The screenplay for "Hounddog" - a dark story of abuse, violence and Elvis Presley adulation in the rural South, written and directed by Deborah Kampmeier - calls for Fanning's character to be raped in one explicit scene and to appear naked or clad only in "underpants" in several other horrifying moments.
Fanning's mother, Joy, and her Hollywood agent, Cindy Osbrink, see the movie as a possible Oscar vehicle for the pint-size star. But despite Fanning's status as a bankable actress - whose movies, including last year's "War of the Worlds," have earned more than half a billion dollars since 2001 - the alarming material seems to have scared off potential investors from the under-$5 million indie project.
"The two taboos in Hollywood are child abuse and the killing of animals," a source close to the situation told me. "In this movie, both things happen."
Fanning's carefully choreographed rape scene has already been filmed. But then the production - which also stars Robin Wright Penn, David Morse and Piper Laurie - was shut down for lack of funds. Penn, who's also an executive producer, gave a pep talk to the dispirited cast in the days leading up to the shutdown. The desperate producer, Jen Gatien, daughter of former club czar Peter Gatien, sent out an SOS to New York entertainment entrepreneur Lawrence Robins. Robins located emergency investors, filming resumed, and the movie is scheduled to wrap tomorrow.
"The subject matter is very tough," Robins told me, "but I was attracted to it because in the end it's a story about human understanding, about a little girl who's dealt a very bad deck of cards, but finds solace in the music of Elvis and survives."
The script requires the preteen actress to confront tougher challenges than Brooke Shields and Jodie Foster did when, at Fanning's age, they played child prostitutes.
"It's not just the rape scene - the whole story is challenging Dakota as an actress," Fanning's longtime agent, Osbrink, told me. "And I've never been so proud of her in my life. I've seen the dailies, and in every scene she gets better and better."
Lloyd Grove, NY Daily News
Yeah... Not ready for this. And I swear the sicko pedos will be lined up Star Wars style at midnight opening day.