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'New Moon' villain Dakota Fanning talks about joining the 'Twilight' family

Compared to most of her Twilight: New Moon co-stars, 15-year-old Dakota Fanning — who plays the powerful Volturi Jane — is already an old hand at movie-making. But behind the star of hits like War of the Worlds (2005) and I Am Sam (2001) is a surprisingly normal student at an L.A. high school. On the Monday after New Moon’s record-breaking bow, Fanning made time for a quick pre-class chat with EW about the Twilight phenomenon and the joys of playing a villain.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Where are you right now?
DAKOTA FANNING: I’m at school. I’m hiding from any teacher that would see me on my phone right now. But technically it’s allowed because it’s before school has started.

What’s it like to come back to high school now that the move is out?
That’s my life. That’s what’s normal to me. I don’t really know anything different. I’m really lucky that I get to go to school and have that normal life, whatever that is, and then also get to do what I love to do and be a part of really great projects.

How do you think your classmates will react to the movie?

Most of them have already seen the movie, so they’re very excited about it. I’ll definitely be talking to some people about it today, I’m sure.

What was your reaction when you started hearing the box-office numbers?
I mean, I think that there are so many fans of the book and the movie, and it’s just sort of exciting that so many people went to see it on the first weekend. I know so many people were camping out for days to wait for it. And I think that it’s great that everyone got to see it right when it came out.

You knew that it was going to be big. But the biggest opening day ever?
I don’t know if I realized it would be the biggest, but I certainly knew it would be big because of all the fans you encounter at the premiere. Everyone is a Twilight fan in some way, I think.

Did you do anything special to celebrate how well the movie did?
I’m such a little part of the film. It’s really Kristen, Rob, and Taylor and everyone who should be doing the celebrating. It’s all of their hard work. For me, I was just there for a week and a half and got to have so much fun. I was really excited to be a part of it.

Were you a fan of the series before you were cast?
Of course I was a fan. I had read the books and everything.

Your character, the Volturi member Jane, is terrifying. Was it fun to play evil?
Yeah. It’s one of the first times that I’ve done that. And this is a character that really takes pleasure in causing people pain. And that’s kind of a fascinating character to get to play. So that was definitely one of the reasons that I wanted to do it.

Are people reacting to you differently now that they’ve seen you play a villain?
I guess people and fans of the series that have seen me in the movie will see me in a different way, but I think that’s what being an actor is. It’s getting to manipulate yourself to fit characters. I think your job is to be a blank canvas and take on your characters, so that’s what I love doing. And I love getting to play all different kinds of people. And, yeah, surprise people with my red eyes, I guess.

Those were creepy. Were they actual contacts?
They’re hand-painted contacts. I’ve never worn anything in my eyes before, so it was definitely a feeling I’d never experienced. But they have someone to put them in and take them out. You can kind of feel them. But you get used to it after a while.

Did they help you get in character?
Yeah, I think you automatically have kind of a creepy look to you no matter what you’re doing or saying, so it definitely helps.

How many more Twilight movies will you do?
The third one is already done. I already filmed.

And after that it’s up in the air?
Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know about the fourth one.

Do you have other projects lined up too?
Well, I have The Runaways next spring, which is also with Kristen [Stewart], and I’ll probably be working next year, too, on something or other.

Photo Credit: Kimberley French

Originally posted November 25 2009 — 9:00 AM EST

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