American actress Dakota Fanning rose to fame at a young age and has been smashing the box office ever since. At just seven years old, Dakota was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for the 2001 film Sam I Am. She became the youngest nominee in history and this catapulted her to a hugely successful career.
After hitting the big time while barely out of kindergarten, Dakota went on to star in roles many adult actors would be envious of. We’ve all cried our eyes out watching Charlotte’s Web, right? And Dakota also played major roles alongside Hollywood stars in Man on Fire and War of the Worlds.
Now, at just 22, Dakota is worth a cool $16 million. She could easily retire before many people her age have even started their careers, but she’s showing no signs of slowing down with two films in the pipeline for 2016 already.
And she isn’t just content with appearing on the big screen. She began her modelling career in 2009 and was soon appearing on the cover of Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan and Elle. She’s also walked at Fashion Week New York 2015 continuing her path into the modelling world. That’s a pretty impressive resume for someone her age. When I think about where I was at the ripe age of 16…well, let’s not go there. It wasn’t pretty. Seriously, my vibrant blue eye shadow and stellar rainbow hair just doesn’t hold up against award winning actress and mega super model, does it?
She might have been on our screens for years but how well do you really know her? There is more to this child actress turned Hollywood household name than most people realize.
15 She Has Been Given The Coolest Gifts
While Dakota was filming War of the Worlds, she was just 11 years old. And what did every 11 year old want in 2005? That’s right. An iPod. Well, Dakota has friends in high places and was actually given an iPod by Tom Cruise while they filmed the alien movie. Geez, when I was 11, I got a pink shoulder strap purse with ponies on it. I thought it was the s**t.
And this isn’t the only famous actor to shower her with gifts; Robert De Niro also gave her a present. She starred in Hide and Seek with the Hollywood legend in 2005 and De Niro gave her a doll with brown hair and blue eyes (just like Dakota’s character in the film) for her 10th birthday.
But it was Kurt Russell, who played her father in Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story, that spoilt her the most. He bought her a palomino horse and she called her Goldie.
14 She Hails From The South
She may have lost most of her southern twang, but Dakota was born in Conyers, Georgia (the state, of course, not the country). She went to a Montessori School in Covington, but her family haven’t always lived in America. Tracing her family history back, she has English, French, German and Irish ancestry.
After studying at Campbell High School, her Alma Mater was New York University.
Her acting career actually started in Georgia. Dakota would appear at the Towne Lake Arts Center in Woodstock playing roles in small plays. It was from there that she began to get more work and she appeared in a Tide commercial at the age of five and then she played a car accident victim in the hospital drama ER. Not sure if she realized the screen legends she was appearing alongside at the time (George Clooney!) but the role still seems to be a firm favourite with Dakota.
13 Fame Runs In Her Family
You might be surprised to hear that Dakota isn’t the only famous one in her family, and no, we’re not talking about her sister, Elle. Although her little sis is also carving out a successful career as an actress at just 18, her parents and even grandparents have their own claims to fame. Talk about keeping it in the family!
But they haven’t all starred in movies. Her relatives are mainly successful on a different kind of arena...
Her mother Heather played tennis professionally and her dad, Steven, played minor league baseball. He has since retired and now holds down a job selling electronics in LA.
Her grandfather on her mother’s side was American football player Rick Arrington. Rick was a quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles and his daughter (Dakota’s aunt) Jill Arrington was a sports reporter for ESPN.
12 Dakota Is Actually Her Middle Name
Pretty weird huh? Well, plenty of celebrities choose different names for themselves when they appear on stage or screen. You don’t think Madonna was really named that by her parents, do you? Come on!
Dakota Fanning is no different, as she swapped her middle name for her first name and there you have it, a star was born. Her actual name is Hannah Dakota Fanning. Doesn’t quite have the same ring to it though and makes me think of a Disney star. Glad she went the Dakota route. Her little sister seems to have picked up the same trick and has followed in Dakota’s footsteps by changing her name.
