'I felt there was such an expectation for me not to mess up' – Dakota Fanning on surviving child stardom

Dakota Fanning felt huge pressure growing up in the spotlight.

The 25-year-old actress landed her first movie role at the age of six in ‘I Am Sam’, alongside Michelle Pfeiffer and Sean Penn and admitted that she was conscious of not “messing up” during her teenage years.

She explained to NET-A-PORTER’s weekly digital magazine, PorterEdit: “Turning 21 for me was really freeing. Before that, things could be scary… I would go to a gala dinner and all the glasses would already be filled with wine and I’d hold one up for a toast and [people would say], she’s drinking wine! No, I wasn’t! Stupid little things like that.

“I mean, I had been to bars and clubs when somebody was having an afterparty for a premiere, but I’d never snuck in. I’d never gone anywhere I wasn’t supposed to go. I felt there was such an expectation for me not to mess up. Which could have driven me crazy, because that’s an outrageous thing to put on a younger person, who’s supposed to make mistakes. And I certainly have made mistakes, but just privately. When I turned 21, I felt like a weight had lifted; I felt more freedom to come into my own.”

However, there were advantages to growing up in the limelight, including receiving lavish gifts from her famous co-stars.

Dakota¬† – who stars in Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Once Upon a Time In Hollywood’ – said: “I got my first iPod and cell phone from Tom Cruise when we worked together [on ‘War of the Worlds’]. I got a horse from Kurt Russell [after working with him on ‘Dreamer’]. But more than the gifts, I think people went out of their way to give me a memory.

“Like when I turned 10, I was making a movie with Robert De Niro and there was a whole surprise set-up in the lunchroom, with my favorite food and everyone in party hats. Even on my first film, ‘I Am Sam’, for Valentine’s Day, Michelle Pfeiffer decorated my whole trailer with pink and red balloons and little trinkets and candies, then did the same for my birthday, so that’s how I remember my seventh birthday.”

And although she is now 25, Dakota admitted that she will always be seen as a child to some of her fans.

She said: “The difficult part about starting so young, which I’ve totally come to accept, is that when you grow up and become a woman, people think you’re younger. The other day, my mom, my sister [Elle] and I were in Las Vegas for my sister’s 21st birthday and somebody said, ‘Are you Dakota Fanning? You’re that child?’ And my mom was like, ‘poor Dakota’.”

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