with Angelina Jolie? I read that you shared a big hug when you first met.

ELLE:

I had never met her before and we were in the studios and I turned the corner and there she was. We gave each other huge hugs and she said that we are going to have so much fun working together. It was really fun. No one else could play this part. She's the absolute perfect person for Maleficent. All her kids were on set, too. She'd be in full makeup with the horns and cheekbones and all that and be holding both her twins, so it was really cool to see.

TFK:

Do you find yourself more sympathetic to Maleficent now?

ELLE:

I do because you get to see her backstory. No one is just pure evil or pure good. You get to see why she’s portrayed as this evil, bad person, so I have sympathy for her now.

TFK:

You also worked on an animated movie called The Boxtrolls, which will come out later this year. What can you share about your role?

ELLE:

I play Winnie. I have a British accent in that. Winnie is an 8-year-old girl, and she's very cute. She has red hair. Her dad is kind of the mayor of the town and Winnie is very spunky and she feels a little entitled, spoiled definitely, but you learn to love her. She's very feisty.

TFK:

How do you balance school when you're on set?

ELLE:

I go to a normal school. I just came back from school actually. But when I’m away, my school works with a studio teacher that goes with me on set. But I have to do everything else my classmates are doing when I'm on set—the same tests and homework. When I’m not working, I'm just at school.

TFK:

Why should kids see Maleficent?

ELLE:

If you love Sleeping Beauty and even Maleficent, you have to go see it. Boys will love it too—it’s not just a princess film. There are good fight sequences and amazing costumes. It would be an exciting adventure for everyone.


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