Ginger & Rosa (opening wide in March) looks at the lives of two teenage girls – inseparable friends Ginger (Elle Fanning) and Rosa (Alice Englert) – growing up in 1960s London, and the pivotal event the comes to redefine their relationship as the Cuban Missile Crisis looms. Recognized for her remarkable and emotionally moving work as Ginger, actress Elle Fanning was honored with a Virtuosos Award at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF). Collider was there to cover and attend the event, and we’ve compiled the highlights of what the actress had to say, both on the press line and during the Q&A.
While there, Elle Fanning talked about how excited she was to be recognized for her work in this film, how she was able to relate to this character, getting a feel for the 1960’s, how being involved with a story like this made her think about her own life, how incredible it was to work with work with Annette Bening, what she thought of her red hair, and how she would love to do a movie musical. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
Question: What was your reaction when you found out you were being honored with a Virtuosos Award?
ELLE FANNING: My mom told me and I was like, “Oh, my god!” I couldn’t believe it! I remember coming to Santa Barbara before, for the film festival. We screened a movie here and I did a Q&A. So, getting to come back is such an honor. It’s really nice.
What’s it like to have Ginger & Rosa recognized, in this way?
FANNING: It’s amazing! I’m so honored to be here, and I’m just really happy that they responded to the film. When we were making it, it was a very small crew because it was an independent film, and we all felt like everyone was there because they wanted to be there, and because they really believed in (writer/director) Sally [Potter] and believe in the story and thought it was really special. And I’m glad other people think it’s special, too.
What is your favorite role that you’ve played?
FANNING: Wow, it’s really hard to pick one. What I try to do is choose a lot of different characters that are just total opposites. Ginger was probably the most challenging role I’ve had to do yet. I had a different hair color and an English accent. It wasn’t even me. I liked that one because it was just so far from myself.
FANNING: She’s a teenager and, at the time, I was 13 and a teenager, as well. When you’re that age, you want to be an adult, in a way, but you don’t want to have the responsibilities of an adult. You still want to have the freedom. And I think that’s what Ginger is struggling with, as well. She wanted to be free, but she didn’t want to have all the weight and the responsibilities, especially during that time, when the world could end, at any moment, and they could all be dead. She was definitely overwhelmed by that, and the betrayal that she finds out about later, with Rosa.
Ginger was quite a bit older than you were when you were playing her, right?
FANNING: Yeah. I remember when I read the script the first time, it said that she was 16 and I was 12 when I auditioned for it. So, I didn’t think that I was going to actually get it, or anything. But, when I met Sally [Potter], for the first time, we instantly clicked, right away. We had a really intense relationship together. And from that day, I was like, “Maybe it will happen,” ‘cause I felt something. When I got the script, back when I got the role, she had deleted the age in the script because she knew I was young. Alice [Englert], who plays Rosa, was 17 when she did it, but Sally said that age didn’t matter. She said, “Don’t even think about that.”
How did you get a feel for the 1960’s vibe of the film?
FANNING: Sally grew up in that time, so she knew what it was like. Especially 1960’s London is very specific, with the clothes and all the little details, and Sally told us about the different cliques they had back then. Sally was a beatnik, and Ginger and Rosa are beatniks. She said they’re the cool people who listened to jazz music, and they wore the tight, high-waisted jeans and big, sloppy sweaters and pea coats. So, I got to experience that.
A lot of your performance is not dialogue driven. Were you very conscious of that level of work, that you had to do on this?
FANNING: Yeah, we had talked about how the mannerisms were important and how just listening to the conversations mattered more than what we were even saying. When we were talking the dialogue, the layers underneath mattered, and what we were feeling behind that. So, we did talk about that.
How did being involved with a story like this make you think about life and death, and mortality?
FANNING: I remember, during rehearsals, the whole cast was in Sally’s apartment, just talking about different things and Sally was like, “Have any of you guys ever been on marches?,” and a couple people had. I was like, “I’ve never done that!” It didn’t even go through my head, before I filmed this, that that actually still happens and that people still do that. I was like, “I should be thinking of a cause that I want to support.” Ginger is also trying to figure out her place in the world, and I’m still trying to figure out what I root for.
What was it like to work with Annette Bening?
FANNING: It was amazing, working with her. She’s incredible! I felt like I was just staring at her and thinking, “There she is!,” with her hair and her glasses. We had the best time together. We never really talked about the scenes or the characters that much. We were just getting to know each other.
How challenging was it to shoot that scene on the boat, and how did you prepare for that?
FANNING: We actually filmed on a real boat, so we were all crammed together in the back room. We never really discussed it that much. I just tried to imagine and put myself in Ginger’s position of knowing that her father and her best friend were in the other room. She’s also reading her book of T.S. Eliot poems because Ginger releases her feelings through her poetry. She thinks that book is going to save her, but in reality, the sounds just overwhelm her. Also, she loves her dad, so she can’t tell her mom or anyone else what’s actually going on because she doesn’t want to get her dad in trouble, even though what he’s doing is completely wrong. She has a lot of mixed feelings and emotions.
Do you miss the red hair?
FANNING: I do. I loved it! My hair has never been any other color than blonde, so it was a complete chair. We filmed in East London, and then I went back to London to film another movie. I had my blonde hair and I was like, “This is weird. I need to have my red hair in East London.” It needed to be that way for me. But, it was perfect for Ginger. You can’t have Ginger without the ginger hair.
FANNING: I don’t think so. It sort of just arrived and was there. When I read it, I thought it would definitely be a challenge, just because there are so many different feelings that I’ve never experienced, in real life, before.
What was the first professional acting job you ever had?
FANNING: I played my sister, at a younger age, in I Am Sam. It was a flashback scene. I was on set, one day, and it happened to be the day that they needed someone who looked like a younger version of my sister. I was in the trailer and the director said, “Elle, you should do it.” I was two. So, I was swinging on a swing with Sean Penn, and sleeping in the grass. That was my first job.
Would you be excited by the idea of doing a movie musical?
FANNING: I would love to do one, one day.