My children love the animated classic Cinderella. So when they heard that mommy was going to L.A. to meet Cinderella, they wanted to come with me. We have been watching all of the trailers together. Every time they see the trailers on TV, we all rush to the screen and watch with amazement.
At the World Premiere, I ran into Lily James after the movie. She looked absolutely breathtaking in her dress. Every girl (young and old) will fall in love with this amazing, stunning Cinderella!
When Lily walked into the room full of smiling faces and applause I don’t think she expected such a large crowd of honored bloggers. She stated, “There’s so many people.” Once she sat down, she was ready and willing to answer all of our questions.
How did you prepare yourself to become Cinderella?
“First of all I started horse riding lessons because I’d never ridden before.”
When she first met Ken after casting he asked her about riding horses…this prompted her to take lessons, including bare back, every time she wasn’t filming Downton Abbey.
Then I did yoga, to sort of try and feel in my body and, you know, graceful and breathe properly. That was physically, and then I was just working on the script on back-story. When I met with Ken as well, he was like, ‘I want to know, does Ella sleep with the blinds open or closed, what does she dream about, you know, what’s her favorite food.’ He wanted for me to know all those details so that I could sort of just exist on set being her, you know.
What would you tell young girls about your character Cinderella? What is the message that Cinderella has for them today?
Lily explained that she felt their film was faithful to the fairytale.
“This is a girl that’s not sitting around waiting for a prince to come and save her.”
That she’s got this unbelievable strength and it doesn’t come from fighting or from weapons, it comes from within. She has this strength that is her courage and her kindness and that, if she has that, she can deal with, as best she can, what life throws at her. By being this person that, you know she’s being the best version of herself. And with such an open heart, when she does meet the prince, not knowing who he is, he falls for her because she’s a strong, powerful, beautiful from within woman. That’s the idea.
Can you tell us about your ball gown?
Everyone, even Lily, is obsessed with this dress. It was so brilliant and lovely on screen…then to see it in person made it even more special.
“The dress is insane.”
When I first put it on, there’s a scene from Runaway Bride with Julia Roberts where she puts this dress on and she looks in the mirror and, I think Richard Gere is looking really handsome somewhere and she just goes like swoosh, swoosh. She makes this sound and I put it on and I felt like Julia Roberts, which was just the best feeling ever.
I was so nervous about this bit of the movie because it’s the bit where she’s the princess. It’s like the moment, you know, I think, ‘How can anyone live up to that?’ Really, it’s this fairy tale, it’s this sort of thing that’s very far removed from me.
“And then I put on that gown and I just felt transformed and it felt like a suit of honor.”
The dress itself was very heavy and hard to wear for Lily. It was tight and “had a life of it’s own.” It took about twenty minutes to get in and twenty minutes to get out. It turned into a ritual for Lily, she even put on music to get dressed to. The only problem was if she needed the bathroom they need to take 40 minute bathroom breaks. Lily was telling us that both Helena and herself had the same problem and in the end they started using a port-a-loo.
We had these like port-a-loo’s that we’d like put under us. [Everyone laughed] And it was like the most unglamorous thing ever. So Helena and I would sometimes be in our tent and be next door and be both using the port-a-loo’s at the same time. [We all laughed again.]
The glass slippers were actually made out of Swarovski crystals! They were so beautiful, but they don’t fit any human foot.
How did you feel during the dance scene?
The dance switched from being the most, sort of beautiful, romantic moment of my life, actually and to being one of the most stressful and hardest. Because the dress was so heavy and there was all layers and it ripped by basically if Richard looked at it, it ripped, it was so delicate. [LAUGHS] So, we learned the dance we were getting really smart, we’d been doing it for months at Pinewood studios in London with this incredible choreographer. And then suddenly they were like, ‘okay, the dress’ and I just, like, almost fainted, I thought, ‘the dress, of course, how are we gonna do this in the dress?’ And I had a complete nervous breakdown… He had to ice skate so he didn’t step on it. He had to like slide his feet. I’d turn and five minutes later, the skirt would catch up. But there was a few takes where we ran it like real time so I would start outside the doors, I’d knock on the doors, I came in, I walked down the steps, the music started, I walked towards Richard and we danced. And, Ken didn’t say it, but he let it run right ‘til the end of the whole, like where we run out of the ballroom. And because we didn’t know who was going to stop or not and there were these big wides and we just did it and we didn’t do it wrong and everyone was watching. Cate Blanchett was there. Everyone was like…my heart, it was just, me and Richard were giggling.
“It was lovely. It was such a special moment.”
What was the most emotionally difficult scene to shoot?
The stuff at the start was hard and even the stuff watching with the younger me. And last night, one of the little girls came up to me at the end and she was like, ‘It’s so sad, both your parents died.’ And I was like, ‘It’s okay, I’ve got the mice and the prince.’ Those scenes were really hard, the scene where the farmer comes and tells me the news. And there was a bit in shooting when I felt like I was crying all the time. I felt like, this is when they come up with a name and when I don’t you know, with the, I don’t believe anymore and it’s like, ‘God, is this a fairy tale or is this a tragic drama?’
“And I found those bits hard, but also it elevated the rest because is felt that she deserved it. The magic, the beauty, and the romance. She earned that by that point.”
Did you’re role of Lady Rose played any part in your training?
Lily James did pull from her role as Lady Rose. Know that in that time period there is a way to stand, an etiquette and grace. However, she wanted to use parts of her “physicality” from the animated version of Cinderella.
I think, Ella influenced that series [the final season of Downton Abbey] of Rose a bit, it was like, Rose became so nice, and I was like, ‘ oh no, have I got them mixed up?’
What was your favorite location to film at?
Every thing was built on the back lot of Pinewood. In the forest they build Ella’s family house including the garden, the green house, the well, the entrance, the driveway, etc.
I used to walk around with music in my ears and just like stroll around the grounds. And then the inside of the house was entirely built in the studio. All of it, the ballroom, all built. Dante Ferretti sets are just out of this world.
“It was like the storybook just exploded into real life.”
What was your initial reaction when you found out you got the role of Cinderella?
“Ken rang me himself and I screamed so loudly I’m sure I burst his eardrum.”
He said “I want you to be my Cinderella.” And I just, my heart, I was on set and I screamed. And Laura and Michelle came running over and, and they knew I’d been doing this torturous audition process and they’re like, ‘What is it, what is it?’ And then Ken was like, ‘You’re not allowed to tell anyone.’ So, I was like, ‘Oh, nothing, nothing.’ And then, later that day, Hugh Bonneville announced in around Downton dining room table. It was really sweet.
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Cinderella and Frozen Fever will be in theaters March 13th!
Have you been following my #CinderellaEvent journey? Just last weekend I had the pleasure of going to The Glam Ball by JCPenney, got a sneak peek at the costumes and props at the JCPenney Pre-Premeire Party, then walked the Red Carpet for the first time!
Interviews: Cate Blanchett
Keep an eye on the blog for more Cinderella/Frozen Fever interviews…coming soon: Richard Madden, Kenneth Branagh, Sandy Powell, and Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee!
Disclosure: I was invited on an all expense paid Disney press trip in exchange for my honest opinion and coverage of the #CinderellaEvent red carpet premiere, press junket, and movie review. All opinions are my own.