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Dakota Fanning Details ‘Thoughtful’ Birthday Tradition With Tom Cruise

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Nearly 20 years after Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning starred together in Steven Spielberg’s sci-fi thriller War of the Worlds, the action superstar still makes sure to keep in touch with his on-screen daughter every year.

Fanning walked the carpet at the world premiere of her new horror thriller The Watchers, held at AMC Lincoln Square in New York City on Sunday, and she spoke with ET about how she still gets a birthday present from Cruise to this day.

“He always sends me something every year,” said Fanning, who celebrated her milestone 30th birthday in February. “He gave me my first cellphone when I was 11 years old, that was my first gift from him. And he’s remembered it every year since then.”

In 2005’s War of the Worlds, Cruise, 61, played Ray Ferrier, a divorced father of two who tries to keep his kids safe from a violent alien invasion. Fanning starred as Rachel Ferrier, alongside Justin Chatwin, who played her older brother, Robbie. Fanning was 10 when they shot the project and 11 when the film was released.

Dakota Fanning and Tom Cruise at the premiere of War of the Worlds at the Ziegfeld Theatre, New York City in 2005.Brian ZAK/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

According to Fanning, she assumed the sweet gesture would come to an end after so many years, but that hasn’t happened.

“I always am like, ‘Maybe when I’m 18?’ Like that would be a normal place, you know what I mean? Or like 21 or whatever. And then he said a few years ago that he likes sort of that moment of checking in like once a year,” Fanning explained. “It’s so thoughtful and I really appreciate it.”

Now that she’s 30, Fanning feels like she’s entering a new chapter and the actress explained, “I’m so grateful for all the opportunities that I have now at the moment, and that I’ve had in the past.”

Fanning said she is appreciative of her success, and wants to focus on “just being super present and enjoying it and not ever getting kind of too far ahead of myself.”

In her new film The Watchers — one of her first horror films since she was a child — Fanning worked with first-time director Ishana Night Shyamalan, daughter of M. Night Shyamalan, and the actress has a lot of appreciation for her technique.

Dakota Fanning at the world premiere of “The Watchers” held at AMC Lincoln Square 13 in New York City on June 2, 2024.Kristina Bumphrey/Variety via Getty Images

“She’s such a wonderful person. Her spirit is so open and kind and she is really good at collaborating and loves collaborating and being with a group of people,” Fanning praised. “So it was a very playful, collaborative environment.”

“I think that’s such an important quality as a director, to be kind of adaptable and (to take) in something from everybody around you on set,” she added. “She definitely had her own vision, and was super clear about what she wanted to do, but also it was (collaborative).”

The Watchers hits theaters June 14.

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