After Lady Gaga’s impressive performance in A Star is Born, it’s likely that more movie musicals will start including live vocals from the actors. Well, a new film is hopping on the trend: Elle Fanning really sings in Teen Spirit as the lead, Violet. Fanning plays a Polish teenager with a struggling mother who wishes to become a pop star.
First time director and writer Max Minghella struck gold when Fanning jumped on board to play Violet because he was unaware that Fanning actually did at one point dream of being a musician. All the singing and energetic performances moviegoers will see when the film hits theaters on April 5 were covers Fanning actually sang live when the movie was filmed.
In an interview with Hollywood XYZ, Minghella confirmed that all the singing in Teen Spirit is real. Luckily for Fanning, singing was a talent she already possessed. She told MTV News that she had “fantasized about being a pop star.” Fanning continued “When I was young I would sing around the house all the time. I did like choir and school and got a solo once that I tried out for. But that was kind of it.” She said she thought she would become either an actress or a pop star, so kudos to the Teen Spirit casting department for letting her become both in her role as Violet.
Of course, Fanning isn’t a professional singer, so the role was still a challenge. Plus, Teen Spirit only features covers of adored pop songs by musicians like Robyn and Ellie Goulding. So, Fanning had the added pressure of making those songs her own. She trained with Grammy-winning music producer Marius de Vries for three months before filming started, Fanning told Variety. “I would go to his apartment and sing through all the songs every day,” she said. “He video-ed me and recorded me singing everything and made me watch it back.” She also told Billboard that she watched performances of musicians like Taylor Swift, Katy Perry and Robyn, whose iconic song “Dancing On My Own” is sung in the film, to master the technique of performing on stage.
Audiences will most likely be shocked when they hear Fanning’s voice in Teen Spirit, but this was not the first time she sang for an audience. The youngest Fanning sang a little in her 2017 sci-fi film How to Talk to Girls at Parties. She also sang a snippet of Prince’s “Kiss” for W magazine. She's also collaborated with successful artists before. She was featured on French musician Woodkid’s song “Never Let You Down” which she performed with him live at the 2016 Montreux Jazz Festival.
Then in 2018, she did a remix of Audrey Hepburn’s “Moon River” with hip-hop artist A$AP Ferg for Tiffany & Co.
Minghella called Fanning’s voice “pretty astonishing” in an interview with The Beat. In addition to her three month training prep before filming, Minghella shared that Fanning continued to work on her voice as the film was being shot. “When we were shooting, she had vocal training almost every day after work, so it was a huge commitment, and it’s a massive testament to her discipline,” Minghella said. He said that her live vocal recordings added an “authenticity to [Teen Spirit] that you can really feel.”
And I suppose it's just a bonus that she also gets to live out that dream she had on the side, too.