Dakota Fanning

Dakota Fanning attends the premiere of the film "I Am Sam" December 3, 2001 in Beverly Hills, CA. (Photo by Vince Bucci/Getty Images)

Hannah Dakota Fanning was born on the 23rd of February 1994, in Conyers, Georgia, USA, to Heather Joy (Arrington) and Steven Fanning. Her mother played professional tennis, and her father, now an electronics salesman, played minor league baseball. She is of German, Irish, English, French, and Channel Islander descent. Before her debut into the cinematic world, Dakota did her own acting around her house. She was very active for her age, and often put a blanket under her shirt and pretended to be having a baby, using her younger sister, Elle Fanning, who is also an actress now, as the baby. Dakota went to a playhouse near her home, where the children that attended put on a play every week to show to their parents. But the people running the playhouse noticed that Dakota stood out, and advised her parents to take her to an agency. They believed that she was extremely talented.

She is an American actress.Fanning was born in Conyers, Georgia. She attended a Montessori School in Covington. Her mother, Heather Joy (née Arrington), played tennis professionally, and her father, Steven J. Fanning, played minor league baseball and later worked as an electronics salesman in Los Angeles, California. Her maternal grandfather is former American football player Rick Arrington, and her aunt is former ESPN reporter Jill Arrington. Counted among the Arrington family’s notable ancestors is the gentleman farmer William Farrar. Fanning is the elder sister of actress Elle Fanning; they were brought up as Southern Baptists. She rose to prominence at the age of seven for her performance as Lucy Dawson in the drama film I Am Sam (2001), for which she received a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination at the age of eight, making her the youngest nominee in SAG history. Fanning played major roles as a child actress in the films Uptown Girls (2003), The Cat in the Hat (2003), Man on Fire (2004), War of the Worlds (2005), Dreamer (2005), and Charlotte’s Web (2006), and the eponymous character in Coraline (2009).

The Fanning family were advised to spend six weeks in Los Angeles, a long way from their home in Georgia. But there Dakota managed to get her first work; to star in a national Tide commercial. She was chosen out of many, many other children.

The family then decided to move to Los Angeles permanently, for it looked like Dakota’s career was looking very good. After they moved, Dakota signed with a professional agency, and soon won a role in the movie Tomcats (2001). She then went onto a small project called Father Xmas (2001) as Clairee.

But Dakota’s big break-through was yet to come. She auditioned for one of the main characters in I Am Sam (2001), and the director and the rest of the crew were amazed by her extraordinary talent. Dakota was cast, and starred in the movie as Lucy Diamond Dawson, alongside major Hollywood stars Sean Penn and Michelle Pfeiffer.

After I Am Sam (2001) her talent was immediately recognized around the world. She went straight onto Trapped (2002) as Abby Jennings, alongside Charlize Theron, then played the younger version of Reese Witherspoon in 2002’s Sweet Home Alabama (2002) But Dakota still had two more movies to come in 2002. Firstly she got a huge role in Steven Spielberg’s Taken (2002), the mini-TV series, and narrated the ten whole episodes, as well as having a part. This was a little more challenging, as she was playing a troubled alien child, but she managed to do brilliantly. Her last movie for 2002 was the children’s movie Hansel & Gretel (2002) as Katie.

2003 was also a brilliant year for Dakota, as she starred in a number of exciting projects. Firstly, it was as Sally Walden in The Cat in the Hat (2003) with Mike Myers, then she played Lorraine “Ray” Schleine, a bratty little girl, in the sweet comedy Uptown Girls (2003) alongside Brittany Murphy. She then voiced preschool Kim in Kim Possible: A Sitch in Time (2003).

In 2004, Dakota appeared in the violent thriller, Man on Fire (2004), alongside Denzel Washington. Her reviews were excellent.

First in 2005 was Nine Lives (2005), as Maria, then the chilling Hide and Seek (2005) alongside Robert De Niro. By now, she was the busiest child actress in Hollywood, with a resume to die for. Her younger sister, (Elle Fanning), had also been discovered a few years earlier.

After Hide and Seek (2005) came War of the Worlds (2005), which was one of her major movies out of everything she’d worked in. Not only did it make her more popular, but she got to play the daughter of A-list Hollywood actor Tom Cruise. They had four very successful premieres; the first in Tokyo, Japan, the second in France, the third in London, England and the fourth in New York, USA. The reviews were outstanding, especially Dakota’s. She then voiced Lilo in Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005).

Fanning followed with more mature roles, playing Lewellen in Hounddog (2007), Lily in The Secret Life of Bees (2008), Cherie Currie in The Runaways (2010) and Jane in The Twilight Saga (2009–2012). Throughout the 2010s, she continued appearing in independent productions such as the dramas Now Is Good (2012) and Night Moves (2013), the comedy-drama Very Good Girls (2013), and the biographical film Effie Gray (2014). In 2018, she appeared in the heist comedy Ocean’s 8 and had a starring role in the period drama series The Alienist. She has since portrayed Manson girl Squeaky Fromme in the Quentin Tarantino film Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019) and First Daughter Susan Ford in the Showtime biographical drama series The First Lady (2022).

