Mary Elle Fanning (born April 9, 1998), credited as Elle Fanning, is an American actress and singer. 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 Super 8.
Fanning was born in Conyers, Georgia, the daughter of Heather Joy (née Arrington), 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 German, Irish, English, and French ancestry (her paternal grandmother was born in Ludwigshafen, Germany). 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, that was also attended by child actresses Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen.
Fanning started acting at the age of 2 years and 8 months. She began her acting career by playing the younger version of her older sister Dakota's characters in both the mini-series Taken and the movie I Am Sam. In 2002, at the age of four, Fanning, in the comedy Daddy Day Care, won her first role independent of her sister. 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 (2002) opposite Jeff Bridges and Kim Basinger. The film's producers had 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 voicework 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, playing the patients 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 that Emma's brother is killed. Late in 2008, Fanning had a small part in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button as a younger version of Cate Blanchett's character. Mid-year 2007, Fanning filmed the title role Phoebe of Phoebe in Wonderland—the fantastical tale of a little girl who won't—or can't—follow the rules. Phoebe in Wonderland also starred Felicity Huffman and was released in March 2009.
From July through October 2007, Fanning appeared in The Nutcracker in 3D, playing Mary. Set in 1920s Vienna, this is a tale of a little girl whose godfather gives her a special doll on Christmas Eve. 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 new 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.
Fanning starred in J. J. Abrams' sci-fi 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 late 2010, Fanning began working on Francis Ford Coppola's new film Twixt, that Coppola wrote, based on a dream he had. She plays the role of a young ghost named V.
In December 2011, Fanning appeared in Cameron Crowe's We Bought a Zoo. She played Lily, a thirteen-year-old who is working illegally at the zoo's restaurant, and lives on the property with her only parental figure, Kelly (Scarlett Johansson).