Jul, 19 Posted by Admin

Gold DerbyElle Fanning stars as the legendary Empress of Russia Catherine the Great on the Hulu comedy series “The Great.” The role has already scored her a TCA Award nomination.

Fanning recently spoke with Gold Derby senior editor Rob Licuria about what drew her to “The Great,” working with Nicholas Hoult and her time as a jury member at the Cannes Film Festival.

Gold Derby: Elle, “The Great” is irreverent, it’s often very explicit. It’s very funny. It’s not a tone we often see in period films and series. So what attracted you to the role? 

Elle Fanning: That’s a big question. I got the script from Tony McNamara. This originally was a play that he had put on in Australia years ago and then had turned that play into a film script with possibly maybe being a movie. And that’s actually what I read and just the young Catherine was a sliver of that story. So the script that I had spanned her whole life and then Tony was like, “You know what? There’s so much information on her and so much there. So read this with a TV show in mind, possibly that we get to expand it and maybe the first season will be about the young Catherine and her rise to power.” And I hadn’t even seen “The Favourite,” which Tony wrote at that point. So reading the script for me was a true whoa surprise and a real wild ride. Just the language and the wittiness but also the heart, I think it’s a truly emotional story to me of Catherine and her rise and such a unique character. And I knew it would be a great challenge to play, even just with the tone alone, to get that specifically right is a challenge, but also to just show this woman grow. And I wasn’t really that familiar with Catherine the Great. I wasn’t taught about her in school. I knew she was the Empress of Russia and I knew about the horse incident propaganda fake news (laughs). And that’s all I knew. Sadly, that’s all I knew. And just learning about her, of course, we’re not historically accurate all the time but there are amazing facts and things she did in her life that are completely represented in our show. We just get to do it in a fun way, not a dull period piece way (laughs).

GD: Absolutely. I didn’t really know much about her either. And when you look into what she did, her influence and reign was so transformational for Russia and for the world. Were you keen to portray her authentically despite the show, as you say, being a comedy and not necessarily being historically accurate but you still had to kind of play her as a person? What were you looking for to get into her mindset? 

EF: Gosh, I wanted to humanize her. I feel like, she is this historical figure that we know what she did. She did incredible things. But I wanted to make her human. I wanted to figure out what makes her tick. I didn’t want to make her the strongest person in the room. I’m kind of allergic to the term “strong female character.” I don’t really know what that means. I feel like I want to play a human who has many layers, who always doesn’t have the right answer. Catherine makes mistakes. She has to learn from others. She sometimes feels very weak. She doubts herself. She’s grappling with all of this, and she makes a lot of big decisions and sacrifices. What’s so beautiful about her is in the beginning, she’s extremely romantic and very optimistic and it’s this gorgeous quality that she has. And when she arrives in Russia, reality slaps her in the face, and she’s faced with this upside-down world, and she’s like, “I’m going to change it.” I think there’s two people in the world. Either they are like, “All right, you know what? I’ll just live with it,” or, “I’m actually going to try to do something.” And she really tries to do something and it’s the journey to that. So she’s feisty. I would say she has an ego. She has a good arrogance to her, which I always love to play, just mapping out the different qualities. So I was more interested in just creating our version of her instead of really researching tons of facts about the real Catherine the Great. Although, Catherine the Great in real life, she invented the roller coaster. So that tells you a lot about a person. Like, “OK, that person’s fun.” That’s someone I want to know.

To read the full interview transcript, click the Gold Derby link above.



Jul, 6 Posted by Admin

Elle Fanning and Nicholas Hoult talk to On The Red Carpet about their satirical drama “The Great,” now streaming season 1 on Hulu.



Jun, 30 Posted by Admin

Vanity Fair – The star and executive producer of the bawdy historical comedy on boundaries, blood, and bare bottoms.

The Character: Catherine the Great, The Great

In The Great’s first episode, a pink-cheeked Catherine (Elle Fanning) pilots a flower-entwined swing and burbles to a friend about how romantic her wedding to Russian Emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult) will be. But after Catherine is delivered from her sleepy German village to the Russian palace, her girlish dreams are dashed when she meets the tyrannical and narcissistic Peter. As she solemnly presents him with an evergreen as a symbol of their love, he turns to one of his minions and barks, “She gave me a twig. She’s not another inbred, is she?”

