Dakota Fanning Grows Up For 'The Last of Robin Hood'
Get the scoop on the stylish star's latest—and most mature—role, straight from the woman who dressed her.
It's nothing new that Dakota Fanning has blossomed before our eyes into an accomplished actress well on her way to A-list status—not to mention an up-and-coming style star who can already check sitting front row beside Anna Wintour during Fashion Week off her bucket list.
Progressing from wunderkind in Man on Fire to youthful villain in The Twilight Saga, Fanning's latest role as Errol Flynn's much younger love interest in The Last of Robin Hood, which is based on a true story, may just be her most mature role to date. We met up with the film's costume designer Karyn Wagner, who gave us the inside scoop on what the 20-year-old actress' glamorous Old Hollywood costumes say about her controversial character.
How would you describe Dakota Fanning's character? "One of the things I wanted to suggest very gently is that she was a young woman who never really had a chance to have a childhood. And she was always being influenced by the strongest person around her. She starts out being completely dressed by her mother [played by Susan Sarandon], who is picking out her clothes. Then she gradually falls under the sway of Errol [Kevin Kline], who then starts dressing her, taking her out and buying her clothes. There’s one moment—a tiny, tiny moment—in the middle [of the film] where she’s defying her mother and Errol’s out of the country, where she gets to be herself for a second. And she’s just kind of a tomboy in little pedal-pushers and a blouse. It’s almost the only moment we get to see Beverly being Beverly."
How did you use her wardrobe to convey that to the audience? "My feeling was that Beverly was very contained because she had so much external influence. I’ve noticed, in life, that people who have a tremendous amount of external influence and a lot of really huge personalities around them tend to turn inward, and the outward appearance, they sort of let go of in one way or another; it just doesn’t matter to them [because] they’re so busy trying to keep their own persona safe, in a way. I think it was very easy for her to adapt to however whoever wanted her to look because she had long ago given that up."
I think that because Errol was so immature—not in a bad way—personally, she came into a little bit more of her own than she ever would have with her mother because he allowed her. They were very good friends. I can tell that by looking at photographs of the two of them together; they really enjoyed each other’s company. So she had probably the first true friendship of her life with him. I think she was able to have a bit more say about her outward personality. [Still,] you really get the sense that she was just kind of clay for them to mold. The costumes were less about her personality, in a way, and more about her strength. Her outward appearance is more about their personalities."
What do the women's fashion choices convey about the era? "You always want to set a person firmly in her era by playing to the conventions. What’s the fashion sense at the moment? But then the other thing you want to do is convey how she is different from it. So, 1958 to 1959 has a specific silhouette. For Susan Sarandon, [I wanted to] convey some of the sacrifice she feels she’s making for Beverly. So her clothes are going to be outdated, from the early ‘50s, and they’re kind of old and tired. She does her best to keep them up but she doesn’t have a lot in her closet because every spare penny she has, she’s putting towards Beverly’s clothing.
Beverly is going to be in the most expensive thing that her mother could afford. And then when Errol starts dressing her, she’s dressed a little bit fashion-forward for the time but also much sexier than a girl of her age should be dressing. [For instance,] she’s having her sweet 16 at this incredibly expensive restaurant, and she’s wearing a skin-tight metallic sheath dress, and all her girlfriends are showing up in full skirts and prom-like looks. I kind of channeled a moment of Big Fish there; you know, sort of that big ‘50s floozy thing, and then here she is as this little silver minnow, who's way ahead of her age. It’s a kind of covenant that I keep with the audience: here’s your norm, and then here’s 15 degrees off, 30 degrees off and 100 percent off."
What are some of her character's signature accessories? "[Real-life] Beverly had saved beautiful pieces of jewelry that Errol had bought her, and her daughter still had them. They did offer to loan them, but they were so precious to the family, so I had them send photographs of the originals. He had bought her a jeweled bee that she loved, and my mother also collected jeweled bees from the same era that I still have. For me, that was really great because I got to put in something that looked like Errol had bought it for her, but then my mother also got to make an appearance in the movie."
The Last of Robin Hood hits theaters today. Get a sneak peek by watching the trailer, below: