Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett walked the red carpet and took to the stage before the Australian premiere of Cinderella in her hometown of Sydney, to give her own thoughts on playing the “wicked, not the ugly, stepmother”.
It’s a line Blanchett revealed she said to director Kenneth Branagh very early on – that although the stepmother has been variously called wicked and ugly over the centuries, her version would be the former.
Blanchett grew up on the Wonderful World of Disney, which played every Sunday night at six ‘o’ clock (I too remember the excitement of Sundays for that very reason), so said she was thrilled about tackling a live-action version.
And the result is very traditional.
“I think and hopefully you’ll agree, (it) feels like you’re hearing the story for the very first time,” Blanchett said.
“It’s gone back to Cinderella 101. It’s not a zeitgeisty, now-y telling. It’s got everything that people want from a fairytale and that’s what attracted me.”
And through making Cinderella, she saw a different side to Cinders than what she had seen as a child.
“When I grew up, Cinderella wasn’t actually a fairytale that I gravitated towards, because I thought, she’s a little bit of a doormat,” she said.
“(But) Ken (Branagh) kept talking about kindness as a superpower and everyone’s talking about how hard you can punch, and how brave you can be – but how kind you can actually be, (it) actually comes back at you.
“So the first time seeing the film, I noticed what makes Cinderella tick, and that was a new thing for me, because I didn’t really understand that going in.”
Now for me, in all honesty, I can’t say I was incredibly excited about seeing this version of Cinderella – the latest Disney animated classic getting the live-action treatment.
Last year there was Maleficent, but what was intriguing about that tale, was how it turned Sleeping Beauty on its head, exploring the POV of the villain. I was pleasantly surprised at the result.
But Cinderella? Don’t get me wrong, I loved the animated flick growing up, mainly because there were talking, singing mice. But I don’t think Cinderella is a particularly layered character. In fact, in this version, she feels almost devoid of personality (played with earnest by Downton Abbey’s Lily James).
And she’s not the only one. Richard Madden aka Robb Stark is reduced to a smiling, besotted Prince, while the stepsisters are over-the-top caricatures. The saving grace is, actually, Blanchett, alongside Helena Bonham Carter as the ditzy fairy godmother.
Maybe I’m too cynical. But this was actually too traditional for me. It felt like it was pandering to all the little girls who fell in love with princesses after Frozen. Except those princesses had flaws and guts and were fiery (there is actually a Frozen short playing before the film which is tremendously cute).
Having said that all the children around me seemed to love it. But I’m actually looking forward to seeing the next live-action remake of Beauty and the Beast. Belle is a brainy, brave outsider, who stands by her beliefs. On top of that Emma Watson, Emma Thompson and Kevin Kline are already announced for the cast. Be our guest? Yes please!