The glass slipper fits! “Downton Abbey” star Lily James has been cast as the title character in the upcoming live-action version of “Cinderella,” the Walt Disney Co. announced Tuesday (April 30). James beat out a who’s who of Hollywood up-and-comers for the role, including Saoirse Ronan, Bella Heathcote and Emma Watson, among others.
James’ casting is the latest twist in the ongoing saga of the film’s development. While she was competing for the role, filmmaker Mark Romanek (“Never Let Me Go”) departed the project over creative differences, and “Thor” director Kenneth Branagh took over his spot. Meanwhile, screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada”) and Cate Blanchett (“The Hobbit”) have both been attached for some time, and are no doubt eager to see production get under way.
“Cinderella” is the latest film in a series of live-action adaptations Disney has mounted of its animated classics, after “101 Dalmatians,” “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and the upcoming “Maleficent,” which is a version of “Sleeping Beauty” from the point of view of the evil sorceress, played by Angelina Jolie. It should be interesting to see what approach Branagh takes with the material, given his Shakespearean background, although Disney has certainly been known to beef up these reimaginings with suitably explosive special-effects work. (One can only imagine what the pumpkin transformation will be like!)
James’ screen credits also include roles in films such as “Wrath of the Titans” and “Broken.” But there’s no word yet on how she’ll make the transition from being an upstairs lady on “Downton” to a downstairs servant in “Cinderella.” She’d better figure it out pretty quickly, though: The movie is reportedly due next year.
“Harry Potter” alum Watson reportedly turned down the role of Cinderella last month.