At the age of eight, she became the youngest person to be nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award – for her supporting acting in the movie I Am Sam (2001).

When she received the Best Young Actor/Actress award from the Broadcast Film Critics Association for her performance in I Am Sam (2001), she was too short to reach the microphone to give her acceptance speech. Presenter Orlando Bloom held her up to the mike for the duration of her speech, which turned out to be quite long.

She began her acting career at the age of five when she was picked for a Tide detergent commercial.

Her father named her Dakota, her mother named her Hannah. She then was named Hannah Dakota Fanning.

Parents are Joy Fanning (aka Joy Arrington Fanning) and Steven Fanning.

Her favorite films include Gone with the Wind (1939), Steel Magnolias (1989) and Titanic (1997).

Dakota was schooled at home and on sets by her tutor, but she joined high school in her freshman year.

Looks up to Meryl Streep and Hilary Swank, “not just because they’re great actresses, but because they are amazing people”.

Fanning is an Anglicised form of the Gaelic Fionn, meaning “fair”, and may have Norman roots from the Viking invasion of northern France. Her mother’s maiden name Arrington has links to the east of England, notably Cambridgeshire.

She donated many signed items to Rocky Stone to be given away as prizes in a Dakota Fanning Contest to benefit less fortunate kids as part of the Toy Mountain Campaign 2005 and Toy Mountain Campaign 2006.

First time she visited England was on the June 19, 2005 with Tom Cruise, to attend the premiere of War of the Worlds (2005) at London’s Leicester Square.

Loves to knit and has knitted scarfs for Tom Cruise, Robert De Niro, Denzel Washington, Oprah Winfrey, Steven Spielberg and Tim Robbins.

For the ‘sad’ scenes in I Am Sam (2001), she thought of her pet goldfish, Flounder, dying.

Carried a book of baby names with her wherever she went as a child.

She has been to Canada, Mexico, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Japan, Australia, England and France.

Was a member of the Red Cross National Celebrity Cabinet for one year.

On her eleventh birthday, Tom Cruise gave her a cell phone.

Listed as a potential nominee on the 2004 Razzie Award nominating ballot. She was suggested in the Worst Supporting Actress category for her role in The Cat in the Hat (2003). She was also suggested as an official nominee in the “Worst Screen Couple” couple category with co-star Spencer Breslin in The Cat in the Hat (2003). She was relieved to get neither of these nominations.

Is a member of the Girl Scouts USA, and her sister Elle Fanning is a Brownie.

Is learning to speak French. She also learned to speak some Spanish for her role in Man on Fire (2004).

Missed the premiere of Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005) to go to Mexico while her sister Elle Fanning filmed Babel (2006).

Began kindergarten at the age of four and one-half. She began her freshman year of high school (the 9th grade) in fall 2007.

During filming of War of the Worlds (2005), Tom Cruise gave her an iPod.

After filming Dreamer (2005), Kurt Russell, who plays her father, bought her a palomino horse, whom she named Goldie. Goldie lives on a ranch near Dakota’s home where she can visit him often.

Her tutor is Jan Cerwonka.

Her scene in Nine Lives (2005) was done in just one take. She was only required to work on this movie for one day.

Has said she would love to be a director.

On her 10th birthday, Robert De Niro gave her a doll that looked like Dakota’s character in Hide and Seek (2005), with the brown hair and blue eyes.

Plays the piano and the violin, knits, collects dolls, ride horses and dances ballet.

Niece of ESPN reporter Jill Arrington, and Jill’s husband, Dean Panaro. Granddaughter of Mary Jane Arrington and NFL quarterback Rick Arrington.

She was the youngest member of the “Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences”, which admitted her in 2006.

Ranked number nine in “E!” TV’s list of the cutest child stars, all grown-up – even though she was still just a girl in 2005.

Has been in three productions with her sister Elle Fanning, yet they have never shared scenes. Elle played the younger version of Dakota’s characters in I Am Sam (2001) and Taken (2002), and the two girls voiced sisters in a dub for My Neighbor Totoro (1988).

While she was filming Man on Fire (2004) in Mexico, her sister Elle Fanning was filming The Door in the Floor (2004), so their parents had to go to and from their daughters’ destinations.

Her first word was “Momo”, which was the family cat’s name.

Has mentioned in numerous interviews that she would love to work with her sister, Elle Fanning.

For her, the hardest thing at the end of a movie is saying goodbye to the cast.

A doll was made of her (as her character Cale Crane) for the movie Dreamer (2005).

She was friends with her late Uptown Girls (2003) co-star Brittany Murphy.

Is a huge fan of US designer Belle of the Ball. She has worn many Belle of the Ball dresses to events such as the Hide and Seek (2005) premiere.

Was originally offered the role of Leslie Burke in Bridge to Terabithia (2007), but turned it down because of conflicting schedules. AnnaSophia Robb was later given the role.

Permed her hair for her films in 2005.

While she lived in in Georgia, she attended a Montessori school for a brief period of time.

Ranked number 14 on the Forbes List of The 20 Top-Earning Young Superstars in 2007.

