Cinderella opens this Friday in theaters EVERYWHERE!
Okay, before I tell you about the exclusive interview with Kenneth Branagh, I have to tell you about my experience at the movie premiere. As I walked into El Capitan Theatre we were offered popcorn and a beverage. I grabbed a popcorn bucket and turned around to offer it to a fellow blogger only to see Kenneth Branagh in line. I immediately offered him some popcorn and he graciously accepted. So funny fan moment… I can say I gave the director of Cinderella his popcorn for the movie!!!!
Kenneth Branagh knew that taking on Cinderella was a big responsibility. Some kids will be seeing Cinderella for the first time, and others will know the story well. He stated, “I’ve never made a film where the lights go down and you realize that everybody from five to 95 knows what’s gonna happen next. So it’s not about what happens next. It’s about how you do what happens next.”Amongst the toughest things as a director is embracing the spirit of the 1950 animated classic and bringing it to life. He does share moments in the movie with the original tale, but reinvents “the character of Cinderella and her kind of proactiveness. You know, she doesn’t just wait around but also this– this uncynical belief in the– in the power of kindness and courage.”
The Cinderella Casting Process
Kenneth Branagh “had an idea of how Cinderella should be.” Jokingly he stated that he had good taste… and I would have to agree. If you recall he did cast Chris Hemsworth as Thor ~ “now officially the sexiest man in the world.”
When discussing the role of Cinderella, he wanted her to be likeable. Someone you would want to spend time with and cheer for. “She needed to have a good sense of humor, a kinda what we were calling a kind of an approachable beauty, and kindness, and passion and strength and that could stand up in a scene with Miss Blanchett or Miss Bonham-Carter.” He wanted to find an actress who could have a “sort of simplicity without being sappy.” He knew finding the right Cinderella was going to take time. When he first heard Lily James’ voice, he thought, “God, that’s a beautiful voice. And then she was a beautiful girl.”
“And eventually it just became clear that she was the one.”
Cinderella starts in a loving, functional family that is supportive and you can see the strength and love between mother, father, and daughter. As her mother passes, she reminds her to have courage and be kind. Cinderella lives by her mother’s words. Even with the cruelty and hatred she is bestowed by her step mother and step sisters, Cinderella has compassion and kindness. Instead of running away, she stays and takes care of the house and the family she was left with. “She honors her mother and father. And that’s a positive and proactive decision I think to stay there.”
“We meet her reading a book, the old grown up Cinderella. We see a house that’s full of curiosity. There are curious minds at work. So I think she stays partly to try and understand it. I would say that’s an example of proactivity. And by the time she talks to the stepmother and stays, I mean the proactivity is the decision to stay in a way and say why? Why are you so cruel? A determination to ask it and understand this.”
What was the most difficult scene to direct?
The ballroom sequence was probably the most difficult scene because “there would be so much expectation on it.” Not to mention that there would be 500 people in the scene and “half of whom were gonna be in corsets.” Kenneth noted that the scene was tricky. He wanted the dancing and the ball to have a “sense of the glamor and the flamboyance.” He envisioned taking the audience to the ball.
But it was also the small gestures that made that scene memorable…like when the prince put “his hand on the small of her back in the beginning of that dance.”
“It was trying to keep that big large-scale ambitions with just wanting the human dynamic of the boy meets girl moment.”
Dealing with Death
The hardest decision in the whole movie was losing the parents. “I know it’s a bit of a Disney cliché ’cause they’ve been doing it since Bambi.” In the movie, three out of four parents die. “I feel responsible for a kind of attack on the grown ups. And it’s tough. You know, I mean it’s tough. But it’s beautiful. It’s beautiful. In the first ten minutes where Mum goes, my God, you see the shoulders heave. If you sit at the back of the auditorium and you see a lot of arms go around small people, either reach up or vice versa.” Then three-quarters of the way through the movie the prince loses his father. The intention was not to traumatize young people, but dealing with death in a compassionate way. Life happens, and we are faced with difficult things all the time. “As long as it can be done lightly and it– you know, there’s lots of entertainment and everything else.”
What was your favorite iconic image?
Kenneth used the talented and amazing Sandy Powell to help bring to life the DRESS! “It sounds like a sort of a simplistic question, but there was a big question about what color is that dress? You know, does it stay blue? The original was blue. What kind of blue? Is it pink? Because the mother’s dress is pink. But should it stay pink in order to honor her mother? How much do we want to see a pink dress for that amount of time in the ballroom sequence? And what can we do with material? How can we– how magical can we make the material that is pink as opposed to blue or some other color?”
He also felt quite a bit of pressure with the slippers. Making them out of the Swarovski crystal was a stroke of genius, though they were “incredibly heavy.”
“We took a long time to look at the big expectation moments. And I guess Cinderella at the top of the stairs coming into the ball was a favorite moment of mine. Or actually even just walking from the coach up the steps and into the palace I think the sort of moment where she comes into her own.”
The Secret Script
Carol, from All Mommy Wants, asked Kenneth about the mice and the sounds we all heard. It almost sounded like they used sound bites from the original animated movie. In actuality, Kenneth and Chris Weitz sat down and wrote a script for the mice, a story of their very own through the movie. They had “dialogue for all four of the mice in every scene. And then we recorded them with actors a couple of different ways. Sometimes we made the actors say it very, very, very slowly so that when we then speeded it up to be in sort of mice squeak mode, you could just get a half a hint, half a hint of what they said.”
“There is a secret mouse play and screenplay inside the movie.”
Location of Cinderella
- The whole of that ballroom is an entire construction on the 007 stage in Pinewood.
- The outside of Cinderella’s house was all built for real in a place called Black Park.
- The forest where the prince and Cinderella is in Windsor Great Park — Kenneth said that Windsor Great Park is essentially the Queen’s back garden. She “lives in Windsor Castle part of the time, so part of that park involves that group of oak trees which are over 600 years old. So it was very nice to be able to say to Lily and Richard you’re gonna do this magical scene in a magical place. ‘Cause these oak trees were here when Shakespeare was alive. It was really very sort of magical.”
- The Royal Naval College is used for one scene. “You may know that location from a number of other films. They blow up quite a lot of it in the second Thor film. But in this case we used a thing called the Paint Hall. It’s a massive, massive hall. And it’s the scene in which the two boys fence.”
- Kenneth was inspired for the design of the clock tower by a clock tower that lives in the real grounds of the Cliveden House (near Pinewood Studios).
Get Social with CINDERELLA & FROZEN FEVER
@CinderellaMovie on Twitter (#Cinderella)
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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!
Keep an eye on the blog for more Cinderella interviews…
Coming soon: Richard Madden and Sandy Powell!
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.