May, 19 Posted by Admin

ETThe Great is the latest historical drama to revisit the life and rule of Russian Empress Catherine the Great. Unlike previous versions, however, creator and the Oscar-nominated screenwriter of The Favourite Tony McNamara makes no apologies about its satirical take and disregard for historical accuracy in the stylish and bitingly funny Hulu series starring Elle Fanning as a younger version of the aspiring ruler adjusting to royal life as wife to Emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult).

Believing she’s marrying for love, a wide-eyed Catherine is shocked to learn that she’s seen as nothing more than a means to an heir when she arrives in Russia. Over the course of the season, with the aid of her servant, Marial (Phoebe Fox), and other newfound allies in court, the disenchanted consort sets out to kill her horrible husband and uproot the depraved kingdom she’s come to call home.

Similar to The Favourite, the series mixes humor, wit and a modern point of view with plenty of sex and nudity to bring to life this darkly funny version of events. “That’s so unique to Tony,” Fanning tells ET’s Katie Krause about McNamara turning this entire world on its head. “It’s just such a fascinating way to tell that story.” Hoult agrees, applauding McNamara for transforming a genre of “dull and dry” period dramas. “This felt just completely different to all those.”

If there are any other comparisons to McNamara’s film about Queen Anne, which also starred Hoult as Earl Robert Harley, it’s all in tone. “Tony’s voice is so idiosyncratic. Having done The Favourite, I did recognize the kind of rhythm and the pacing and that humor that is in this show,” Hoult continues, adding that Peter was “a really fun role to inhabit.”

Read MoreAs for taking on the infamous empress, who is known as much for her sexual appetite as well as her modernization of Russia, Fanning “absolutely loved” playing her. “It was the ultimate gift to be a part of this show and get to bring her to life,” the actress says of showing their take on Catherine’s journey to self-actualization, especially when it comes to her place in the palace. “Catherine the Great is truly this feminist icon — what she brought to Russia and her country — it’s neat that we get to show how she became that.”

Because this is Hulu, there’s no censoring of the sex and nudity, which is aplenty in the first season. Catherine’s sexuality as well as Peter’s philandering is very much part of their story as a couple as the newlyweds attempt to produce an heir while seeking satisfaction elsewhere.

“I don’t think any of us make a big deal out of them. I think the thing with the sex scenes and this show is they’re very perfunctory in terms of where the characters are aiming for, discussing during them,” Hoult says. “They were very funny to film, a lot of them, because it was just bizarre.”

Although Peter and Catherine’s sex life is very transactional, they both find pleasure in separate loves, Georgina Dymov (Charity Wakefield) and Leo Voronsky (Sebastian de Souza), respectively. Those interactions show the evolution of their two characters, Hoult says. “They’re very different. It’s what they say about the character.”

If there was any scene that gave Hoult pause, it was one in episode six when a confident (and endowed) Peter walks naked down a busy corridor. “That’s me,” the actor says of not using a body double. “I don’t know if you noticed — like if you can tell onscreen — but it’s probably, like, 200 meters long. And I tell ya what, it gets even longer when you’re butt-naked.”

While audiences familiar with Catherine’s real-life story know that she eventually leads a successful coup and overthrows her husband, The Great’s first season draws to a close in an unexpected place. “This season doesn’t end the way you think it’s going to end,” Fanning says, adding they were always surprised about what they learned about the characters along the way. And with the battle between Catherine and Peter only truly beginning, there’s plenty of room for a second season.

In fact, when the series was first pitched to Hulu, McNamara and his team outlined six seasons that would eventually see Catherine as an older woman and introduce other key historical figures in her life. “[Tony]’s definitely thinking about it. He has some idea,” Fanning says, adding that she’s committed to playing Catherine. “If they wanted to do it, I would do it right away.”

The Great is now streaming on Hulu. Read Less

May, 18 Posted by Admin

HUFFPOSTWith a starring role in a new Hulu series, Fanning is now in the driver’s seat of her career, taking on edgier and more ambitious parts.

“The Great” is, in many ways, Elle Fanning’s star-making turn.

Sure, she’s been famous for about a decade, but always with the wide-eyed wonder that accompanies youthful renown. When cannibals were eating her in “The Neon Demon,” her mother was stationed nearby on the set, supervising her 17-year-old daughter’s employment. She was there when Fanning dined opposite Brad Pitt in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” ice-skated to Gwen Stefani in “Somewhere,” got alien-abducted in “Super 8,” experienced her first kiss in “Ginger & Rosa,” charmed a devilish Angelina Jolie in “Maleficent” and took a pregnancy test in “20th Century Women.”

