Dakota Graduates From Child Star

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If young Hollywood celebs were a high school class, "Eclipse" star Dakota Fanning would no doubt be the valedictorian. She's earned rave reviews starring opposite legendary actors, always handles herself eloquently and politely in interviews, and -- extra credit -- she's never been arrested. Now, the precocious 16-year-old tells Marie Claire magazine what it's like growing up in showbiz and why she's excited about the future.

It's obvious just looking at the spread of the starlet in luxe looks by Proenza Schouler and Dolce & Gabbana that she's not the same tot we first laid eyes on in 2001's "I Am Sam" or even the one who played Tom Cruise's terrified daughter in 2005's "War of the Worlds." Lately, the actress has been showing her maturity in roles like that of rebellious rocker Cherie Currie in "The Runaways," and scary vampire Jane in the "Twilight" series.

The blond beauty shared the screen with BFF Kristen Stewart, 20, in both those flicks, and KStew explains that despite their age difference, even she looks up to Dakota. "In most cases, I feel like she's older than me," Kristen says. "It's only when she starts talking about boys that I remember how young she is." Ah, boys, they can make even the wisest girls of any age a little goofy. So far, Dakota says, there's been "nothing serious" on that front.

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What has Dakota always been serious about? Her craft. So while she understands when people disapprove of her more adult projects, such as 2007's "Hounddog," she does them anyway. "When you start out young, people get really attached to who you are at 6 years old," Dakota says. "I hope that 'The Runaways' was kind of a moment to be like, 'You know, I'm not that young little girl anymore, but I'm still not all grown up, either."

As for the character of Jane, she's been a different sort of challenge, because portraying her requires Dakota to work without one of her main assets: her eyes. "It's something that's always been there for me, that I have huge blue eyes -- it's been something that people have always talked about," Dakota acknowledges. "But I enjoyed the red. You're automatically transformed into a creature when you put those red eyes in."

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The talented teen has even bigger plans for the years ahead. "As you get older, there's so much more that you can do in films," she says. "I've never wanted to rush that; I've always wanted to do what's right for my age, but as you approach 18, a whole new world opens up to you as an actor, and I really look forward to that."

Read Dakota's entire interview in the new issue of Marie Claire on newsstands July 13.

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