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Spinning ‘Charlotte’s Web’ with Dakota Fanning

Being a huge fan of the children’s classic Charlotte’s Web, Dakota Fanning talks about her wonderful experience playing Fern, the little girl with a big heart who loves her pig, Wilbur.

Hollywood.com: Do you remember the first time that you read Charlotte’s Web?
Dakota Fanning: I do. I’ve read it so many times at different times in my life, and I’ve had it read to me. Then while I was doing the movie I read it before and after. So it’s really meant something different to me each time and has a deeper meaning each time and something that I’ve used in my life as I’ve gotten older.

HW: Were you ever worried that they might not get it right in the film?
DF: I really wasn’t because Gary [Winick] the director, that was his most important thing. He always wanted to make it just like the book and he always had the book in his hand, and if there was any way he could make some illustrations in the book into a real shot in the movie he would do that, and so that never worried me. I knew that it was going to come out very, very similar to the book, but just as a movie.

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HW: This is a wonderful little fable about death and dying, this movie, and as a young person do connect with that in any way?
DF: I think that it definitely helps for young kids, or anyone, to deal with losing a loved one or a friend or a pet–anything. [Charlotte’s Web] kind of deals with that in a non-traumatizing way. It’s done in a very peaceful way and is something that Charlotte’s never afraid of. Both of my dad’s parents have passed away, and I really think this sort of thing helps with the circle of life and how everyone is born and then you die and you live while you’re here and trying to do that to the fullest.

HW: What do you think that kids will take away from seeing this movie?
DF: Well, I hope that they take away the importance of friendship and the importance of living life to the fullest and the meaning that we’re all here for a reason, that we all do something special. Some people think that miracles are these big extraordinary things, but in fact some miracles are little things that we walk by each day and not really even pay attention to. So maybe they’ll appreciate some of the smaller things in life.

HW: How was it having farm animals as co-stars?
DF: It was great. I really had fun with all of the animals. Some of my most important relationships are with the animals, especially Wilbur. So it really helped a lot to get to practice with them before the movie so I was comfortable doing all of those things that Fern does and has done for so many years.

HW: I heard that there were about 47 pigs used on this movie?
Yeah, there was about 50. There was a lot of them. We had little babies that would be like a month old when we first got there and then they would grow up and we’d watch them grow up. They kind of became like our little babies.

HW: What was the smartest animal that you dealt with on the film and which one was the dumbest?
DF: They were all really smart. I worked with the pigs the most and so I think that I really experienced all of their smarts through different ways, and so I think the pigs were definitely the smartest. There weren’t really any dumb animals. They were all really good.

HW: How do you feel about spiders in general, and how do you feel about the spider in the movie? Julia Roberts is great at the voice, but what about the visual of the spider?
DF: I know the visual of the spider was important to Gary and to so many people because you don’t want to make it look too incredibly scary, but still, you want to make it look like a real spider. Spiders are beautiful in a way, but they’re also sort of ugly looking. So you have to be true to that. Like we didn’t make pigs look any different than a real pig looks. So you want to be true to the way that spiders look. So I thought that was very important, one of the most important parts of making this film–making Charlotte. She sort of had huge Julia Roberts eyes and she had a little face, which I think is also really cute as well.

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HW: How did you like having a love interest in this film?
DF: [Laughs] I think that in this one it kind of symbolized Fern growing up and getting older. She still loves Wilbur, but she still has room for other things in her life and that wasn’t all she thought about. I enjoyed doing it because it was another aspect of the character.

HW: Can you relate to that because you’re getting older, too?
I can relate to getting older and going through a lot of changes and things like that, but I can’t really relate to the boys or that stuff. I don’t really think about that yet. I know that time will come, and I don’t really try to rush into that.

HW: Did you relate to Fern on a personal level, and do you have to identify with a character in order to play it?
I don’t think that you have to identify because you’ll never be playing yourself. There is always some things that’ll be similar, but never the same. So I don’t think that I have to identify with most characters. I’m similar to Fern and our personalities are a little bit similar in that we’re both strong willed and a little bit stubborn sometimes. We’re also different in that she is starting to like boys. I’m really not. She’s always lived on a farm with animals. I’ve never really done that. So I’ve also gotten to experience different things through her, and I got to sort of live in a farm for a little bit and take care of animals like my own.

HW: You’ve done so much for your age. Is there anything out there that you still want to do, that you want to accomplish by a certain age?
No. I enjoy being the age that I am, and if I wasn’t my age when I did Charlotte’s Web, I wouldn’t have been able to do the film. So I don’t try to rush things or pick projects that are any different from the age that I am and aren’t realistic for my age. I just kind of go with it as time goes on.

HW: How hard is it to stay a normal little girl when you’re a movie star and hanging out in Hollywood with famous people?
DF: I really have never found it that difficult. I’ve always just had my family and I’ve had my other family which is on the set and I’ve enjoyed both worlds kind of. I’ve kind of gotten the best of both them. I’ve gotten to do all different kinds of movies and experience all different kinds of cultures in the places that I’ve been able to go. I’ve gotten really open minded about a lot of things because of this business. I think that it’s really been good for me personally because I’ve learned about so many different things. So I’ve become a better Dakota and hopefully I’ve learned more about acting as well.

HW: Do you think that this is something that you’ll want to do forever even as an adult? Jodie Foster is kind of the exception to the rule of child actors who’ve made a successful transition to an adult career.
DF: Right. I would love to be like her one day. I hope to keep acting and always being an actress, or maybe being a director, but always getting to be in the business because it’s something that I love so much. I enjoy all of the things that I’ve gotten to do so far. I can’t for what’s next.

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