Dakota Fanning is an American child actress best known for her roles in movies such as I Am Sam, War Of The Worlds and Charlotte's Web.
Fanning was born in Conyers, Georgia, to Steven Fanning (a former baseball player who now works as an electronics salesman in Los Angeles) and Joy Fanning, who played tennis professionally.
Her mother had wanted to name her "Hannah" and her father wanted to name her "Dakota"; she has always used Dakota among her friends and family. She has a sister, Elle, who is now also an actress.
Fanning is of half German descent and her last name is of Irish origin. She and her family are Baptists, members of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Fanning began acting at the age of five after appearing with legendary musician Ray Charles in a television commercial for the Georgia State Lottery and being chosen for a Tide commercial.
Her first significant acting job was a guest-starring role in the primetime drama, ER, which remains one of her favourite roles ("I played a car accident victim who has leukemia. I got to wear a neck brace and nose tubes for the two days I worked.")
Fanning subsequently had several guest roles on established television series, including CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Friends, The Practice, Spin City and Malcolm in the Middle.
She also portrayed the title characters of Ally McBeal and The Ellen Show as young girls.
In 2001, Fanning was chosen to star opposite Sean Penn in I Am Sam, the story of a mentally impaired man who fights for the custody of his daughter (played by Fanning).
This role made Fanning the youngest person (in 2002, at age eight) ever to be nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award, for her supporting performance.
When she won the Best Young Actor/Actress award from the Broadcast Film Critics Association for the film, she was too short to reach the microphone; presenter Orlando Bloom held her up for the duration of her acceptance speech.
In 2002, director Steven Spielberg cast Fanning in the lead child role of Allison "Allie" Clarke/Keys in the science fiction miniseries Taken.
By this time, she had received positive notices by several film critics, including Tom Shales of The Washington Post, who wrote that Fanning "has the perfect sort of otherworldly look about her, an enchanting young actress called upon ... to carry a great weight."
In the same year, Fanning appeared in three films: As a kidnap victim who proves to be more than her abductors bargained for in Trapped; as the young version of Reese Witherspoon's character in Sweet Home Alabama.
Fanning was featured even more prominently in two films released in 2003: Playing the uptight child to Brittany Murphy's immature nanny in Uptown Girls, and as Sally in The Cat in the Hat.
She appeared on The Tonight Show With Jay Leno on November 10, 2003, where she declared that she and her sister share a room, and described The Cat in the Hat co-star Mike Myers as "very funny."
Fanning did voice-over work for four animated projects during this period: As Satsuki in Disney's English language release of My Neighbor Totoro, as Kim Possible in preschool in the Disney Channel series Kim Possible, as a little girl in the Fox series Family Guy, and as young Wonder Woman in an episode of Cartoon Network's Justice League.
In 2004, Fanning appeared in Man on Fire as Pita, a nine-year-old who wins over the heart of the retired assassin (Denzel Washington) hired to protect her from kidnappers.
Roger Ebert wrote that Fanning "is a pro at only 10 years old, and creates a heart-winning character."
Hide and Seek, was her first release in 2005, opposite Robert De Niro. Though the film was generally panned, critic Chuck Wilson called it "a fascinating meeting of equals—if the child star (Fanning) challenged the master (De Niro) to a game of stare-down, the legend might very well blink first."
Fanning voiced Lilo (succeeding Daveigh Chase) in the direct-to-video film Lilo & Stitch 2: Stitch Has a Glitch.
She also had a small part in the Rodrigo Garcia film Nine Lives (released in October 2005), in which she shared an unbroken nine-minute scene with actress Glenn Close, who had her own praise for Fanning: "She's definitely an old soul. She's one of those gifted people that come along every now and then."
Fanning completed filming on Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story (opposite Kurt Russell) in late October 2004. (Kris Kristofferson, who plays her character's grandfather in the movie, said that she's like Bette Davis reincarnated.)
She then went directly to the set of War of the Worlds, starring alongside Tom Cruise. Released in reverse order (War in June of 2005 and Dreamer in the following October), both films were critical successes.
War director Steven Spielberg praised "how quickly she understands the situation in a sequence, how quickly she sizes it up, measures it up and how she would really react in a real situation".
After filming was completed on War of the Worlds, Fanning moved straight to another film, without a break: Charlotte's Web, which she finished filming in May 2005, in Australia. Released on December 15th, 2006, Web met generally warm critical acclaim.
Producer Jordan Kerner said, "...when she was so caught up in War of the Worlds, we had to end up going on a search for other young actresses. They would have been nothing compared to her."
Announced in October 2005, Fanning is slated to provide voice work for Coraline, scheduled for release sometime in 2008.
Over the summer of 2006, Fanning worked on the film Hounddog, described in press reports as a "dark story of abuse, violence and Elvis Presley adulation in the rural South". Fanning's agent noted that the script is "challenging" to Fanning as an actress.
Fanning's parents have been criticized for allowing her to film a scene in which her character is raped; Fanning called that an "attack".
"It's not really happening," she told Reuters. "It's a movie, and it's called acting."
Director Deborah Kampmeier addressed the controversy in the January 2007 edition of Premiere: "The assumption that (Dakota) was violated in order to give this performance denies her talent."
In November 2006, Dakota said she had a small break and wanted to get busy once again. During her Charlotte's Web press run in December 2006, she mentioned two future films: they include The Secret Life of Bees and possibly Taking Sides, a follow-up project with Gary Winick.
Fanning is a member of the Starlight Starbright Children's Foundation. In 2006, she was presented with the foundation's Heart of Gold award "for her enthusiastic dedication to helping others at such an early age".
She is also member of the American Red Cross Celebrity Cabinet.
Fanning is an avid reader, and includes among her hobbies knitting, swimming, piano and violin playing, ballet, and horseback riding.
While promoting her role in the movie Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story, Dakota became a registered member of Girl Scouts of the USA at a special ceremony, which was followed by a screening of the film for members of the Girl Scouts of the San Fernando Valley Council.
Dakota is not a member of a troop, but rather registered as a "Juliette" (GSUSA's title for independently registered girls).
Currently, she is the youngest member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.