Elle Fanning lets out an exuberant squeal as she bounds across L.A.'s Milk Studios toward Diane Lane, her co-star in Trumbo. Out November 6, the movie tells the true story of blacklisted screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Breaking Bad's Bryan Cranston) and the three women in his life. Lane and Fanning play two of them: Cleo, his wife, and Nikola, his daughter, respectively. As evinced by the real-life hug, Lane and Fanning's onscreen warmth is genuine. "We got very close," Fanning says. Lane, who grew up in the orbit of an intense father, drama teacher Burt Lane, marveled at the Fanning family magic. "Her mother was with us in New Orleans," she says, "and you could get a sense of health, which is not the norm for acting families. You can tell she comes from good stock."
In the film, Cleo and Nikola rally around Dalton to protect him against the red-baiting launched by columnist Hedda Hopper, portrayed with dangerous magnetism by Helen Mirren. The three women share little screen time—"My character was in a different world," explains Mirren—and true to form, Mirren calls in from southern Italy today. Of her protagonist she says, "I thought of Hedda as a villain, but she also wore great hats!"
In fact, being enamored with the movie's vintage fashion, which ranges from the 1950s to the 1970s, was something the actresses had in common. At the film's conclusion, Fanning, who was 16 while shooting, wears a stunning vintage Halston gown to play an adult version of Nikola. "I walked out of wardrobe, and the crew members said, 'Oh, hello! Nice to meet you!' I was like, 'Guys, it's me, Elle!'" Despite missing Mirren on set by one day, Fanning charmed her co-star by leaving a head scarf in her trailer with a note saying, "Welcome to the movie!" Says Mirren, "That's when I fell in love with her."
Fittingly for a film about how we age and what age we age in, each of the actresses values the work of the other. "Women are always walking in one another's footprints, and we try to take them a little further than the previous generation has been allowed to go," says Lane.