Her parents no longer convoy her during shoots, which is probably for the best: “The Great” finds Fanning at her most adult, playing an anachronistic Catherine the Great discovering her own sexual and ideological moxie. Good thing Mom stayed home when it came time for Fanning’s big seduction scene in the second episode of the limited series, which premieres on Hulu this weekend. She was 21 at the time, having gained autonomy after years of consulting her folks on every career move.

“I was just so excited because I knew that I was pushing myself in another direction that I’d really never gone,” Fanning said during a Zoom interview last month. “I feel like I’m someone that loves being under pressure. I love feeling terrified and I thrive in those situations. And this certainly put me in those positions.”

Part of that had to do with the material. “The Great” is a dark comedy, and Fanning had never done comedy before. Tony McNamara wrote eight of the 10 episodes, channelling the same satirical spirit he brought to “The Favourite,” another farce about an 18th-century monarch. Fanning needed to capture the nuances of someone who has come of age without understanding the harshness of the real world. At once naive and headstrong, Catherine arrives in Russia for an arranged marriage to the buffoonish emperor Peter III (Nicholas Hoult). As a woman, she’s entitled to very little power. She can’t even open a library. She’ll have to force her way to the top by manipulating her husband’s intellectual shortcomings.

Read MoreFanning’s performance is a delight. She wears on her face a sunny disposition that becomes Catherine’s armor, deployed ever so carefully when encountering snobs and chauvinists, who seem to follow everywhere she goes. Here, Fanning’s toothy grin acts as a disarming mechanism, or perhaps a weapon.

“Doing the pilot, I was definitely trying to find myself and trying to let my guard down,” Fanning said. “I think there’s something with comedy that is so, I don’t know, I get embarrassed. Do I go for it? Do I do the big fall, do I do the crazy face, can I make the weird noise? Do I go there? Because that’s what’s funny. Melissa McCarthy, she’s amazing. There’s something about a real physical comedy that I really wanted to add to Catherine, too. It goes back to Charlie Chaplin. But also I’m not from that world. Slowly, over the course of different takes, it’d be like, you know what, I can slowly creep my toe in and do a little bit more.”

Creeping her toe in is an apt way to describe Fanning’s career ascent. At first, she was best known for being Dakota Fanning’s little sister. When Dakota burst onto the scene in the 2000s with a string of hits that included “I Am Sam,” “Man on Fire” and “War of the Worlds,” the praise she received was breathless. Critics characterized her talents as a once-in-a-generation phenomenon. “One of the most actively employed child actors in the movie business and one of the most gifted, Miss Fanning has both chops and a preternaturally intense screen presence,” The New York Times’ Manhola Dargis wrote in her review of the 2005 horror flick “Hide and Seek.”

That’s a lofty bar for any younger sibling, but as Dakota aged into adulthood (she is 26 now; Elle is 22), the Fanning’s’ positions reversed. Suddenly it was Elle who was getting the good parts and the proportionate plaudits. She made a David Fincher movie (“Benjamin Button”) before she was old enough to watch David Fincher movies, eventually writing a high-school English essay about what it was like to work with such an obsessive director. (“He did so many takes,” she recalled during our conversation, still sounding exhausted 13 years later.) She was called “the next golden child” — another lofty rank for a fledgling who isn’t yet in the driver’s seat of her lifework. Her résumé is filled with luminaries like Alejandro González Iñárritu (“Babel”), Sofia Coppola (“Somewhere” and “The Beguiled”), Francis Ford Coppola (“Twixt”), J.J. Abrams (“Super 8”), Cameron Crowe (“We Bought a Zoo”), Sally Potter (“Ginger & Rosa” and “The Roads Not Taken”) and Mélanie Laurent (“Galveston”).

Having parents so devoted to aiding her craft paid off, which can’t be said for every young star. As she tells it, Elle and Dakota fell into a groove — they don’t talk about work much, so it never became too competitive. (They’re self-isolating together amid the COVID-19 pandemic, bingeing “Vanderpump Rules,” “90 Day Fiancé” and “MasterChef Junior.”)

Around age 16, she started to advocate for roles that were edgy and ambitious, like 2016’s trippy “Neon Demon,” in which Fanning plays an aspiring model adrift in the Los Angeles beauty industry’s superficiality. That’s the one with the cannibalism. Directed by Danish provocateur Nicolas Winding Refn, “Demon” is the type of project that gave people in Fanning’s inner circle pause.

“That was definitely a turning point in my career,” she said. “It’s a polarizing movie. It’s not necessarily like, ‘Oh yeah, this is a winner, everyone’s going to love this one.’ But I also think that I really pushed everyone around me. I mean, maybe my mom, but also managers and agents. It’s an art film. It’s different, and I get eaten at the end. They said, ‘OK, is this what we want? Let’s think about this. Take it slow. Let’s look at the options here.’ Whereas I kind of didn’t need to think about it. Maybe that surprises people, but I always like to surprise people. I like the shock factor of it.”

