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Elle is on the cover of Teen Vogue’s Special Edition! She talks about her latest movie Teen Spirit, her love for singing and functioning under pressure. A new photoshoot was released along with the issue, and we’ve uploaded it to our photo gallery.

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There’s a scene near the end of Elle Fanning’s new movie Teen Spirit where she performs Sigrid’s “Don’t Kill My Vibe” in the finals of a singing competition. Her character, Violet Valenski, the young daughter of a Polish immigrant, sees the contest as a way out of her small town, where her days are spent going to school, working in a restaurant to support herself and her mother, and taking care of her family’s goats and horses.

As Violet belts the song’s chorus, she tears the mic off the stand, throwing herself around onstage like Dua Lipa or Gwen Stefani (who has a song on the soundtrack). Violet puts those years of dancing in her room to “Just a Girl” to good use, eventually rising to the top, where she is confronted with the stakes of her burgeoning fame.

Violet is trying to achieve a lifelong dream, but in the finals, Elle transcends her character, fulfilling her own lifelong dream of being a singer. And as she loses herself in the song, wailing lyrics like “I throw myself from heights that used to scare me” with wild emotion, she’s also, well, us, embodying that hidden part of ourselves that yearns to be seen, to be recognized for what we can do and to be adored for it — and as we encounter success, to maintain some semblance of what made us unique in the first place.

That’s the conflict at the crux of Teen Spirit, a pop movie-musical that follows the introverted-outsider Violet’s journey through the rounds of an American Idol–type singing competition until she makes it to the finals. Written and directed by The Handmaid’s Tale actor Max Minghella, executive-produced by Jamie Bell, and produced by La La Land’s Fred Berger, Teen Spirit is a gritty commentary on what it takes to become a star while retaining some part of your original self.

Elle is aware that this kind of story is captivating for audiences, as evidenced by the number of films with similar arcs, like the aforementioned La La Land and the recent Lady Gaga–led remake of A Star Is Born. See also: Burlesque, Almost Famous, and even one of Elle’s other movies, The Neon Demon, where a young girl becomes a supermodel to terrifying consequences.

“It’s a fairy tale. A girl or boy from a small town enters the big city and has their first experience with stardom,” Elle tells Teen Vogue. “I don’t think people will ever really stop telling that story.”

Surprisingly, Teen Spirit was Elle’s first time really singing in a movie, in an already prolific career filled with indie flicks like How to Talk to Girls at Parties and 20th Century Women, Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled and Somewhere, and big-budget Disney hits like Maleficent, and its sequel slated for release later this year. At first Elle wasn’t considered for the role of Violet; she heard about Teen Spirit from a press release announcing Minghella as the director — not a traditional agent or casting call — and she reached out to set up a meeting.

But after she proved her singing chops with a clip of herself singing “Never Let You Down” with Woodkid at the 2016 Montreux Jazz Festival, Elle earned the part in Teen Spirit and started training with a vocal coach. She rehearsed the music for three months.

“I’ve always wanted to sing in a film,” Elle says. “Singing was something I’ve always loved to do, but I’ve never really gotten to showcase that part of myself.” And in Teen Spirit she gets to sing a lot, covering songs by Robyn, Tegan and Sara, and Ellie Goulding. She also sings an original song written by Carly Rae Jepsen. “This was a lot more singing than I’ve ever done before…. The stamina is a huge challenge, but I worked forever.”

Unlike A Star Is Born or La La Land (“Jazz…it’s dying!”), Teen Spirit finds purity and release in pop music, in all its paradoxical glamour and relatability. Violet’s mom may disapprove of her love for alt-pop, insisting she participate in the church choir, but for Violet, alt-pop is the only way she can fully express her emotions — her fierce joy at success, her cold-eyed anger at failure.

As Elle puts it, “I think people also want to say, ‘Oh, pop music,’ and say that it’s just glossy,” but she’s a true poptimist. “I learned [with the film] that the best pop artists are the ones that are the most authentic,” she says. “The reason that Violet is successful is because she’s authentic to herself.”

A prime example of what she’s talking about is Ariana Grande, whose music appears on the movie’s soundtrack. “On her most recent album, [Thank U, Next], you can tell that somebody didn’t tell her to release that; it’s from the heart,” Elle says. “She wanted to do that and wrote those songs herself, and it’s more personal.” (Elle’s favorite track, by the way, is “NASA,” though she alternates that with “7 Rings.”)

Elle is also a fan of real-life singing competition shows, like American Idol, which she says are “intriguing” in part because they further the idea that anyone can be a star. “There’s still a fascination with fame,” she says, adding that Instagram has a similar effect. In Teen Spirit, even the mean girls at Violet’s school watch her on TV and follow her and the other contestants on social media as the competition progresses. The movie doesn’t show what Violet’s life looks like after the contest is over, but Elle realizes the occasional pitfalls Instagram users can fall into, whether they’re well-known on the Internet or they just want to be.

“I find myself curating [my] life. Sometimes you have to remind yourself [not to think], ‘Oh, wow, this girl’s body!’” she says. “Our minds are looking at more images than ever before — the instant gratification of it is a little scary. The other day when there was a little Instagram blackout, everybody was like, ‘No! What’s happening?’ But one day you know it’s going to have to crash. It’s not going to be around forever.”

If she does have to imagine a future for Violet, she hopes for something in the realm of Dua Lipa and her career. “She’s probably a successful pop star but is struggling with all that comes with that,” Elle says. Her best traits, however, might help her be an industry force, or “a monster,” she jokes. It’s important for Elle to be able to bring a character like Violet to life. “She doesn’t smile all the time, and she’s not super outgoing in that way, and that’s OK,” she says. “She’s very uncompromising, which I think is important for girls to see.”

Playing Violet, and keeping track of “the singing and the dancing and the Polish,” as Elle puts it, exemplifies part of the challenge that attracts her to any role she chooses, whether it’s an iconic writer in a biopic like 2017’s Mary Shelley or Catherine the Great in Hulu’s forthcoming series The Great, which will give her a chance to stretch her comedic muscles. “I feel like when I’m under pressure, that’s where I feel most comfortable. If I’m so nervous and shaking, it’s like, OK, maybe I can do this now.”

What makes Teen Spirit feel so real is precisely that nervousness. The film captures the anxiety for acceptance, but also for some kind of transcendent moment that will make us feel like it’s all been worth it, all the bad days and struggles, and for Violet, all the times she’s been underestimated.

“I think we can all relate to that kind of hunger inside of us, and really following that and working hard for that and staying true to ourselves,” Elle says. “It’s that hunger for a dream.”

April 4th, 2019  No Comments Photoshoots, Scans, Videos
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Current Projects
The Nightingale (2021)
Elle Fanning as Isabelle

The lives of two sisters living in France are torn apart at the onset of World War II. Based on Kristin Hannah’s novel ‘The Nightingale’.

The Great (2020)
Elle Fanning as Catherine

A royal woman living in rural Austria during the seventeenth century is forced to choose between her own personal happiness and the future of Russia, when she marries an Emperor.

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