Dakota Fanning picked the place. A little Mexican restaurant called Casa Vega, on Ventura Boulevard, in the San Fernando Valley.
“It’s the greatest restaurant ever. I usually get a chicken enchilada and a beef taco, or two beef tacos, but I get beef and cheese. I’m very simple. I don’t get the sour cream like most people. My dad had a burrito last time. A lot of people, like my uncle, get an appetizer that’s pretty big, I guess Mexican pizza.”
For an instant, she’s De Niro.
Spencer Tracy famously said actors get paid not to act but to wait around on movie sets, but Dakota doesn’t mind any part of the process.
“I can always find something to do. l can sit behind the monitors or go to the grip truck and chat with the grips or, you know, talk to Transportation. I can hijack golf carts with people. You have to love the acting, the waiting, talking to the grips, talking to the ‘transpo’ captain, talking to the P.A .’s. And I truly love that.”
What’s a grip, anyway?
“Grips bring, like, C-stands to put up the lights and the wires. I didn’t know what a dolly grip was. And I realized they hook the camera onto this train thing. They have stools for the focus man and camera guy. and then the dolly grip pushes the dolly along the track. It’s a super hard job. You have to start at the right mark, start at the right time, and end it at precisely the exact green-tape mark.”
Dakota has had a charmed run so far. She hit her first patch of scandalous press last summer, soon after she had filmed a rape scene for an independent movie, produced by and co-starring Robin Wright Penn, tentatively titled Hounddog. Her publicist said the scene was not untoward, and told me that the actress would not take questions about it. “I don’t really know when that’s coming out.” Dakota says of the film.
It’s impossible to predict which child actor will emerge unscathed from the business. For every Ron Howard or Jodie Foster, there are seemingly 10 Danny Bonaduces. Given Dakota’s enthusiasm, not only for acting but for filmmaking itself, it seems as though she may continue to have success without losing herself along the way. Asked if she would like to direct movies when she grows up-a trick pulled off by Howard and Foster-she replies, unequivocally, “I would.”
Her next acting job will be in The Secret Life of Bees, if all goes according to plan. “I think I’m going to do that next summer. It’s something that I definitely want to do and I’m attached to do it. Maybe the beginning of next year, maybe next summer. I want to do one at the beginning of next year and not wait eight or nine months. That would be a little long for me. I’d miss the grips.”