It’s the abrupt end of her innocent imaginings, as well as the start of a young woman’s campaign, aided by her wit and charm, to plot a putsch—after Catherine learns that if Peter just happens to be killed, she can claim the throne.

“It’s been phenomenal to watch Elle grow into this character as a performer, to balance a tightrope in bringing her to life as this woman who is naive but strong, and also powerless at times,” says Hoult. “[She’s] understanding this new world she’s been thrown into, and also her raison d’être.”

Fanning brings great depth and dimension to her character’s evolution, holding fast to Catherine’s humanity and vulnerability even as she grows ruthlessly cunning—particularly in the season’s final episode, when she learns just what her power grab will cost her. Below, Fanning explains what drew her to Catherine, the toughest part of filming The Great’s intimate scenes, and the surprising request she made as an executive producer of the show.

Read More VF: As Catherine immerses herself in court intrigue and consolidates power, she wavers between confidence and naïveté. Was that a hard balance to strike?

Elle Fanning: “[The role] challenged me in a way that I haven’t been challenged before. As a character, Catherine has one of my favorite qualities, which is that she’s extremely arrogant. She has a huge ego and doesn’t apologize for it, which was so fun to play. But she also questions herself, and has these weaknesses—these moments of really not knowing if she’s up for the challenge too—which was important to me. I’m not interested in playing “She’s strong all the time. She’s the bravest, and she always makes the right decisions!” I don’t want to watch that.”

“I also love that she’s very romantic, but she learns that her love affair over the whole season is really her love for Russia. Which was interesting. Her most important quality, too, is her youth. Youth is such a big factor in the decisions she makes—and sometimes they’re a bit rash, but she’s young, and she’s learning. And she’s a different woman at the end of it.”

You have known your costar Nicholas Hoult since you were 14 and costarred in the film Young Ones. Did that familiarity make things easier during the sex scenes?

“Yes. I felt so unembarrassed with him. He was very familiar with the rhythm of the words, because he was in The Favourite, so he helped keep my rhythm up and the comedic timing. He’s so incredible, in part because he adds so many layers to his character that could have been one-note. And we were just always on the same page. We wanted to create this dynamic relationship where they do love each other at times, and she kind of pities him and sometimes she doesn’t want him to die.”

“The sex scenes were hard to get through because you’re in this position, which is already awkward or funny, and then you would have to say these hilarious lines. There’s one sex scene where Peter’s thrusting for an heir, like a hundred thrusts, and there’s a wide shot where we’re just in the background. We didn’t have to say anything, all he has to do is thrust. I’m just like, “Let’s get through it.” Thank god we’re not both earnest or take ourselves too seriously, because you’ve got to have fun.”

You had an intimacy coordinator on the set. Was that the first time you’ve ever worked with someone like that?

“The first time. She’s there for support and so that you feel comfortable, but she also makes sure that things look real, which is interesting. Like she’ll say, “Nick, you’re in the wrong position, you need to be lower.” And she provides great pillows, like crotch pillows and things that she sews herself, so you have a kind of separation.”

“I really enjoyed those scenes. [Writer] Tony McNamara and I would talk about how the show actually is not really sexually explicit at all, because all the girls—except for when I was with [court-appointed lover] Leo (Sebastian de Souza)—are basically fully clothed. Because we can’t take the corsets off! [laughs] In court, I’m sure they would just think it was much easier and more practical just to pull your skirts up.

“In my scenes with Nick, I’m always fully clothed, because it’s just about getting an heir and that’s it. The only nudity we have on the show is bottoms! We all kind of get a turn. I have a bottom, Nick has a bottom, and Sebastian has a bottom. We all had our moment.”

Speaking of outrageous scenes, you executive produce the show. Did you ever veto anything as too over the top?

Oh, I wanted it more [over the top]. [laughs]

More severed heads! Roll them in!

“That’s me! People are so surprised by that sometimes. I mean, if you know me, you’re not surprised by it, but you might be if you’re only aware of my Sleeping Beauty persona. I always wanted to push it. I wanted things to be even weirder. I wanted more blood.”

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Jun, 19 Posted by Admin

THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTERHow does Hollywood see you, Elle? And is it how you want to be seen?

