What is it with Dakotas?

May 23, 2007

Just a thought, but are dark forces at work in Hollywood to ensure young girls cast in major roles in blockbuster productions have to be called Dakota? Judging by the length of her career summary on the imdb movie Web site, Dakota Fanning is a film veteran at the tender age of 13. Then along comes Dakota Blue Richards, who at the same age has just landed her big screen debut with the central role of Lyra Belacqua in “The Golden Compass”, a $180 million adaptation of the first book in Philip Pullman’s “His Dark Materials” trilogy. She was selected from around 10,000 young British girls who auditioned for the part.

As I watched the latter Dakota take questions from reporters in Cannes at a roundtable discussion to promote the film, I found myself pondering whether I would want my child going into movies. Sure, the money is good, but do the long days on set and the attention and fame mean that growing up into a balanced adult is more difficult? Any thoughts, readers?

The movie business has plenty of stories of kids who grow up too fast, or never grow up at all. Then again, the majority actually end up reasonably balanced individuals. And not that there was any suggestion that Richards was heading for trouble. She impressed us all with her composure and honesty. Unlike some supposedly more grown-up stars hiding behind dark glasses and looking bored, she looked straight at her questioners, smiled and spoke of wanting to be a part-time actress while finding time for a “real job”. When asked a question a second time, she politely answered it again. But after spending six months away from school during filming, having a private tutor to teach her and approaching a time when she could become a widely recognised face, she may be forgiven for feeling a little overwhelmed.

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