Ranked number 94 on the Forbes List of “The Celebrity 100” in 2007.

In 2007, Forbes magazine estimated her earnings for the year to be $4 million.

Ranked number six in Interview magazine’s “Hollywood Faces to Watch” article: “Future Stars of Tomorrow”.

Ranked number 19 along with her sister, Elle Fanning, on Entertainment Weekly magazine’s “30 Under 30” actress list in 2008.

Ranked #8 alongside Abigail Breslin on TV Guide Top 10 Teen Star Countdown (2008).

Ranked number four in the Moviefone list of the “The 25 Hottest Actors Under 25” in 2008.

For the 2008-09 school year, she was a cheerleader for Campbell Hall, a private Episcopal Church college-preparatory school in North Hollywood, California, which fields a number of sports teams.

Her favorite scary movie as a child, was The Wizard of Oz (1939).

She had not read all of the books from the Twilight series by the writer Stephenie Meyer before she got hired for the cast of the movie The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009), but she wanted to take the role because she loved the cast and the script.

Started recording the voice of Coraline (2009) when she was just 10 years old, but this movie was not released until she was fourteen, almost fifteen.

She chose her costumes and looks in Push (2009). Some of the clothes were actually her own.

When the production of Coraline (2009) started, it was originally going to be a live action, still with Dakota in the lead.

While filming Push (2009) in Hong Kong, she wasn’t recognized.

Because of rape scenes that she was involved in, her movie Hounddog (2007) was banned in many cities.

Has the rare distinction of being in the cast of two movies that opened on the same day in the United States: – Coraline (2009) and Push (2009), on February 6, 2009.

She became close friends with Tom Cruise after working with him on War of the Worlds (2005).

Good friends with Kristen Stewart.

She graduated with honors from North Hollywood’s Campbell Hall Episcopal High School on June 6, 2011.

She was a cheerleader and was voted homecoming queen in high school.

Her favorite book is “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White, and her favorite book series are “Harry Potter” by J.K. Rowling, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” by Daniel Handler, and “Nancy Drew” by Mildred Wirt Benson.

Has a schnoodle dog named Lewellen.

Announced that she would begin her first semester of college at New York University in fall 2011. [June 2011]

Is a Delta Gamma sorority influence with her aunt, Jill Arrington, being a Delta Gamma member alumna.

Her paternal grandmother, Katharina Kramb, was born in Ludwigshafen, Germany. Her other ancestry is Irish, English, French, Welsh, Scottish, and Jersey/Guernsey Channel Islander.

Her favorite movie, which made her cry, is What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993).

Often wears pieces from the “Elizabeth and James” clothing line, designed by Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen.

Blue Valentine (2010) is one of her favorite movies and it inspired her to do more indie films.

Seeing model Jamie Strachan publicly as of September 2013.

She helped in raising 2,206 toys for the Less Fortunate Kids as part of the 2005 Toy Mountain Campaign with Rocky Stone. [December 2005]

Toronto, Canada: Attended the world premiere of Dreamer (2005) and the press conference. [September 2005]

For Dakota’s 16th birthday, Cherie Currie (who Dakota portrayed in the movie The Runaways (2010)) gave her a custom made guitar.

Dakota is currently attending New York University, and this has inspired her sister Elle Fanning to attend college.

While living in Georgia, Dakota attended a Montessori School, where she learned to read at the age of two.

Dakota worked with her sister Elle Fanning in the movie My Neighbor Totoro (1988), where the characters were sisters as well.

Dakota is a huge fan of Hello Kitty, and she states that she has gotten into it more now she has gotten older.

During the filming of War of the Worlds (2005), the airplane crash set was Dakota’s favorite set.

Dakota’s first kissing scene was in the movie, Sweet Home Alabama (2002), with actor Thomas Curtis.

Counts Charlotte’s Web (2006) as her most profound weepie which she first saw as an in-flight film and wept so much she woke the passenger next to her.

She appeared in one film that was nominated for the Best Picture Oscar: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2019).


2001Father XmasClaireeShort film
TomcatsLittle Girl in Park
I Am SamLucy Diamond Dawson
2002TrappedAbigail “Abbie” Jennings
Sweet Home AlabamaYoung Melanie
Hansel and GretelKatie
2003Uptown GirlsLorraine “Ray” Schleine
The Cat in the HatSally Walden
Kim Possible: A Sitch in TimePreschool KimVoice role
2004Man on FireLupita Ramos
My Neighbor TotoroSatsuki KusakabeVoice role; English dub
In the Realms of the UnrealNarratorVoice role
2005Hide and SeekEmily Callaway
Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a GlitchLilo PelekaiVoice role; direct to video
Nine LivesMaria
War of the WorldsRachel Ferrier
DreamerCale Crane
2006Charlotte’s WebFern Arable
CutlassLacyShort film
2008The Secret Life of BeesLily Owens
2009CoralineCoraline JonesVoice role
PushCassie Holmes
Fragments – Winged CreaturesAnne Hagen
The Twilight Saga: New MoonJane Volturi
2010The RunawaysCherie Currie
The Twilight Saga: EclipseJane Volturi