Elle Fanning is actually Mary Elle Fanning. Both of their names are quite memorable, definitely more unusual than their given Christian names so perhaps their parents knew they would want to create stage names for themselves one day and thought ahead.
11 She Wants To Make Her Own Choices & Do Things Her Way
Dakota was criticized for wanting to star in the disturbing film, Hounddog, in 2007. At just 13, many people thought the film was too adult for her. The coming of age drama was premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and Dakota played Lewellen who was a “troubled 12-year-old girl who finds solace from an abusive life through the music of Elvis Presley.”
The film tanked in theatres and critics came down harshly on Dakota for choosing to take part in a controversial scene where her character is sexually abused. But Dakota stuck to her choices despite the many critics and told Teen Choice magazine she “makes her own choices,” adding: “The choices that I make might not always please everyone, but I have to do what I feel is appropriate and right for the time.”
10 Her Sister Has Appeared In The Same Films, But Never In The Same Scene
In I Am Sam, Dakota played the daughter of Sean Penn who was a father with a developmental disability. In this film which launched Dakota’s career and saw her acting alongside Hollywood legends Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer and Diane West, Dakota is looked after by her troubled, single father. In some of the scenes, the storyline flashes back to Dakota’s character Lucy as a younger girl. These scenes, which show a two-year old Lucy, were actually played by her real life sister Elle. What better lookalike than your own sister. It seems like the acting bug has run in the family and it helps that both of these actresses have excellent connections.
While the film itself received mixed reviews from critics, the performance of Dakota as Lucy and Penn’s portrayal as her struggling father, Sam, were nominated for awards. Smart move by the producers, big bucks for the Fanning family.
9 She Still Did Everything A Normal Teenager Does
Dakota managed to have a relatively normal childhood despite becoming famous at a young age. She was even named Homecoming Queen at her school – twice! Once in 2009 and again in 2010. She was also a cheerleader – the perfect American dream! Although, it's hard to believe that her outside success didn't have anything to do with it. I mean, come on. If there was a famous chick in my school, we would have most definitely crowned her Queen of everything.
She graduated with honors from North Hollywood’s Campbell Hall Episcopal High School in 2011. Brains and beauty seem to come easy to Fanning.
But she was home schooled from second grade until she started high school in 2007. She went on to study at New York University. But far from being cramped in dorms or shared apartments with other college buddies, Dakota rented a luxury two bedroom apartment with a doorman and security.
8 She Wants To Spend More Time Behind The Camera
While she has a fairly impressive acting career behind her already, Dakota wants to spend more time behind the camera rather than in front of it. And you see this a lot in actors/actresses. Being in the spotlight is hard, and they often feel the need to use their other creative skills.
This is a dream she has held since at least 2006, when she told Time magazine: “I would love to direct someday. I’ve learned a lot from directors I’ve worked with, like Steven Spielberg and Gary Winick, whom I worked with on Charlotte’s Web.” Can you imagine? I could see her directing a wicked chick flick, for sure. But one with strong female leads.
Dakota wants to fly the flag for female directors as there is a shortage in Hollywood. Speaking in the same interview, she said while there were plenty of female actors, there weren’t as many women behind the camera as she would like.
7 She Has The Coolest Best Friend
Dakota and Kristen Stewart really hit it off after starring in The Twilight Saga and The Runaways. So much so, the pair are now besties and can often be seen hanging out together.
At 26, Kristen is a few years older than Dakota but the two have become inseparable. In 2013, Dakota told Glamour magazine that while the pair like to hit the town, they’re also fans of staying in and watching movies just like any best friends. Sounds good to me! Can I join?
And while their busy schedules might mean they can’t hang out as much as they want, whenever they’re in the same town it isn’t long until they meet up and go out for some serious partying.
And Dakota even had her girl’s back after the heartbreak of Kristen’s break up with Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson. What more could you want from a best friend?
6 She Has A Model Boyfriend
Dakota has been in a relationship with Jamie Strachan since 2013.
