18 Lesser-Known Facts About Elle And Dakota Fanning's Childhood

Dakota and Elle Fanning are two of Hollywood’s best-known actresses today. They happen to be sisters that are both under the age of twenty-five but have starred in dozens of films. Older sister Dakota started her career first but brought sister Elle along for the ride to Hollywood. They both continued to grow independently as they grew up in the spotlight. The sisters are quite different in terms of personality, but they have a similar skill set that continues to win over fans. Despite the four years between them, Elle and Dakota have done close to the same amount of films and have gained equal levels of fame.

With these two taking over Hollywood increasingly every day, many people forget about what these two were like when they started- children! These two did not have a typical childhood as child stars. There are some things that even their most loyal fans may not know or may have forgotten. These bleach blonde sisters have grown up before our eyes. Their careers continue to pick up steam as they get older and become open to older roles. With their resumes and clean images, it is hard to imagine better actresses to serve as role models and stars in Hollywood. Do you remember these things from their childhood?

18 Dakota And Elle Were Not Always Close

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Hollywood is a wild industry. Having allies behind you can be incredibly important. It was surprising to find out that the Fanning sisters were not always close. As a matter of fact, they just recently started connecting in their older years.

Dakota was interviewed by Marie Claire and stated that being four years apart really hindered their relationship as sisters. Dakota, as the older sister, often could not relate to her little sister. They did not have a common ground of things to discuss or help them relate to each other.

It was not until they both had established careers in Hollywood that the two were able to connect and start bonding. Now, they are stronger than ever. Elle is not as much of the pesky little sister in Dakota’s eyes anymore.

17 Elle Has A Temper That Tends To Frustrate Her Sister

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Elle Fanning was viewed as “Dakota’s Little Sister” for a decent portion of her life, even when she broke out on her own in Hollywood. That did not bother Elle too much, although it must be frustrating not to get the recognition she deserves.

One thing that Elle does know and will admit is that she is the sister with the temper. Elle explained to Vogue that her sister often rolls her eyes at Elle’s temper, especially since Elle does very little to hide it.

Elle’s temper is often triggered by people letting her down or betraying her, as she does not keep much of a guard up. She is content with who she is. Elle’s mother is also not a fan of her short fuse and scolds her alongside Dakota for her outbursts.

16 Their Parents Were In Denial About Their Success


Making the segue into Hollywood life did not come naturally for the Fanning family. While Dakota was trying to book commercials and other minor gigs, she would stay with her mom and her aunt out in Los Angeles while Elle and their father would be at home. They would always have a ticket home but would have to reschedule due to Dakota’s natural ability to book gigs.

Dakota explained to The Guardian that her parents perceived all of this as a fifteen minutes of fame gig. If Dakota stopped booking gigs or decided she did not want to do it anymore, they would just end it. This is why it took a few years for the family to sell their first home and move out to Studio City.

15 Elle And Dakota Appeared Together Through A Vocal Role

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Elle often followed in the footsteps of her sister, but the two have never appeared in a film simultaneously. Elle and Dakota both dabbled in vocal acting during their career. This is the only time that Elle and Dakota have appeared on screen at the same time. Elle played Mei Kusakabe in the Disney version of My Neighbor Totoro. She was seven years old. This film was originally a Japanize film.

The Fanning sisters were brought in to help translate it for the English audience. Dakota played the main character, Satsuki, in this film at age eleven. The two siblings’ vocal roles belonged to sisters in the film. Since they were not physically on screen together, many people do not consider this to be a simultaneous appearance, leaving us waiting for their side by side debut.

14 Neither Fanning Girls Go By Their Real Name

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Many people in Hollywood create stage names in order to separate their personal lives from their professional careers. The Fanning sisters, surprisingly, also use stage names. Both sisters took their middle names as their first names for their professional careers, dropping their given first names. Dakota Fanning’s given first name is Hannah, while Elle’s given first name is Mary.

Both siblings agreed on using their middle names in order to make themselves have a little bit of a personal divide from work. It seems as though they may call each other by their middle names, as they have discussed each other in interviews without using the other’s given name. According to IMDB, both of their middle names were picked by their father, meaning their father ultimately picked their acting names.

