Elle Fanning Lives Her Childhood Dream of Pop Stardom in 'Teen Spirit'

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From left: Jamie Bell, Agnieszka Grochowska, Fred Berger, Elle Fanning and Max Minghella

Fanning's musical debut in Max Minghella's film would be no surprise to people she grew up with.

Elle Fanning says that singing in the musical Teen Spirit was a chance to bring back her childhood "spirit." 

“[As a child], I imagined myself onstage and being a pop star one day. [Younger Elle] would be smiling so big and probably dancing at the moment,” the actress said to The Hollywood Reporter about what her younger self would think of her now. “I was constantly dancing and performing and singing. You would see me (back then) and be like, OK, she's going to be in the entertainment world in some capacity.”

Fanning embodied that spirit at the Los Angeles premiere of the film at the Hollywood ArcLight, wearing a hot pink Rodarte gown (the Mulleavy sisters are “dear friends”) with a matching bow headband. She insisted her dress “had to be pink” to match the pink carpet, she told THR.

Teen Spirit follows a Polish-British teen from Isle of Wight with musical ambitions that stretch beyond her provincial life.

“Violet has this drive inside her and this hunger to accomplish her dream. In this industry, you get rejected a lot and people say no to you,” Fanning told THR. “You have to somehow figure out: how do you find that hunger again and to keep going with your passion.”

The coming-of-age narrative is not a romantic story like many of its musical counterparts: Teen Spirit articulates a relationship between a protégé and mentor, Violet and manager/vocal coach, Vlad (Zlatko Buric), respectively.

“I think it's really interesting to explore platonic relationships in a movie and especially a platonic relationship between a man and a woman where there's nothing lascivious about it,” director and writer Max Minghella said about the characters in his directorial debut. “It's a really complicated relationship, but it's a really beautiful one and full of heart.”

Producer Fred Berger (who laughingly notes that he may have started the trend after producing La La Land), echoes that Teen Spirit is not just another musical movie. “Max comes from a love of pop music. He didn't say ‘I see a wave coming: let me make a music film.’ He just comes from a really deep burning desire to articulate how pop music makes him feel and loves the way that music and images interact. It’s a really powerful thing,” Berger told THR.

Fanning’s vocal chops were innate, but it took the help of fellow actress Agnieszka Grochowska, who plays Violet’s single mother, to help Fanning master a Polish accent.

“Polish is quite difficult, but Elle really has the ear for it,” Grochowska said. 

Berger, like Grochowska,‘sang Fanning’s praises, telling THR that Violet evolved as a character when Fanning took on the role. Fanning mirrored “finding her own musical voice” with Valenski’s “musical and literal voice.”

“I can't imagine another Violet Valenski than the one that Elle portrays. It's very much in her bones, and having made two movies with Elle in a row when we shot this, she is this beautiful, adorable, sweet, hyper-professional girl, but she's got a fire in her that when it comes out, It's a beautiful thing,” Berger told THR.

Parlaying into singing is not the only new endeavor for Fanning, who will try her hand as an executive producer for historical series, The Great (in which she will also be starring). 

“I carried with it through the beginning with auditioning the material around to different networks and Hulu thankfully liked us,” she told THR. “It's just going to be a lot of hard work, but it's going to be fun. I get to, like, stretch my comedy muscles a bit.”

Teen Spirit executive producer Jamie Bell also talked about his excitement for his own upcoming project, playing Elton John’s lyrical collaborative partner, Bernie Taupin in Rocketman. “They (Elton John and Taupin) love each other. There's no question that they couldn't have done it without each other and I hope beyond anything that mine and Taron [Egerton]’s performance really sends that message really loudly,” Bell said. “Knowing them and meeting them and spending time with them it still exists today and that are both very grateful for one another.”

Teen Spirit hits theaters April 12.