Everyone has a love-and-hate relationship with their teenage years. Fanning‘s were documented for public consumption, but she doesn’t seem to mind, likening her movies to “baby albums.” Her healthy relationship with herself and her family has given Fanning a sense of how to age in a business that sometimes discards child stars. In the four years between “The Neon Demon” and “The Great,” newfound maturity became Fanning’s brand, reflected in her screen roles and her red-carpet style.

“I don’t want to play just a strong female character,” Fanning said, employing a shortsighted phrase that’s trendy within Hollywood. “That actually seems boring. It’s so much more complicated than that. There’s this stigma of every woman has to look a certain way in films. Oh, you have to smile, or that’s too silly, or that’s not likable enough. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized I can fight against that a little bit. Because starting out, when you’re young, you’re going to get what you’re going to get because you’re auditioning. I didn’t really have the choice to choose what I got to play until now. Scripts come and I get to say, ‘No, that’s just her in a bikini, no thanks.’ Or a script will say, ‘She’s beautiful and doesn’t know it.’ That’s just automatically, ‘I don’t really want to play that part.’”

Soon, the Fanning sisters’ professional paths will intersect, and they may be forced to discuss their showbiz experiences. Having never shared scenes together, they’re set to headline “The Nightingale,” a war drama based on Kristin Hannah’s bestselling novel from 2015.

“We now are actually meshing our worlds when we’ve actually heard from a lot of people that we work very differently,” Fanning said. “I don’t know. We’ll see. It’ll be fun. We’re going to be looking at each other differently, for sure.”

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May, 17 Posted by Admin

VARIETY – There’s something to be said, given all Catherine the Great did in her lifetime as the late 18th-century ruler of Russia, that the unfortunate bestiality rumor — you know, the one about the horse — remains.

“Fake news,” said Elle Fanning on the Variety After Show, presented by National Geographic, on Instagram Live. “It’s pretty sad [that] this extraordinary, almost — dare I say — first feminist icon has been reduced to this horse rumor,” she said.

Fanning plays the Russian empress in her new Hulu satirical series, “The Great,” which kicks off with Catherine’s arrival in the country to wed the mercurial, temperamental Peter (Nicholas Hoult). Her optimism about the union is quickly dissolved as Hoult’s Peter soon reveals his capacity for cruelty and selfishness, leading to her plans for a coup. The show, as Variety critic Caroline Framke puts it, “straddles the line between period drama and slapstick comedy with acrobatic ease.”

“We’re definitely in the pocket of that dark comedy, and [creator] Tony [McNamara]’s writing is so specific and witty and irreverent,” said Fanning. “It’s so fun to play with, but you have to get the tone right — especially the rhythm of the words needs to be at a certain pace. And I think it was so important for us — the whole cast is so gifted dramatically and comedically — so we were able to go back and forth and walk that tightrope.”

Read MoreFanning’s Catherine and Hoult’s Peter deftly trade barbs as she alternately pities him and plots the end of his reign. She and Hoult, who both got their start in the industry at a young age, work “in a similar way.”

“I don’t know if it’s because we were child actors, but we have the same relationship to set and scenes, and we love to challenge each other,” she said of Hoult. “We’re just not embarrassed, which is good for scenes in this show.”

Among Fanning’s other primary scene partners on the show is Phoebe Fox, who plays noblewoman-turned-servant Marial, egging on the Russian empress to take down the petulant Peter. Fox and Fanning became fast friends over the course of the series.

“I love watching those scenes, because we got really close and I think you can see that dynamic on screen that we love each other so much and respect each other,” said Fanning. “She’s so feisty, and Marial is truly the one that’s pushing Catherine forward, because sometimes Catherine’s very unsure, and Marial’s there to give her the confidence.”

Though Catherine and Marial endure a range of cruelties and indignities, from back-lashings to obligatory heir-inducing sex to the general limitations of being a woman in the 18th century, “The Great” doesn’t dwell on long-suffering female characters.

“It’s funny talking about ‘strong female characters’ — sometimes I’m allergic to that term, because I don’t know what that means,” said Fanning. “Of course I think Marial’s strong, Catherine’s strong, but we all have our moments… I think TV especially has carved this amazing area for ‘Fleabags’ and ‘Killing Eves’ and ‘Russian Doll’ — to see these juicy women — but they have different sides, and they don’t always know the right answer. They’re not necessarily the bravest person in the room, either.”

Fanning’s version of Catherine starts out sweet but eventually comes into her own as a political and cultural catalyst for change, and it is those “girlish qualities” that make the Russian ruler “really strong, and get her through to the end.” Fanning’s Catherine “has a bit of an ego and an arrogance that I really love. I don’t know, I feel like I apologize for that. I feel like guys are allowed to have a little more ego than we are… But I think there’s something beautiful about Catherine that she doesn’t apologize for that, she just has this way and she always has a Plan B, C, D.”

