The 10-year-old Man on Fire star chats about Denzel and learning from the best


She’s only 10, but already Dakota Fanning has infiltrated the A-list. Her latest film, the thriller Man on Fire, puts her up against Oscar winner Denzel Washington, who’s hired to protect her from a kidnapping threat in Mexico. While her real life isn’t so intense as her onscreen one, she does have to deal with fame and the pressure of working with such big names as Sean Penn ( I Am Sam) and Charlize Theron (Trapped).

Fanning recently talked about learning from the best, being a kid in Hollywood and still being told “no” by mom.

You just turned 10. Do you feel old yet?
No. This is the first birthday that I don’t feel old.

What did you and Denzel do to get to know each other?
We played pingpong one day at the house we were filming at. And with (costar) Marc Anthony, we played cards all the time.

Can you beat Denzel in pingpong?
I couldn’t beat him.

But did you learn anything from him?
He is so focused, and he is always trying new things. I want to be like him one day.

Were you scared playing this role, being a kidnap victim?
No. It was just the character, and then after that particular scene was all done, then it was back to being my normal self.

Do you like scary movies?
I haven’t really seen many scary movies. I have seen really sad movies …

Like what?
I have never watched all of Bambi because I get too sad when the mother gets shot. I got scared during Snow White when the witch came and was like “Apples …” (Laughs)

Do big celebrities ever come up to you and say they are fans of yours?
Normally I go up to them first. (Laughs) Yesterday I saw Cedric the Entertainer. I recognized him, and he recognized me, and I was about to go and say something to him, but he came over first. … It was like we were thinking the same thing.

Where did the name Dakota come from?

My dad thought of it. My first name is Hannah. So it is Hannah Dakota Fanning. But I have always been called Dakota.

Do you play any sports?
Tennis. My mom had a scholarship to college for tennis. My grandfather (Rick Arrington) played for the Philadelphia Eagles. He was a quarterback. And my dad was a baseball player (for the St. Louis Cardinals).

What do you do when you’re not working?
I love to knit and I love to read. Right now I am reading Bridge to Terabithia and I just finished The Giver, and I absolutely love the Harry Potter books.

When did you start knitting?
I knitted Denzel’s wife a scarf. I have been knitting for about a year. I learned when I did Taken. I love getting all the different yarns and different size needles. I can’t wait to start something else.

You are very grown-up. Do you hang out with a lot of kids your age?
Yeah, I have a bunch of friends here in California. One of my friends, Molly, I go over to her house. And then (Uptown Girls costar) Brittany Murphy is also one of my good friends.

Do you have any rules at home? Do you have to go to bed at a certain time?
Not really. The only thing is my mom won’t let me get a dog. I want a long-haired Chihuahua.

Aren’t they kind of ugly?
They are not ugly. And I am gonna get the one that matches my hair. It won’t be ugly. I won’t get it if it is ugly.