13 Dakota Started Her Career At Age Six


Dakota came out to Hollywood at a young age. While she booked several different commercials through her time in Hollywood, it was not until 2000, at age six, when Dakota booked her first television gig. This role was for a character on the television series ER. ER was a fictional drama that followed the lives of medical professionals in Chicago. George Clooney is just one of the notable actors from this show. Dakota played a young girl named Delia Chadsey.

Her first role in film was for the movie Tomcats the following year. She was an extra in this film, but it was a credited role. This was just the tip of the iceberg for Fanning’s career. These roles acted as a catalyst for her while Elle was not far behind her.

12 Elle Played A Younger Version Of Dakota In Most Films

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Elle Fanning is four years younger than sister, Dakota. This means that she has spent a fair amount of time in Dakota’s shadow. Dakota helped Elle get some of her first Hollywood opportunities. Elle would often be cast to play a younger version of Dakota’s character in films. This happened in the film that was considered as Dakota’s big break- I Am Sam. Elle played Dakota’s character as a toddler.

According to IMDB, Elle has also played a younger version of Dakota’s character in Taken. This is how Elle got discovered and was able to book roles without her sister’s intervention. She was able to dip her toes into the Hollywood pool because of her sister’s fame, something that they can both likely appreciate now. The now have stand alone, successful careers.

11 The Fanning Girls Are Southern Belles


The Fannings did not move out to California until Dakota was six, making Elle two years old around the time of the move. Prior to their big move, the Fannings lived in Conyers, Georgia. Their parents had lived in the south for quite some time and picked up on southern values that they passed on to their children.

The Fanning children are incredibly polite and focus on their manners. Elle has said in an interview with Vogue that she eats “like a man,” which would likely disappoint her family. Elle’s short temper is less like a southern belle than her sister’s calm demeanor, possibly because Dakota was able to experience southern life for a little longer than her little sister. These two Georgia peaches may be Hollywood stars now, but they will always be from the south.

10 Elle’s First Role Without Dakota Was In Daddy Day Care

Daddy Day Care

Elle had been in a few films with her sister before she was able to get her own role in a film. The door to Hollywood may have been opened by Dakota, but Elle was able to take it into her own hands. At the age of five, Elle got a role in a film without Dakota. This film was Daddy Day Care, which starred Eddie Murphy and Jeff Garlin. Elle played Jamie.

Jamie was one of the children left in the Daddy Day Care with several other children. IMDB says that, in an interview, Elle said her favorite scene involved any of the water scenes because they got to wear bathing suits and swim. She has come a long way since this role.

9 Their First Joint Red Carpet Appearance At The E.T. Reboot

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The two sisters are known for appearing together in pictures today. They are stunning and often wear the trendiest fashions. Starting off so young in Hollywood, the Fanning girls are seasoned professionals at the red carpet. The first time the two sisters walked the red carpet together was in 2002. According to Elle Magazine, they appeared together on the red carpet for a 20th Anniversary showing of E.T.

This would mean Dakota was about eight years old while Elle was around four years old. The two looked adorably innocent in their Capri pants and sweaters. They had matching haircuts in the same blonde tones, similar to their hair now. Dakota even had a plastic pink purse to accent the pink in their outfits. That is fun to look back on.

8 Dakota Won An Award For Her First Major Movie

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Dakota Fanning’s first major film was I Am Sam. She played Lucy, the daughter that Sean Penn and was fighting to take custody of, despite his mental illness. Most young actors and actresses do not get nominated for their first major roles. Dakota Fanning was nominated for multiple awards for her role of Lucy.

According to Biography, Dakota was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for this role at only seven years old. This was a major accomplishment for her and started her career off on the right foot. The Screen Actors Guild Award recognizes outstanding film and television performances by definition. For such a young girl to be nominated for Outstanding Performance By A Female Actor In A Supporting Role, her acting chops had to be well beyond her years.

7 Elle Has Always Wanted To Be A Ballerina

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Elle Fanning often imagines life if she had not gone into acting. She imagines that she would have been a ballerina and that she dreams of that daily, as she reported to Elle Magazine.

Fanning used to dance multiple days per week, as her mother enrolled her in classes to keep her active. Fanning has been spotted in public wearing full ballerina gear including a leotard, pink tights, and a ballet wrap skirt. It looked as though she had just come from a ballet rehearsal.

