I know I’ve mentioned once or twice that I don’t get star eyed very often. I seem to really like older men that are very talented and my latest excitement was bumping into Sir Kenneth Branagh. At the movie premiere I was one of the last ones out of the theater, I had realized that I left my pictures at my seat, so I had to go back and there he was blocking my way. So of course I had to ask him to move and he did, and yes this was a big deal to me. Kenneth Branagh is the Director of Cinderella and he did an amazing job putting everything together. The next day at the press junket we had the opportunity to interview him. He proved to be just as intelligent as I imagined, I mean it seems that everything he touches is amazing. Cinderella certainly was!
Q : Tell us about the casting process.
Kenneth : I had an idea of how Cinderella should be. Uh, but we knew, um, in my experience, it was gonna be like I made a film, Thor, which took a long time to find the beautiful and sexy Chris Hemsworth, now– now officially the sexiest man in the world. Um, so, uh, I thought, well, I have good taste then clearly. No, no. We knew that it would take a while and that you had to really feel that the– the character– the actor would, in this case, you just want to be with them. You know, you want to be in their company.
Yeah, she had to be likeable. You needed to want to spend, those 90 minutes or whatever with her. And because of the way we were slightly reimagining the– the character’s personality, that she needed to have, you know, a good sense of humor, a kinda what we were calling a kind of an approachable beauty, um, and, uh, kindness and– and passion and strength and that could stand up, you know, in a scene with Miss Blanchett or Miss Bonham-Carter.
Um, and, uh, who also just had a kind of– a kind of, uh, uh, a sort of simplicity without being, you know, sappy. A lot of-……..it had to tick a lot of boxes. So it was gonna take a long time. And– and I– I heard Lily James’ voice first. I thought, God, that’s a beautiful voice. And– and then she was a beautiful girl. And then she was very patient across a lot of auditions and things. And eventually it just became clear that she was the one.
Q : What brought you to cast Richard?
Kenneth : I thought that he had sort of, apart from very blue eyes, he had very tight trousers, but that was another…….actually, they weren’t his own trousers. So I shouldn’t really,….he had, uh, intelligence and wit. And also he relished the idea of how you might sort of play a gentleman. You know, he didn’t, uh, he wasn’t striving hard to be, uh, a certain modern kind of cool.
You know, I think both these actors, I love the idea that they– they were prepared to be un-cynical in the film, you know and just sort of respond directly to each other and that a gallantry, a courtship….the desire to woo, to serve, to listen were things that he felt could be played very positively and would be very, very attractive and that in a way there was a natural disposition in the world of the piece that we presented for him to, um, to love her.
You know, and that he was, uh, able to do that and not see that as suddenly rendering him the love interest. Uh, he just– it was– it was a very powerful thing to be somebody listening, looking, and reacting, and trying to, um, with the screen time that he has, uh, and I think it’s very touching and wonderful chemistry between them. And I think he– he was somebody I felt could do this thing we needed to do of having a man who earned Cinderella’s respect and love.
Q : Was there talk about telling the story from a different perspective?
Kenneth : For me, I mean that’s what Chris Weitz’s screenplay had, and that’s what I liked. I remember saying to, uh, Ali Shearmur, our producer, at the, uh, at the beginning of the process, I said I think my big idea here is to try to get out of the way. The story’s been working for two and a half thousand years. There’s a– there’s a– there’s a reason why that’s happening. And– and my experience has– has been to try and let, uh, the work of great storytellers do as much work as possible and then try and amend and adjust as best you see fit from– from– from your own perspective.
In my experience, for instance, in Shakespeare and I’ve– I’ve done it a number of times where you take a strong conceptual idea and you might move the story completely. You might make it very modern. I did a version of, uh, a play called Love’s Labour’s Lost as a kind of Hollywood musical. So it shifted it by, you know, 300– 350 years and to some extent did tell it from a different kind of viewpoint. And I think a lot of people– they may not– just liked the film, but for a lot of people the actual idea itself was confusing. It got in the way and felt reductive. It may have been just specific to that.
But I have found– I certainly, you know, I know that they in developing this they thought about whether she could be, you know, in modern, wherever it might be, Brooklyn or whatever the– and– and in– indeed there’s tons of evidence of modern Cinderella stories, you know, where gender is changed or time is changed. But, um, I feel as though you get a chance to, uh, consider, provoke, and think differently if it’s through a classical perspective.
It’s in a way in the…. it’s the same– to give a specific example, in doing it this way, in putting Cinderella and the prince on horseback, even Stevens, the same level, in a– in nature, in this ancient forest I think kind of cleans it up. So I get to see more of the two of them. I get a sense of the feeling in the scene in this sort of primal relationship there than I might do even if I came up with the most fantastic and brilliant, um, modern touches by having them meet in a restaurant or, you know, go on a bridge or on an airplane.
All of which would be entirely legit as well. You could have– because the story’s so flexible. It’s just that I– I’m not as drawn to that, myself. But I know– I’m sure as Disney and other people pursue the idea of ani– of a live action version of, uh, live action versions of fairytales that that’s an absolute, you know, open and regular invitation to see whether it can live that– that way. And– and the world the Cinderella story is as much part of our culture as the actual telling of the real tale.
Cinderella is in theaters March 13, that’s tomorrow people, make plans to go see it!!!