The Great” marks Fanning’s debut as an executive producer for a TV series. Having grown up on sets, she has been itching to get behind the scenes of a production. Feeling “very much like” Catherine as she was learning the ropes as a producer, Fanning recalled being on production phone calls and watching cuts and the “nerve-wracking” process of having to offer input on those edits.

“There’s a lot of execs, and it’s a big production, so I was trying to get my voice heard,” she said. “I think I grew in confidence with that, and realized that I have some good points and was able to speak up on those phone calls as it went along. When you’re a part of it and you’re so passionate about it, it just makes it all the better. You want to watch every edit, you want to listen to every music cue, you care about it so much when you’re with it from the very beginning.”

Part of her executive producing role included two days in about seven pitch meetings around town, meeting with various streaming services to hawk “The Great.”

“That was new,” she laughed. “Sometimes you’d walk in, there’d be a lot of men in suits. You’re like, ‘Okay.’ … It felt like a circus, a bit trying to sell ourselves… We all had our own little roles. It was fun. I actually enjoyed it. But you do kind of have to memorize your little thing. It almost feels like school.”

The Great” may be Fanning’s producing debut in television, but she doesn’t mean for it to be her last.

“I hope it will lead to directing,” she said. “I’ve been on the lookout for articles and books and things like that, to get to produce.” Read Less

May, 12 Posted by Admin

ET – Dakota and Elle Fanning have both been in show business since they were very young, but they’ve never really shared the screen together. All that will change when they take on their roles as sisters Vianne and Isabelle in the film adaptation of Kristin Hannah’s bestseller, Nightingale.

Though they both appeared in 2001’s I Am Sam, Elle, 22, tells ET’s Katie Krause that she doesn’t count that as sharing the screen with her older sis.

“Technically, in I Am Sam I played her at a younger age, so we weren’t really acting together, and I was so young, so yeah, this is the first,” she says of her upcoming role in Nightingale.

The story follows two sisters torn apart at the start of World War II.

“Your sister knows you more than anyone. She can sniff anything out of you, she can push your buttons more than anybody,” Elle adds. “It’s like that dynamic is so special and unique, your family more than anybody. That’s the closest, she is my closest person. The book really explores that. They’re a bit misunderstood more in the book but still we have that foundation. That we won’t have to work hard for, that’ll be there.”

Unfortunately, the film was just about to start production when the coronavirus pandemic hit, putting a halt to filming on almost all major shows and movies.

“We haven’t shot it yet, so that’s the thing. We were about to go shoot and then everything happened, so it was kinda put to a halt and I know as much as you,” Elle admits.

But that doesn’t mean the actress isn’t busy. Even while quarantined at home with her family in Los Angeles, Elle is hard at work promoting her new Hulu period dramedy series, The Great, in which she plays Catherine the Great.

She co-stars alongside Nicholas Hoult, who was also on the video call to talk about their hilarious new project.

“Tony McNamara, who is our showrunner, creator, wrote the pilot and is the man,” Elle says of The Favourite scribe. “His tone and irreverence and just that dark humor is completely up my alley… It’s just such a fascinating way to tell that story full of humor and really delicious language. That’s so unique to Tony. And just Catherine as a character, I absolutely loved playing her. It was just the ultimate gift to be a part of this show and get to bring her to life and show our version of Catherine.”

Read MoreHoult, who plays Catherine’s husband, Peter III, noted that while there were a fair amount of sex scenes in the series, the physical acts were often set to highlight the conversation happening.

“I don’t think any of us make a big deal out of them. I think the thing with the sex scenes and this show is they’re kind of, they’re very perfunctory in terms of where the characters are aiming for, discussing during them,” he explains. “They were very funny to film, a lot of them. ‘Cause it was just bizarre.”

Elle notes that taking on more mature roles was not a conscious decision on the part of the former child star.

“My characters are evolving like I am,” she simply states. As for whether The Great will go on to have a second season, Elle adds, “Yeah, I certainly think there’s room for a season 2. Yeah, and if they wanted to do it, I would do it right away.”

The Great premieres Friday, May 15 on Hulu. Read Less

May, 11 Posted by Admin

Elle Fanning has friends in high places! “The Great” star tells Access Daily’s Mario Lopez and Kit Hoover that she and sister Dakota get a special treat from Tom Cruise every Christmas – and the superstar also sends Dakota a new pair of shoes for her birthday! Elle also reveals why the chance to work with Angelina Jolie on “Maleficent” was so special and teases that her upcoming series, in which she portrays Catherine the Great, is “not your classic period piece.”
The Great” premieres May 15 on Hulu.