Elle got to live her dream by playing Mary in The Nutcracker In 3D in 2010 and by voicing a character in the animated dance film Leap! in 2016. Elle is lucky to mix her dream job with her current career without having to sacrifice one for the other.

6 They Started Living In A Victorian Style House At A Young Age

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Dakota and Elle Fanning made the move out to Studio City when Dakota first started dipping her toes into the world of Hollywood. Instead of continuing to travel back and forth, the family decided to buy a house so they could live in a comfortable place instead of in different hotel rooms. This house was massive.

According to InStyle, this house was reminiscent of Victorian England architecture. Today, the house is worth over $2.85 million. The house boasted several chandeliers, a full dining room and kitchen, several bedrooms, and a pool with a hot tub attached. The images make the house seem like a fairytale dream, with light, girly colors painted on the walls and dainty furniture accenting each room. Now, each sister can likely purchase her own house.

5 Their Parents Were Sports Stars

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Prior to the drama in the media regarding divorce and before their daughters became superstar actresses, these parents had successes of their own. Both of these superstar parents were athletes with great careers. Heather Joy Arrington, the mother of Elle and Dakota, was a professional tennis player. According to MyHeritage, she had even attended college because of a tennis scholarship. She put her career on hold after the birth of her daughters.

Steven Fanning, the girls’ father, was a minor league baseball player. He played for a variety of teams including the Hamilton Redbirds and the Savannah Cardinals, as per the Baseball Reference website. While the two parents shifted their careers in order to allow their daughters to pursue their passions, their sports careers were major elements of their lives.

4 The Two Do Not Want To Play Sisters In A Movie


Dakota and Elle have yet to be in a film together side by side. The two have vocalized an interest in starring in a film together. Most films want to cast the two as sisters, especially because they look so similar. Both Dakota and Elle have said that they would not want to play sisters because that is what people would expect from them. Elle went on to detail this in i-D for Vice.

The sisters would like the challenge of not having sibling chemistry on set and having to play opposite characters. They have even discussed the possibilities of directing each other in the future and what a nightmare that could turn out to be. While we may see them together on screen soon, we can bet they will be polar opposite characters.

3 Dakota Has Always Been Like Her Uptown Girls Character

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In Uptown Girls, Dakota played a young girl that was being nannied by the late Brittney Murphy. Fanning’s character ultimately had to teach Murphy’s character how to be an adult. From demeanor to responsibility, there was a lot for Murphy’s character to learn from the young star. Murphy’s character, in exchange, teaches Fanning’s character how to be a kid. This is a lot like Dakota’s day-to-day personality.

Since she entered the business at a young age, she has learned how to present herself as an adult, even when she was no older than six. She has always played serious roles due to her mature personality. Younger sister Elle tries to get her to lighten up but reports that Dakota is like a second mother even though she is only four years older.

2 Their Mother Made Sure To Give Them A Bit Of Advice

Heather Joy Arrington has her hands full with two daughters that are actresses. Knowing how many child actors turn out must have been a stressful experience for this mother who sacrificed everything to help her daughters pursue their passions. While she helps her daughters out regularly, Dakota Fanning reported to Marie Claire that her mother made sure that one major piece of advice was embedded within her daughters.

This piece of advice was to always treat other people well, as that is one of the only things that you can control in this life. Due to her selflessness, the daughters have a great respect for their mother and what she has to say. Dakota makes it a point to treat others with the dignity and respect that they deserve.

1 Both Sisters Have Only Experienced Minor Controversies During Their Careers

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Unlike many child stars, the Fanning sisters have not had any major, career-threating controversies through their careers. Dakota has been acting for nearly two decades and has not caused a large ruckus yet. One of the things that she was criticized most for was a perfume advertisement. This advertisement was ultimately innocent but had her holding the perfume bottle on her lap, which fell between her legs. It was banned in some countries but was forgotten otherwise.

Elle was criticized for playing a transgender character while not being transgender herself. This also seemed to be forgotten after the director addressed the need for more transgender actors and actresses in Hollywood. Despite these instances, the two have maintained a relatively squeaky-clean image and hope to keep it that way.

References: InStyle, MyHeritage, Baseball Reference, Marie Claire, Vogue, The Guardian, IMDB, IMDB, IMDB, Elle, Biography, Elle, Daily Mail, i-D

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