The model and actress make a cute couple and often appear out and about in New York together.
Jamie, 34, and Dakota do keep their private life, private. In fact, Dakota told Town & Country, “I’m just never going to parade my personal life. If you choose not to do it, it’s not hard not to do it.” That's pretty admirable. And she's quiet effective. I had no idea they were dating until I wrote this article.
The Brit has been spotted cozying up to his girl at dinner dates and events and there are now even rumors that marriage may be on the cards...
5 She’s A Talented Musician, Actress & Model
As well as breaking hearts and making us smile on screen, Dakota is a talented musician who plays the violin and the piano.
Dakota also loves horse riding which probably started when she was gifted a palomino by Kurt Russell. I can just picture how it happened. "Oh, a horse? Thanks! Just put it over there with my prize winning steed and the array of golden egg laying geese."
Her parents clearly believed she had something special as they literally uprooted their lives to help her become an actress. They relocated to Los Angeles so little Dakota could pursue her dream.
But that’s not all. Her first word was “Momo” (not an attempt at Mama, it was the family cat) and Dakota learned to read by the age of two. Guess that came in handy when she needed to read her lines in her first performance at the age of five!
4 She Loves To Knit
It seems like a pretty casual thing for a 22-year-old to do but it is true – Dakota Fanning loves to knit. So much so, she even made a brown scarf for Tom Cruise when they starred together in War of the Worlds. He even wore it around set for her – aw!
And her celebrity friends have all been given a Dakota scarf special. She even knitted and presented scarves to big time celebs like Robert De Niro and Oprah. Hey, Dakota? Toss one my way, please? I like the color red!
And she’s even passed on her talent. Dakota spent time teaching her co-star Sex and the City star Sarah Jessica Parker how to knit one, purl one.
3 She’s Appeared On The Most Iconic TV Show Of The 90s
Oh. My. God. Dakota Fanning lived out every 90s teenager’s dream when she secured a role in the hit TV show Friends. Most people would be happy just to be on set, but she got some major screen time.
The cult TV classic had already been running for several years before Dakota managed to get a role in the most famous TV show of our times. She played Mackenzie in The One With Princess Consuela.
She pops up when Chandler and Monica are searching for a place to live in season 10 – the 232nd episode of the long-running show.
The precocious eight-year-old doesn’t want her parents to move and the Bings to buy the house but ends up teaching Joey to let Monica and Chandler go (rather than pretending the house is haunted in an attempt to stop them buying it). I remember watching this episode and thinking she was more like a grown up than a little kid.
2 She Randomly Carries A Book Of Baby Names Everywhere She Goes
Out of all the things you thought you knew about Dakota Fanning, you would never have guessed this one. No way. It's really weird and seems pointless unless you're an expecting mom.
I mean, there are stranger things to do but carrying a baby book when you aren’t pregnant seems a little like you are planning to far in the future. As a writer, I use baby name books to come up with new character names.
Even when she was a little girl, Dakota liked to make believe she was having a baby – using a blanket stuffed up her shirt to make it look as though he was pregnant. As one of 14 grandchildren, she’s definitely used to big family gatherings and comes from a close family unit. So perhaps that’s where the habit came from? Yeah, let us certainly hope that this is the case.
1 She Had To Wear False Teeth When She Was Younger
One of the downsides of being a child actor is all your awkward “growing up” stages are captured forever on film. But for an actress, it can be a problem if you lose a tooth or two throughout the film! Because, ya know, that's what happens to little kids.
Dakota’s baby teeth started falling out when she was working and ended up having to wear a “flipper” so it wouldn’t ruin the film’s continuity. This is basically a dental plate which has just one or two teeth attached to it so it can fill in the gap in your natural teeth. At least they didn't replace her with another actress who had a full set of new teeth. That would've been weird.
She also had to wear braces for two years while growing up but it paid off as her perfect teeth are now one of her best features.
Did any of these fun Dakota facts surprise you? Which ones did you already know? Share and comment if you know any others!
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