Good evening. New interviews from the Los Angeles Cinderella promotion have been released these last couple of days. Enjoy!
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — While Cate Blanchett loved the extremely theatrical costumes created by designer Sandy Powell for the new, live-action “Cinderella” film (opening Friday), they were a huge challenge to wear.
Blanchett won one of her two Oscars outfitted by Powell (in “The Aviator,” which also brought the designer one of her three Academy Awards for costume design), but the “Cinderella” creations were a lot more involved.
“None of the women [in the film] could sit down,” said Blanchett as we chatted in a Beverly Hills hotel suite the other day. Helena [Bonham Carter, who plays Cinderella’s fairy godmother] had millions of LED lights that had to be switched on every time. Lily [James, who portrays the title character] could barely breathe when she was dancing in that blue ballgown, in the big scene with the prince.
“I had to be on one of those old-fashioned slantboards a number of times for many of my takes. And, none of us could go to the bathroom!”
All that said, Blanchett admitted, “We love working with Sandy Powell, because she makes everyone look so fabulous. She creates these silhouettes, and then we as actresses have to fill them. She gives you this great acting [gift], which really helps you find your character.
As for playing the woman named Lady Tremaine, Cinderella’s oh-so-nasty stepmother, the actress said it was “fantastic to play such an iconic ‘baddie’ as the evil stepmother, but there also is a responsibility — or a hurdle to get over — because everyone’s loved the animated classic so much.
“We had to ask ourselves, ‘What are we going to do with it?’ What I loved about this version — and what [director] Ken Branagh did — was not doing anything really drastic to it. He just unlocked the three-dimensional qualities of the fairy tale. We’ve had a lot of angles recently on the retelling of fairy tales, but I think in this case, it is everything fans of the fairy tale will want it to be.”
The actress also was happy to have a character with a bit of a back-story.
“What interested me was thinking about things like ‘What makes people ugly? What makes them cruel? What makes them wicked?’ It’s obviously not the stepmother’s story, but she’s dealt with hardship and trauma in an entirely different way in her life, and that’s a big part of what’s made her the way she is — and how she treats Cinderella.”
In real life, Blanchett is clearly much more maternal than the character she filmed for “Cinderella.” On Friday, the actress’ publicist announced that the actress and her husband, Andrew Upton, adopted a baby girl to join their family. The couple already are the parents to three sons, ages 6, 10 and 13. The only detail released was the little girl’s name: Edith Vivian Patricia Upton.
I asked Upton if the fact Branagh is such a wonderful actor makes him a better director than directors who are not actors.
She quickly stressed she had worked with “many fantastic directors who have never once acted,” but that Branagh’s gift is that, “as a director, he’s very good at speaking to everyone individually. He doesn’t have a single process that he applies to everyone. He understands when you don’t need to go again [and shoot another take of a scene], or when you do need to go again for the performance.
“When you work with him, he invites you in. He gives you a sense of responsibility to the whole film. I really loved that.”
Branagh told me that tackling “Cinderella” — such an iconic, familiar story that audiences already know so well — did not intimidate him in the least.
“You have to remember that I come from a background in the classics where you’re often coming across material that has been done very successful before,” he noted, particularly pointing to his acclaimed performances in Shakespeare’s “Henry V” and “Hamlet.”
“In approaching them [to do again] you realize that it’s because they are so good that they are worth visiting again in a fresh and a new way to present to new generations.”
Branagh chuckled recalling the first time he saw Blanchett in her first costume as the evil stepmother.
“When she walked on set for the first time in Sandy Powell’s costume, with that strong silhouette, with those strong colors, such an amazing hat, the veil, the gloves, the cat on a leash — her friend Lucifer — I was spellbound. All those things offered great fun just to be around.”
As for the enduring popularity of the “Cinderella” story, Branagh said, “I think part of it is that we recognize and sympathize with an outsider. We identify with someone who appears to be an underdog. … We want to believe it can work out— and not just because of magic, but because of a strength and a goodness we want to see inside ourselves.”
For Blanchett, portraying the evil stepmother, of course, had nothing to do with goodness.
“Oh no. That’s not who she is in the least,” said the actress with a chuckle. “But, I must say, it was fun playing her. That role was truly delicious!”