This year’s live-action “Cinderella” remake garnered rave reviews for its earnestness and sweetness, the gorgeous Lily James embodying the titular princess with grace and realism. The man behind the movie, Sir Kenneth Branagh, was very, very intentional about what kind of movie he wanted to make. No gritty reboots here.
“I really, really responded to Chris Weitz’s script, and I found nothing to be cyclical about in Cinderella’s attempt to listen and follow her mother’s invocation to have courage and be kind,” Branagh told MTV News in an interview in support of the film’s home release. “If, tonally, we could feel these were sort of genuine attempts from real people — not saints — but real people, who one the whole believed that the path of nonviolent resistance was a good one, and that you could turn the other cheek…I definitively said to Disney early on, my take is not going to be dark and gritty. My take is human and I hope humane and fun and funny, but it’ll be bright."
“It’s trying to find rather than just frankly saying life is a bad, difficult thing, that life contains endless challenges. As a friend of mine once said, life is flying through turbulence. But sometimes it’s nice to enjoy it when there’s a little bit of nice, clean fresh air and Cinderella represents that. I’m inspired by people who make big efforts in life. in this fairytale story, this girl makes a big effort. I’m on her side and I believe when she succeeds that I and other people who watch her and cheer her on can succeed too.”
Available on DVD and Blu-ray today, “Cinderella” feels like one of those movies that a certain category of child will watch every single day, begging for a double feature and never getting tired of it. Branagh said that when he was a kid, “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” was that infinitely watchable movie for him.
“It’s very bright, very sunny. I always felt it was a very upbeat thing. It was a musical and I just as a little boy I kind of loved the inventive thing. In the beginning of that movie Thoracticus Potts creates breakfast in a kind of crazy self-invented kitchen. I could watch that sequence again and again and again. That was how I wanted my boiled egg every day, I wanted it to roll down a special track, I wanted it picked up with special things and dropped in there, and a knife to come off and mechanically cut the top off, I thought that was thrilling. I thought my goodness, what a wonderful start to the day that would be. As brilliant as my dad was and as good with his hands, I just wished that he could have invented with crazy kitchen and breakfast making equipment like the film.”
And no, the director has not missed the fact that people of all ages are absolutely bonkers for Disney princesses. His theory is that it’s about living your life “in a good way, in a creative way, in an imaginative way, in a different choice kind of way, rather than life as some people might tell you it is. Some people might tell you that means you’re a dreamer, or you’re unrealistic or you’re psychopathic, and for others it means, you know what, that’s a wonderfully optimistic way of transforming how to have fun in your life, if you live that way.”
“I think it goes beyond wearing cool or colorful or glittery things, but there is, it is somehow wrapped up in feeling that we can be and that we can lead lives that have some beauty in them. And I don’t just mean beauty of things or even physical beauty but sort of feel good and be positive and somehow I guess allow us to escape a little but also escaping int he real hope and belief that to be regal of spirit. That’s what I sort of take from the Disney princess thing is something to aspire to. It’s not a running away from life.”
And, of course, his favorite Disney princess is “Cinderella.” As if the man who put Lily James so beautifully into that glittering blue dress could answer any other way.
Branagh also addressed the seeming anti-goose sentiment in his movie. (Never forget when the goose-footman told Cinderella, “I can’t drive, I’m just a goose.”) What’s up with that, Sir Ken? Why the goose hate?
“It’s all I’m saying is a subtle warning. It’s saying to the children of the world, if you are out and a goose comes up and says may I drive you in my carriage, even for a short while, even with your folks watching, you’ve got to be careful,” he said. “They’re really well intentioned, but fundamentally flawed in their skill levels as drivers. It’s a piece of harmless advice.”
”Cinderella” is available on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital HD today.