Think of actresses such as Chloe Moretz (Kick-Ass and the forthcoming Scorsese film Hugo Cabret), Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) and Kiernan Shipka (Mad Men’s Sally Draper).
Fanning’s met, and liked, a couple of this gang, but they don’t hang out together regularly.
Fanning is already a 10-year veteran of the movie business. At the age of two years and 11 months, when few toddlers have had any experience in the entertainment industry – most are appallingly work-shy – Fanning was making her screen debut in I Am Sam.
She does have at least one extremely close actress friend, though: her 17-year-old sister, Dakota.
Dakota is also preternaturally talented (she was, for example, the youngest ever nominee for a Screen Actors Guild Award, at the age of eight), and professionally daring.
This summer, when she stars in Super 8, JJ Abrams’s Seventies-set juggernaut of a family film, she’s going to become really famous.
With her first appearance in the movie, casually rolling up a small-town street behind the wheel of her father’s muscle car, you hear the sound of a million adolescent boys’ hearts breaking.
” This autumn, Dakota is heading off to Gallatin, an arts college at New York University.
“It’s going to be so sad when she leaves,” says Fanning.
Fanning has what Abrams calls an “other-speciesness”: an almost eerie understanding of how to play a character. Tall for her 13 years – “I grew seven inches in two years”, she tells me proudly – she towers over a lot of adult leading actors, but she has the Bambi-like gawkiness of someone growing into their body.
“Only an actress of some supernatural life experience,” says Abrams, “that Elle for some miraculous reason possesses, could pull off that kind of stuff.” With any child actor, there’s a worry that, even if they’re not on a Judy Garland-style diet of uppers and downers, they’ll be brattish, or horribly precocious. She’s giggly and talks breathlessly if you get her on the right subject (fashion).
“Now I sort of realise what it’s all about,” says Fanning, “but it’s always still fun.