ELLE FANNING When I was 14, I was cast as Sleeping Beauty in Maleficent, and that phone call definitely changed my life and my trajectory and it differentiated me from my sister [Dakota]. That role is very important to me, but also it’s a Disney princess, and I’m this blond and it comes with a certain stigma, right? And that’s the biggest movie I’ve done, so I’m recognized most for it. What was exciting for me about The Great was getting to try out the comedy world. People think of me as doing these serious, dramatic roles or just playing the kid, and I feel like I’m a funny person in real life and I love shocking people and proving that I’m not exactly who they think I am.

Elle, there are a lot of sex scenes in The Great, but there’s considerably more male nudity than female. How does that change a dynamic on set?

FANNING Its interesting, Catherine the Great, in real life, was kind of the first woman who was slut-shamed. I mean, the whole horse rumor [that she possibly had sex with a horse] was created because she loved sex, she was very open and had multiple lovers. Obviously, our story is not a historical document, but a lot of truths are in it, and that’s a big part of Catherine’s character, so sex is incorporated into the show a lot. And of course it’s a period show, so we’re corseted up with multiple layers of skirts and just the logistics of actually getting naked — for the women, it takes a long time. So everyone’s just having fully clothed sex. It’s like, “All right, girls, we’re going to just lift-up your skirt, and that’s fine.” And there was an intimacy coordinator on set, which was new to me.

SEDARIS Wow.

FANNING Yeah, a woman who was there to make sure everyone felt comfortable and also made sure that the sex looked real. There would be times when Nick [Hoult] would be in the wrong position, and she’s like, “It doesn’t look like you’re doing it.” Her name was Ita, and she made sure all the monitors were off when there were nude scenes, and obviously made sure no one did anything that they didn’t feel comfortable with. But it was hard to keep a straight face during those scenes with Nicholas Hoult. He’s hilarious, and I’d be biting down on a pillow when he’s having to thrust and say these lines. And I’m so happy that I had someone that I felt comfortable with, and we could actually be embarrassed in front of each other. That was something that was new for me.

SEDARIS I could never do anything like that.

THEDE What, sex scenes?

SEDARIS Sex scenes or get naked or pose in your underwear. Never. It just doesn’t interest me. It’s just not fun to me.



Jun, 10 Posted by Admin

DUJOURFanning discusses her new Hulu series, TikTok dances, how to perfect the poached egg and her reality TV obsession

In late March, Elle Fanning was supposed to go off to Budapest to film The Nightingale, based on Kristin Hannah’s bestselling novel about two sisters struggling to survive in Nazi-occupied France. Her co-star—for the first time since they made plays together at home as toddlers—was meant to be her older sister, Dakota, who is four years her senior.

But, as happened with most Hollywood movies and television series in production during the COVID-19 crisis, just a few days before the siblings were set to depart from Los Angeles for Hungary, shooting on The Nightingale was canceled, its release date postponed indefinitely.

“We’ve dreamed of this for a long time, and we talked for a while about what project could get us together,” says the 22-year-old Fanning, who underlines that they will star in The Nightingale at some point in the future. “We thought maybe we didn’t want to play sisters, but we’ve grown up in this industry and have a unique understanding of what it means to be sisters. So, at least the sister part we’ve got down.”

Though they were already quite close, at the moment, they are closer than ever, hunkered down at the family home in California’s San Fernando Valley, where Fanning usually lives with her mother and grandmother when she’s not filming somewhere on location. Now, Dakota, who was recently living in New York City, is bunking there, too.

“It’s a rare occasion that we get to be together,” Fanning says. “So we’re enjoying each other’s company.”

It will be easy, then, for the entire Fanning family to have a premiere party for her new series, The Great, which they can all binge together on Hulu. On the show, Fanning stars as a young Catherine the Great, sowing her seeds in a new marriage to Russia’s Peter III, played by Nicholas Hoult.

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The series marks Fanning’s first real foray into comedy. But it’s a specific kind of comedy—a satirical, genre-bending romp through 18th-century Russia in the vein of 2018’s The Favorite, which The Great creator Tony McNamara also co-wrote, earning him an Oscar nomination.

“Being asked to play Catherine in this show was a gift,” says Fanning. “Tony wrote a play in Australia that was very much in this witty, irreverent voice.” McNamara had originally planned to adapt his play into a feature film, but in this time of peak streaming television, decided to develop it into a series. He asked Fanning to play Catherine and help produce the show.

