Cate Blanchett intros Cinderella

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”.

Blanchett (right) introduces the film at the stunning State Theatre in Sydney

Blanchett (right) introduces the film at the stunning State Theatre in Sydney

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.”

Lily James and Cate Blanchett in Cinderella

Lily James and Cate Blanchett in Cinderella

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!



Five Things from Alan Rickman Q&A

Sydney welcomed Alan Rickman and his wonderful voice back to Australia last week for the first time in decades, and during his trip, to promote new film A Little Chaos, he sat down for a couple of sold-out post-screening Q&As – one which I managed to get tickets to.
Before I get to what he revealed, a bit about the film itself. Rickman directs for the first time since 1997 (some little thing called Harry Potter had apparently been taking up all his time) and also stars as King Louis XIV in the romantic drama. It follows the tale of a female landscape gardener (played by Kate Winslet) tasked with constructing an outdoor ballroom in the gardens at Versailles by an accomplished landscaper (played by Matthias Schoenaerts from Rust and Bone) after he sees how she thinks outside the box.
Alan RIckman directing A Little Chaos (Transmission Films)

Alan Rickman directing A Little Chaos (Transmission Films)

Rickman freely admits it’s entirely implausible, because a woman of that day and age could never have held a job.
“Women were merely decorative objects at the time.. her character is a complete impossibility,” he said.
Rickman talked at length about his career highlights, giving wonderful insights into little tidbits from movies sets and life in the biz.
Here’s five things I took away from the night:

1) his career began as a graphic designer

In fact he says: “When I was 18, the idea of going to drama school, that would be the quickest way to slit my throat, although I knew it was the thing I liked doing most.”
So he went to art school and worked as a graphic designer. I was only at 25 did he decide to go study acting at the prestigious Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA).
“Life is so much it seems to me, at this point in time, a big ol’ piece of hindsight,” he said.
“You figure out that these bits and pieces are what make you then decide that maybe you should direct a film.”


“The internet thinks I was told the whole thing. This was not true at all,” he said.
In fact, the only hint Rickman had was when he was deciding whether or not to join the franchise. At the time, he had been offered the part of the hook-nosed Potions Master, but said he had no idea how to play the part unless he spoke to author JK Rowling.
“She waited until she was absolutely alone – that’s how much she holds it to herself – and she gave me one tiny piece of information,” he said.
“I was told one tiny little thing which made me think that he wasn’t quite what he seemed and that’s all I knew.”
When prompted to reveal what was said, Rickman proved a man of his word.
“No. I promised her I never would and I know she’s written it now, but you make a promise.”
In case you haven’t seen the (heartbreaking) video of Snape’s story pieced together chronologically by a fan, check it out:


Back before everything was done using CGI (yes, remember those days?!), Rickman was asked to jump 40 feet for that epic final scene in Die Hard.
“The guy training me said, ‘look, as you fall, you must remember to put your arms out and your legs out in a kind of star shape, because if you don’t you’ll start to turn in mid-air, land on your head and kill yourself’,” he said.
“So I did as I was told, I think we did three takes at three ‘o’ clock in the morning and miraculously it was the last scene I shot in the film… just in case.”
Somewhat unbelievably, the wonderfully villainous Hans Gruber was his first movie role.


“They give a shit, and it matters to them… and it’s not about their ego,” he said of the pair.
A Little Chaos actually marked the first time Rickman had worked with Winslet in two decades.
Their last film together? Sense and Sensibility, when Winslet was just 19.
Also in that film was the wonderful British actress Emma Thompson, who starred and wrote the screenplay (and has just been cast as Mrs Potts in the remake of Beauty and the Beast with Potter alumni Emma Watson).

Kate Winslet, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman in Sense and Sensibility.

Rickman has worked with her about five times over the years, from Love, Actually to Harry Potter. He’s even directed her in his other film The Winter Guest, alongside her mother Phyllida Law.
“Or at least I think I was directing her,” he said in his droll way, to much laughter.
“She’s a powerhouse. And she has a lot of opinions, but that’s because she’s a really good writer, and I don’t know why she hasn’t directed yet.”
Good point. Emma Thompson should direct something!


Rickman says it’s tough getting an indie film simply made these days, let alone getting it into theatres so people can see it.
“There’s a huge balancing act going on now between cinemas filled with superhero movies and the fact that more and more people are sitting at home with big TV screens and surround-sound and they don’t want to go out to watch a complicated film,” he said.
“They go, ‘oh I’ll wait til that comes out on DVD’.”
But he thinks there’s a magic to seeing movies on the big screen with a crowd of people. And I couldn’t agree more.
“I really believe in the kind of energy that gets created,” he said.
“It’s how I grew up watching films. It’s a very visceral thing and you can feel all sorts of muscles growing in your heart and mind…
“I’m not sure that happens so much at home, when you’re in the middle of some movie and your mum screams ‘turn that down!'”