The film festival’s regulars return in filmmaker Naomi Foner’s directorial debut, starring as a pair of teenage friends hoping to lose their virginity before heading off to college. The actresses dish about their real-life “gang,” first times, upcoming projects—including Spike Lee’s Oldboy—and more.
Fanning was the talk of the fest back in 2007, when her film Hounddog, which contained a rape scene featuring the then-12-year-old actress, premiered. She returned in 2010, starring as Cherie Currie in the underrated rock biopic The Runaways. Olsen, meanwhile, burst onto the scene in 2011, starring in Martha Marcy May Marlene, earning numerous critical accolades for playing a young woman indoctrinated into a cult, and the horror flick Silent House.
Despite their age difference—Olsen is 23; Fanning 18—the two are real-life pals, and both graduated from Campbell Hall School in North Hollywood, California. They’ve returned to Sundance in Very Good Girls. Marking the directorial debut of screenwriter Naomi Foner (also known as the mother of Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal), the film follows Lilly (Fanning) and Gerry (Olsen), two N.Y.C. teens who hope to lose their virginity during the last summer before they head off to college. Things get messy when they fall for the same guy—dreamy photographer David (Boyd Holbrook).
Fanning and Olsen sat down with The Daily Beast at a Fresh-hosted brunch during the Sundance Film Festival for a lively chat about their film, their real-life “crew,” first times, and more.
Did you two engage in any bonding rituals, painting N.Y.C. red together?
Dakota Fanning: We knew each other before, and we hung out. We both have places in the city, so that was great. Our ritual was going to Naomi’s every Sunday and read through everything we were going through that week.
Elizabeth Olsen: We’d hang out, eat, chat. It was a constant dialogue.
Did you give Dakota any advice, since she’s attending NYU and you’ve almost wrapped up there?
Elizabeth: No! I mean I’m going to NYU literally tomorrow, and I finish college Friday. I have a feeling she’ll graduate faster than me. It took me five and a half years. It doesn’t feel good being the 23-year-old in a class full of 18-year-olds [laughs].
You both had pretty regular high-school experiences, and not a lot of actors are either afforded that opportunity or choose to go that route.
Elizabeth: And at the same high school! I wasn’t a professional actor when I was in high school, though. Dakota?
Dakota: It was important for me because I didn’t feel like I needed to give that up. It’s something that I wanted, and if you want something bad enough, you make it work for yourself. I’m so grateful to have had that experience. I’ve had such a great life outside of all of this that’s solely my high-school years, and it’s so great to not be defined by one thing that you do.
“I had friends who were 22, and friends who regretted it when they were 15. It ran the gamut.”
And you were homecoming queen, right?
Elizabeth: Oh yeah! You’re such an asshole [laughs]!
Dakota: [laughs] I didn’t ask for that! There’s no campaign. You get a list of every single girl and guy in the eligible classes, and they choose. And there are only about 115 kids in each class.
Elizabeth: Only! You still had to have a lot of people vote for you! Yeah, I didn’t win any shit like that.
Did you two have mutual friends since you went to the same high school?
Dakota: Yeah, pretty much our entire group of friends!
Elizabeth: We spent last year’s New Year’s together. I missed it this year, because I was in New York. We have a Valley “gang.” I don’t know if it’s a “gang,” but it is definitely a crew.
What does the Valley gang do together?
Elizabeth: We just hang out in backyards, houses. We sit around!
Have either of you, as in Very Good Girls, ever competed with a girlfriend for the same guy?
Elizabeth: Not since I was 10 trying to get Nick Vossler’s attention at PE. Not since elementary PE days. “Rover, Rover, send Nicholas right over!” [laughs]
Dakota, was it odd to do a love scene with the director’s son-in-law, Peter Sarsgaard?
Dakota: Peter is the coolest guy on this planet, and I did another movie with him since. I never felt uncomfortable once, really. I think him doing that in front of his mother-in-law was way weirder for him than anything I had to do, because he’s a total pro about everything. There was no awkwardness.
This film is about first times. Do you feel like young girls put too much pressure on themselves to “lose it?”
Elizabeth: All my friends had such different experiences from each other. No one actually judged it. I had friends who were 22, and friends who regretted it when they were 15. It ran the gamut.
Dakota: There’s such a weird expectation around that, and that should be gone. I think this movie touches on that. And as much as it’s about that, it’s also as much not about that.
Right. It really is more about the love between two friends. And the fact that they’re into the same guy is further proof that they’re completely on the same wavelength.
Elizabeth: Right. It’s actually funny that Gerry has no means to think that she’s in a relationship with him. She’s that girl [laughs]. There are those people who think that something is happening when it’s not happening.
Has that ever happened to you?
Elizabeth: Yeah [laughs]! That has happened to me. I was like, oh, wait!
Dakota: That has not happened to me. I’m the opposite.
Elizabeth: You’re like, I hate people, ahhh! I hate everyone. Scrooge [laughs]!
My first Sundance was in 2005, and I saw Oldboy here at a midnight screening. How close will your film remake be to the original?
Elizabeth: Such an awesome fucking movie. But it is not close. It’s not a reimagining. It’s not remake. And it is a Spike Lee joint. People who are fans will appreciate some of our homages to the original, but expectations for it to be the same thing should be killed, and people should be excited to see something different.
Dakota, what’s next for you?
Dakota: I’m about to do a film about Errol Flynn with Kevin Kline [as Errol] and Susan Sarandon. It’s directed by these two guys, Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland, who did Quinceañera.