“As Catherine is gaining her voice on The Great, I was gaining mine,” she says. “I went to pitch meetings and saw the mechanics of the series from the beginning.”

Fanning lived in London for six months while filming the series. She loved the opportunity to flex her comedic muscles with the wordplay, banter and rhythm in McNamara’s scripts. “That was hugely appealing for me. I love challenging myself,” Fanning says. She believes the experience was a boost for her abilities, even in a career that includes two Sofia Coppola movies (Somewhere and The Beguiled) and roles opposite co-stars like Annette Bening, Bryan Cranston, Angelina Jolie and Jeff Bridges. “It’s all very Shakes­pearean and I had to get used to it and not be embarrassed.”

Fanning believes the hilariously dark show is exactly the entertainment we need right now. “Fun, laughter and escapism are really important,” she explains. “But it also grapples with themes that are super relevant, even though it’s historical,” she adds, especially in its depiction of Catherine attempting to gain her footing in the patriarchal and misogynist Russian court.

Despite the seemingly elevated historical setting, “I think it’s totally bingeable,” Fanning continues. There’s plenty of bawdy humor and surprising twists: “With shows like The Handmaid’s Tale, you need time to process between episodes; it’s heavy. But with The Great, it’s light enough that you can watch it all in one go.”

And Fanning knows a thing or two about bingeing. She has a taste for reality television and has been watching the Michael Jordan documentary series The Last Dance (“We’re huge sports people,” she says of her family) and old standbys like MasterChef Junior and 90 Day Fiancé with her mom. “We have a whole ritual around it,” Fanning says of 90 Day Fiancé. (Dakota, meanwhile, is watching The West Wing from the beginning.)

Being in quarantine has given Fanning more time to keep up with her Campbell Hall friends via Zoom happy hours. Their group meetings are called “See You Next Tuesday” because they meet on Tuesdays. (It’s the kind of joke you’d find in The Great.) Fanning sips Aperol spritzes while they reminisce about high school, just like the sophisticated 22-year-old that she is.

Indeed, Fanning turned 22 in April amidst the shelter-in-place restrictions in Los Angeles. How did she celebrate? Not necessarily with an Aperol spritz; she says she listened to the Taylor Swift song “22” and ordered in Chinese food from Chin Chin. To top it off: a strawberry shortcake from Big Sugar Bakeshop featuring the cartoon character Strawberry Shortcake wearing a quarantine-friendly face-mask.

“I do sort of have a strawberry obsession,” Fanning explains. “I’ve been doing Strawberry Shortcake coloring books while in quarantine.”

Friends sent her a recorded birthday message via Cameo from some of her favorite cast members on a recent season of Love Island, while Coppola sent a birthday video over text from Napa.

“She’s way too chic for Zoom,” laughs Fanning. Fanning was embraced early on by the fashion industry. She loves Miu Miu, Dior, Gucci and Valentino, while the Rodarte designers, sisters Laura and Kate Mulleavy, are friends. But she isn’t dressing up at the moment. “It’s mostly sweatpants and T-shirts, like everyone else,” Fanning says. As the weather gets warmer, she’ll start pulling out her sundresses, and she’s having fun with her hair, blowing it out and curling it at home to pass the time.

“I also dyed it pink myself,” she says.

Social media has become a welcome distraction. “It’s a nice place where we’re all together,” she says of her high school friends and the pals she’s made in the business over the 20 years she’s been working. She’s been learning TikTok dances, “but I won’t post them,” she says, and has gotten into Chelsea Peretti’s comedic makeup tutorials and Karen Elson’s singing clips on Instagram.

She’s been using her own account to show off her photography skills and picking up some cooking tips. “My grandmother loves hearty Southern food,” Fanning says. “I’ve always loved cooking and helping her in the kitchen.”

They’ve been meal planning, ordering groceries, mixing spinach dip, making lamb chops and perfecting the poached egg. Fanning is also finding inventive ways to use leftovers, including quesadillas made from, well, anything. “Just add whatever you have in the fridge and fry it up,” Fanning says.

If she’s not quite Julia Child, we can let it slide. She happens to be one of the best actors of her generation, so forgive her if she’s already looking forward to her first meal out of quarantine: guacamole, sweet corn, hard-shell beef tacos and churros from Casa Vega in nearby Studio City.

“Also, just hugging someone that you haven’t been able to in a long time,” Fanning says.

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