Actress Dakota Fanning and writer-director Naomi Foner of ‘Very Good Girls’ interview one another

Fanning, who’s been in the public eye for years, co-stars with Elizabeth Olsen and Boyd Holbrook, in a tale about two girls who make a pact to lose their virginity

Sunday, July 20, 2014, 2:00 AM
(FSC: TT)KALLEUSDakota Fanning plays Lilly Berger in “Very Good Girls.”

In “Very Good Girls,” opening Friday, Dakota Fanning and Elizabeth Olsen play Brooklyn teens eager to lose their virginity before college. Their mutual infatuation with a local guy (Boyd Holbrook) creates bad decisions all around.

In real life, Fanning, 20, seems to always do things right — ever since co-starring, as a kid, opposite Sean Penn in “I Am Sam” (2001), Denzel Washington in “Man on Fire” (2004) and Tom Cruise in “War of the Worlds” (2005).

“Very Good Girls” was written and directed by Oscar-nominated writer Naomi Foner (who’s also Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal’s mom). She and Fanning interviewed each other in this Daily News exclusive.

Naomi Foner: So, our movie is about friendship and truth and a lot about female sexuality.

Dakota Fanning: Yeah. Obviously there’s a guy, but really it’s about the girls’ friendship, and about what girls go through.

(FSC:GK)JESSICA MIGLIODakota Fanning and Boyd Holbrook in “Very Good Girls”

When I read the script, I was [at] a similar time in my life. I was graduating from high school and leaving for college and going through those changes, so it really resonated with me.

NF: Your sister Elle is 16 and also an accomplished actress. Has doing the same thing made you two better friends?

DF: Elle and I really don’t talk about acting very much. I don’t know if that will change as we get older. In terms of understanding what she’s doing with her life, we both have an understanding [of filmmaking] that not many people have. But I don’t think it’s made us closer. Our closeness has come from just being sisters.

NF: Was this the first movie you made without a parent on the set? I think you turned 18 just before we made this movie.

Director Naomi Foner and Dakota Fanning on the set of  “Very Good Girls”JESSICA MIGLIODirector Naomi Foner and Dakota Fanning on the set of “Very Good Girls”

DF: It was! I was living in New York City and was on my own, and it was a very different experience because my mom had always been there with me — I felt like I was really growing up! It actually was a weird kind of “art imitating life” moment.

NF: You said to me once that since you were 8, your technique and the things you do as an actress have been pretty much the same. I think you’re becoming more thrilling as an actress.

DF: I think what I meant by “things haven’t changed since I was small” was, the way I approach [roles] hasn’t changed. You try to be natural and [act] in a way that people actually are. That’s how I did it when I was younger, and I think I try and keep that same child-like, playful approach. I still try and keep that “make-believe thing” going on.

NF: There must have been some negative aspects to being in the public eye for so long, as well.

(FSC:GK)JESSICA MIGLIODakota Fanning, here in “Very Good Girls,” has seemingly grown up in the public eye.

DF: Yeah, it’s always odd for people to recognize me. When people come up to me and say, “Hey, how are you?!,” I think, oh my God, I must know them from somewhere! So I’m like, “Hi, I’m good!” Even though it’s been happening for a long time, my go-to response is never, “ Ohh , they recognize me!”

Do you think the fact that I’ve grown up on screen is a benefit to people watching “Very Good Girls”?

NF: I suppose there’s something to that. Moviegoers have known you since you were a small child, and experienced you at every stage of your life, as it were. I can’t imagine that won’t help people see you on both sides of that [girl-to-woman] transition. That does bring something to it.

You’ve also played different kinds of girls, though. Do you prefer to play a good girl or a bad girl? Or complicated girls?

Dakota Fanning plays a girl who makes a pact to lose her virginity in “Very Good Girls.”KALLEUSDakota Fanning plays a girl who makes a pact to lose her virginity in “Very Good Girls.”

DF: Everyone has a little bit of everything in them, whether it’s good or bad, wounded or broken, or whatever. I think there’s no character that isn’t complicated in some way. Any character that’s kind of straightforward is boring.

NF: In the movie, the girls never tweet or text, and I know that you don’t have a Twitter account, Dakota. How do you feel about your life in terms of social media?

DF: Yeah, I don’t have a Twitter, Facebook or anything — and I’m perfectly happy with that. Obviously lots of people do, but sometimes I think you can become engrossed in that world as the real world passes you by. People on their phones all the time is a pet peeve of mine in real life.

NF: So, what’s on your Netflix list?

DF: A lot of TV shows right now. So “Orange Is the New Black” is on my queue. I am super into that!