by Jennifer M. Sirrico
You probably recognize
Dakota Fanning as Sally from The Cat in the Hat movie
or Fern in Charlotte's Web. But did you know Dakota
could read before she was 3 years old? Or that this young
star considers herself "just a normal kid" who loves
When Dakota was
born, February 23, 1994 in Conyers Georgia, her parents could
not agree on what to name her. "My dad named me Dakota
and my mom came up with my first name Hannah. So it's Hannah
Dakota Fanning." Her nickname is "Kota".
At age two Dakota discovered two of her favorite hobbies,
reading and ballet dancing. "I was in a Montessori school
and they teach you to read really, really young." Ballet
classes began at age 2 1/2, a hobby that came in handy when
she played the role of Ray, her ‘neat nick' character
in the movie Uptown Girls.
With her active imagination, (she is rumored to have had imaginary
friends,) Dakota's parents knew she wanted to act by the time
she was four. Playing with her little sister Elle, Dakota
would pretend that she was the mother and that Elle was the
daughter. "I wanted to be an actress on television and
movies instead of just around the house."
moved a step closer to Hollywood when her mother signed her
up at a playhouse. Each week the children performed a play
for their parents. Dakota, age five at the time, impressed
the Director with her talents. The Director referred her to
a talent agent. The agent, Joy Pervis, also believed in Dakota's
talent calling her "a little prodigy and a child star…a
one-in-a-million kid". Dakota's parents brought her to
Los Angeles (LA) where she appeared in three commercials in
two weeks. Her big break was a commercial for Tide laundry
detergent. "I didn't have any lines, I was just eating
pudding, and then I spilled some on my dress. I had to do
that about 20 times! But the pudding was really good."
was seen nationally and launched Dakota into television. She
appeared in several series including "Malcolm in the
Middle," "ER," "The Practice" and
"CSI". Dakota's charm, talent and professionalism
led to movie roles including the role that transformed her
career to stardom. In 2001 Dakota co-stared with Actor Sean
Penn in the movie I Am Sam. Exceptional in her portrayal
of Lucy, a seven-year-old daughter who tries to help her mentally
disabled father, Dakota became an award-winning Actress. In
2002 Dakota defeated a wizard and a robot (actors Daniel Radcliff
a.k.a. Harry Potter and Haley Joel Osment of AI: Artificial
Intelligence) to win the Best Young Actor honor from
the Broadcast Film Critics Association for her role in I
Despite her talent,
Dakota and her family have faced criticism about some of the
characters she has chosen to play. Critics have wondered if
some roles are too grown up for someone Dakota's age. At age
nine, when asked if she felt like she was growing up too fast
Dakota responded "I don't because when I go home, I play
with my baby dolls and strollers and diaper bags, and play
with my sister."
Dakota has been
called one of the hardest working Actors in Hollywood. The
number of movies she has appeared in outnumbers the number
of years she has been alive. She keeps her job interesting
by alternating the types of movie roles she accepts between
silly and serious scripts. A tutor travels with her between
home and movie sets but Dakota hopes to have a "normal,
well, not ‘normal' but regular" school to go to
When she's not
acting Dakota enjoys collecting dolls, knitting, playing the
violin and piano, horseback riding, swimming, and reading.
She also, of course, loves movies. If Gone with the Wind,
My Best Friend's Wedding, Steel Magnolias
and Titanic are among your favorites, you definitely
have something in common with Dakota.
"From the day I did the Tide commercial, I knew that
I wanted to do this forever." "I can't even picture
myself doing anything but acting."
Making: "The hard part is when you're done.
You've met all these wonderful people. And then it's over."
Rumors: "I learned that it can be very hurtful
to talk about others. You know, I read a quote by Oprah Winfrey
where she said, ‘Turn your wounds into wisdom'. It's
not nice to spread rumors."
Favorite Actresses Julia Roberts, Hillary Swank, Meryl Streep
and Cameron Diaz: [They are favorites] "not
just because they're great actresses, but because they are
amazing people too.
Fun Dakota Facts
- Her cat's name,
"Momo," was the first word Dakota ever spoke.
- Dakota has naturally
- By age six Dakota
could read at a fifth grade level.
- Dakota considers
herself neat, clean and tidy.
- Dakota's parents
were both athletes: Her mother, Joy, played tennis in college
and her father, Steve, was a minor league baseball player.
- Dakota's best
friend is her younger sister Elle.
- Knocking door-to-door,
Dakota and Elle once sold 750 boxes of Girl Scout cookies.
- For her role
as Lucy in I Am Sam, Dakota was the youngest person
ever nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for film.
the movie Dreamer called for a character of an 11-year-old-boy.
When Director John Gatins saw Dakota act, the part was rewritten
for a girl just so he could recruit Dakota to play the role.
- Her co-star
Kurt Russell said Dakota "is the best actress I will
work with in my entire career."
- At ten Dakota
was a member of the Red Cross.
- At 11, Steven
Spielberg gave her a camcorder for her birthday.
- In 2005 Dakota
earned $3,000,000 per movie.
- Barbara Walters
named her one of the year's most fascinating people. And
her movies earned more in the United States at the box office
than other actresses including Julia Roberts, Nicole Kidman,
Reese Witherspoon and Sandra Bullock.
- Dakota's favorite
idea for a wedding gift for Katie Holmes and War of the
Worlds co-star Tom Cruise, a toaster. (Someone else beat
her to it!)