The issue: Fanning, who turns 13 next month, is reportedly depicted in the film nude or scantily clad during compromising scenes, and her face is shown in close-up during a rape scene.
Early reports of the film's contents have stirred a minor Internet storm over whether Fanning's mother, Joy, and the girl's agent, Cindy Osbrink, are exploiting the girl in hopes of an Oscar nomination. A spokesman for Osbrink and the filmmakers did not return a message seeking comment.
Child actors being depicted in sexual roles is not new. Jena Malone portrayed a rape victim in "Bastard Out of Carolina" (1996), Brooke Shields' character's virginity was auctioned in Louis Malle's "Pretty Baby" (1978), and Jodie Foster famously played a prostitute in Martin Scorsese's "Taxi Driver" (1976). All were younger than 15 at the time.
Such roles can vault a young actress from the category of "adorable" into being taken seriously as an artist, and Osbrink was quoted this summer as holding out hopes for an Oscar nomination -- despite the subject matter, which, the New York Daily News reported, scared off some investors.
Fanning is an experienced actress with more than 30 roles, including in the slasher film "Hide and Seek" and the remake of "War of the Worlds" (both 2005), and as Fern in "Charlotte's Web" (2006).
Among the outraged is Ted Baehr of the Christian Film & Television Commission. Baehr, whose advocacy group runs the movie.org Web site, which ranks films based on Christian themes and family appeal, said that he hadn't seen the film but that he was calling on movie distributors to reject the film and report the filmmakers to legal authorities. The movie has its first Sundance screening Jan. 22.
"It's pedophilia," Baehr said earlier this week. "There should be a sense of outrage about it."