Under a giant tent set up to keep out the rain, a bevy of fanciful attractions were arranged to enchant the crowd of plucky youngsters — many of whom were decked out in Cinderella costumes — and their celebrity parents, including a crafts table with glitter and glass slipper stamps, a manicure station featuring nail princess-inspired polish colors by Morgan, a photo booth sponsored by JC Penney and juggling court jesters roaming the red carpet on stilts. Guests were also treated to a supper buffet of such kid-friendly edibles as macaroni and cheese, penne pasta, kale salad with goat cheese and pretzels dipped in chocolate and candied sprinkles.
“Cinderella” stars Lily James, in a silvery-blue Elie Saab Haute Couture gown, Cate Blanchett, who plays the wicked Stepmother, and Richard Madden, the azure-eyed Prince Charming, were also all in attendance, as well as director Kenneth Branagh and screenwriter Chris Weitz, who said the movie was “different than other projects” on which he’s worked.
“I try to keep doing different things in my career,” said Weitz. “To work on something that is so well known and so beloved was a huge opportunity to me,mand I also took it as huge responsibility. It’s kind of a through line into the brains and hearts of little girls, and the kind of message that you give them really matters. It was quite different and that’s what made it exciting for me.
While Disney’s original 1950 spin on Charles Perrault’s tale of Cinderella was an animated movie punctuated by sanguine musical numbers, Branagh’s live-action iteration is a shade darker, notes Weitz.
“Disney movies and fairy tales are sort of famous for knocking off parents, and we don’t shy away from that in this film,” he says. “It’s really about how this character deals with adversity and how she winds up with a character that has also dealt with adversity, and those blows happen in life. We decided in the beginning that we were going to be radical in how traditional it was going to be. Given that traditionalism, we talked about it being a musical. But we also discussed how musicals can made it harder to believe the reality of (the film), and one of the things that was very important to us is that we wanted to make the audience believe it. Ultimately, the movie is about how (Cinderella) manages to keep her courage and her kindness in spite of all the adversity in her life.”
Producer Simon Kinberg called “Cinderella” a “kid’s movie that has appeal to adults.”
“I think that’s the way the original movies were when I was growing up,” he said. “It was primarily made for kids but there was a sophistication both to the filmmaking and the characterization that, as a parent, you can watch and not just survive it but actually enjoy it.”
While Kinberg noted that there’s “something fundamental in the story that appeals to everybody,” he explained that some updates were made to the original Disney film to enhance the characterization.
“We added a deeper dimension to the prince character,” he said. “In the original animated movie he’s barely a character, but in this (film) we really explore his place in the kingdom, his relationship to his father and how he has to go through his own father’s death. He has to grow up and evolve just as much as Cinderella does. It was also about making a character that a lot of the boys (watching the film) could connect with.”
Finding a lead actress that audiences could connect with was not a simple task, said Kinberg.
“We looked at tens of thousands of actresses around the world,” he said. “We looked at famous actresses and we looked at actresses from countries you’ve probably never heard of. And it was a huge exhaustive process. And when we saw Lily for the first time truly it was one of those moments where you thought, ‘Oh, that’s Cinderella!’”
Others celebrities in attendance included Toni Collette, Busy Philipps and Josh Gad, who voices “Olaf” in the “Frozen Forever” short that debuted before the film. Thomas O. Staggs, Disney Co.’s recently appointed COO, was also on hand to fete the film’s premiere.