Mary Elle Fanning is an American teen actress. She is the younger sister of actress Dakota Fanning and mainly known for her starring roles in Phoebe in Wonderland, Somewhere,We Bought a Zoo, and as Aurora in 2014's Maleficent. In 2011, Fanning starred in her breakout role as Alice Dainard in J. J. Abrams' sci-fi-drama blockbuster,Super 8. For this role she received overwhelming critical acclaim and was often cited as one of the film's best aspects. She received nominations for aSaturn Award, a Young Artist Award, a Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, a Teen Choice Award, a Scream Award, an MTV Movie Award, and more including a special Spotlight Award at the Hollywood Film Festival. Fanning was born in Conyers, Georgia on April 9, 1998, the daughter of Heather Joy who played tennis professionally, and Steven J. Fanning, who played minor league baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals and now works as an electronics salesman in Los Angeles.Her maternal grandfather is American football player Rick Arrington, and her aunt is ESPN reporter Jill Arrington. Fanning is the younger sister of Dakota Fanning, who is also an actress. Fanning has Irish, German, English, and French ancestry. Fanning and her family are members of the Southern Baptist Convention. She has been quoted as saying "We're just normal sisters. We both go to school and we just play together." Fanning currently attends Campbell Hall School in North Hollywood, Los Angeles, which was also attended by child actresses Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen.
Fanning started acting before turning three years old. She began her acting career by playing the younger version of her older sister Dakota's characters in the mini-series Taken and the movie I Am Sam. In 2002, at the age of four, Fanning won her first role independent of her sister in the comedy Daddy Day Care. Anecdotal evidence of her emerging skill was seen in the decision to cast her in the role of Ruth in The Door in the Floor (2004) opposite Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger. The film's producers originally planned to hire identical twins for the intense shooting schedule, but were so impressed with Fanning that they used only her. Late in 2003, Fanning appeared in Because of Winn-Dixie in the small role of Sweetie Pie Thomas. In 2004, she did voice work in the English dubbed version of Miyazaki's animated film My Neighbor Totoro, in the role of Mei. Later that same year, she filmed I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With. In early 2005, Fanning filmed scenes in Charlotte's Web as the "future granddaughter" of Fern Arable played by Dakota Fanning. However, the scenes didn't make the final cut. In mid-2005, she played Debbie, the daughter of Richard and Susan Jones (played by Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett) in the Academy Award-winning film Babel. In early 2006, Fanning filmed scenes in both The Nines and Déjà Vu. In mid-2006, she filmed The Lost Room a sci-fi TV mini-series. Also in 2006, she appeared on the episode "Need to Know" of House: MD, playing the patient's daughter.
By the end of 2006, Fanning began to book lead roles. The first of these was the one of Emma Learner in Reservation Road—the grieving daughter of Grace and Ethan Learner.The film deals with the aftermath of a tragic car accident in which Emma's brother is killed. In early 2007, Fanning reunited with her Babel co-stars, Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, in a small part in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as the younger version of Blanchett's character. Mid-year 2007, Fanning filmed the title role Phoebe of Phoebe in Wonderland. Phoebe in Wonderland also starredFelicity Huffman and was released in March 2009. From July through October 2007, Fanning appeared in The Nutcracker in 3D, playing Mary. The movie was filmed in Budapest, Hungary and was released late 2010. In March 2008, Fanning and her sister Dakota were scheduled to star in My Sister's Keeper, but the opportunity fell through when Dakota learned she would have to shave her head. The sisters were immediately replaced by Abigail Breslin and Sofia Vassilieva. Variety reported in April 2009 that Fanning would be starring in Academy Award-winning screenwriter Sofia Coppola's 2010 film, Somewhere. The plot centers around a "bad-boy" actor who is forced to re-evaluate his life when his daughter, played by Fanning, arrives unexpectedly.
The film was released during the 2010 awards season. At its first film festival, the 67th Venice Film Festival, it took out the Golden Lion. In late 2010, Fanning began working on Francis Ford Coppola's 2011 film Twixt, that Coppola wrote, based on a dream he had. She plays the role of a young ghost named "V". In 2011, Fanning starred in J. J. Abrams' sci-fi-drama film Super 8 as Alice Dainard. The movie was released on June 10, 2011 and centers around a group of kids who are forced to deal with strange happenings in their small town. In December 2011, Fanning appeared in Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo. She played Lily, a thirteen-year-old who is working at the zoo's restaurant, and lives on the property with her only parental figure, Kelly (Scarlett Johansson). In September 2012, Fanning starred as Ginger along with Alice Englert who played Rosa in the drama film Ginger & Rosa that took place during 1962 in London. The film was directed by Sally Potter and was released on October 19, 2012. Fanning has received widespread acclaim for her performance, with A. O. Scott of The New York Timeswriting that she "shows a nearly Streepian mixture of poise, intensity and technical precision. It is frightening how good she is and hard to imagine anything she could not do." Fanning also starred alongside Angelina Jolie in the 2014 Walt Disney film, Maleficent, directed by Robert Stromberg. Jolie played Maleficent, while Fanning played Princess Aurora.