Those who remember the cherubic blonde from Cat in the Hat or Uptown Girls might be surprised by Dakota's role in The Last of Robin Hood. Playing against a much older Kevin Kline, the two retell the scandalous story of playboy Errol Flynn and the 17-year-old Beverly Aadland, with whom he allegedly had a two-year tryst with in 1957. (For those keeping track, yes, that would be statutory rape.) The story is Tinseltown legend and since it ended with Flynn's death, it seems like a particularly sordid affair, one that fascinates Dakota — she did grow up under the glare of Hollywood, after all.
You have a lot of friends that are both in and out of Hollywood, right?
"Yeah. I mean, most of my friends are from high school. It's a great balance."
Once upon a time, the studios had a star in a narrative, and a world that they wanted to create. They didn't just sell you on a picture — they sold you on the story of a leading man/woman, too. Do you think that it is the same today or is it harder now?
"Now, it’s not only a studio; now it’s everyone. The world has some idea of who they want you to be and who you’re supposed to be, and that’s difficult because the media has grown. Now, everyone is allowed into other people’s lives in a weird way. So, for this movie, it was interesting to explore a time when there was still a lot of mystery to the industry and the people that were in the films. I mean, there are no pictures of Bette Davis with no makeup on, coming out of her home. It’s a whole different thing.
Do you feel like Hollywood — or the press — tries to put you in a box? Like they want you to be a reflection of what they’ve created?
"Yeah, and I totally reject all of that. My job is to be an actor and to portray different characters and be all different types of people. I think people take who they think you are in your personal life, and try to apply that to movies. So, I totally don’t even go there or buy into it, because it would drive me crazy. If I had a quarter for every time people have said 'I’ve watched you grow up' or 'You’re so grown up'... I’d have a lot of money."
Well, we’ve watched you grow up — I’ll give you a quarter — but now you’re officially taking on adult roles. What is it like doing sex scenes, now?
"That is a whole other thing. It’s funny, because in this movie, especially after everything I just said, I was playing someone who’s 15. I’m just getting to now portray those women in movies and it’s exciting to get to do new things. It’s weird when you do grow up doing movies. I can kind of think back on each year of my life and think about what movie I was doing. It’s evolved and changed [and] I hope that it continues to do that. You see so many people who are 30, and they play people in high school. That’s the amazing thing about acting. You can do that — if you choose too."
But, then you see somebody like Susan Sarandon, who’s gone with these roles and is blazing paths for funny, sexy women.
"I admire her so much. Working with her was one of the most amazing things about making this movie. She’s really incredible."
"I guess it’s maybe because I have been around so many adults from such a young age, I don’t even think about that. I’m just comfortable with people of every age. I don’t think of people as kids and adults because I’ve always felt like I was this weird in-between of being very fun and young and lighthearted, but also having this serious, mature side. I’ve always had that balance within myself, so I feel like I can have a relationship with anyone. I can find some common ground with anyone. And, that must have something to do with being around a lot of adults from a young age. So, I didn’t even notice it."
How do you think we should feel about this May-December romance?
"I don’t know! I don’t ever really judge the characters that I play or the kind of situations that the characters are in. This story also, in particular, is true. It really did happen, and this is the way it happened and it really doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong. It’s just what it is. I don’t think that this movie is trying to portray it as right or wrong. It’s just showing this blip in time and these people’s relationships with each other. I think that if you go in open-minded you can be fascinated that it oddly doesn’t seem weird. You know? I think it challenges what people might think is the norm."
Would you ever consider doing like a lighthearted comedy or another really big-budget franchise?
"Maybe. When I’m thinking about what movie to do, I don’t really think about the size of it. I think it’s about the story itself. So, yeah, I’m sure that I will one day and I look forward to it and I’m open to everything. Doing a comedy would be fun. But, it would have to be like a weird comedy, because I’m a weird-funny person, not a funny-funny person. I could never do the sitcom comedy. I’m more like The Office funny."
Both you are your sister totally kill it on the red carpet. You guys have amazingly different style. What do you think the difference is? Like, when you’re in the store together, what makes you go, “Oh, this is totally me, and this is totally you.”
"I think our bodies have a lot to do with it. My sister is very tall and long, and I’m very petite and short and a little curvier than she is. So, for me, her clothes I could never wear because I’m so small. But, anything that’s kind of avant-garde or borderline unwearable, my sister’s, like, super into it. For me, I definitely have pieces that some would say are out there, but I mix it with something that is totally normal. Elle completely goes for the whole look."
I feel like you’re very modern. Like you have a sense of modern sophistication.
"Yeah, I’m very classic. I think any style that I wear, I like the classic version of it. And, my sister can look very classic and elegant as well, but she definitely enjoys the more unique, funky kind of stuff too."
Do you ever look back and wonder why you were allowed to do something? I mean, I look back on my life and I’m like “Okay. What was I doing? Mom, why’d you let me do that?”
"I think so. I mean, watching a film that I did when I was seven is like watching a home video that millions of people saw. I definitely have this weird abnormal sort of capturing system of my life. I think I have been in the public for a long [enough] time that I don’t look back and I’m not too hard on myself — 'cause I can’t be. Also, we grew up in a time where, like the early aughts, fashion [was] just not great to anybody. [Laughs]"