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21st Mar 2015

‘It Is A Different Kind Of Empowerment’ – Chats To Kenneth Branagh About Disney’s ‘Cinderella’

The film is released in Ireland next week.


It’s fair to say that Kenneth Branagh’s adaptation of classic fairytale Cinderella is one of the most anticipated Disney movies in a while and it hit screens next weekend.

The director himself was in Dublin on Saturday for a special screening of the film for the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival so popped down to The Savoy for a quick chat with Mr Brannagh about his decision to take on the live-action spectacle.

Cinderella is a major departure from the work that you are most commonly associated with. Has Disney always been on your hitlist or how did it come about?

It wasn’t on any hitlist but that was one of the things that was exciting. I like a good surprise, when a call or a message comes and says, in this case, ‘what about Cinderella, an old fairytale’.

It’s Disney, it’s a girls picture, it’s magic… I was thinking ‘is that the right thing for me?’ and then I read the script and felt very struck by it, emotional, it made me cry a lot and it felt as if there was a really new take to do on the story inside a classical world that is sumptuous, exhilarating and glamourous in this live action way.

Did you have any reservations about taking on the movie?

I always try and listen to my first instinct. I go to a lot of trouble reading the script, I do it alone and spend a good few hours over it because for the next two years, which is how long it takes sometimes to make a movie, you’ve got to really remember that feeling you had and in this case, I was really entranced.

I felt that I wasn’t being manipulated, it wasn’t too sappy or saccharine, and I thought I could find a way to tell the story that was genuinely inspiring and uplifting if, as I did, you identified with that central character. It could teach you a little bit, or she could, about loss, about bullying and about what makes you happy in life, so those are important things.

There is a lot of emphasis at the moment on the portrayal of strong women in film, particularly with Emma Watson’s #HeForShe campaign, whereas the plot of Cinderella is a lot more traditional in that the male character comes to her rescue. Was that something that you were conscious of in your approach to the movie?

It seemed to me that there was a variation on female empowerment that is very alive. When we meet the grown-up she is reading a book, during the course of the film she quotes Dickens, Cervantes, Shakespeare… it seemed to me that indicated an intelligent considerate woman but the strength is different and I think people discover that you never confuse her kindness with weakness.

But it is a different kind of empowerment, she makes a conscious choice to stay in a house where she is subject to cruelty and ignorance but it is not the choice of a weak person and it’s something that enables her at the end to say to the stepmother ‘why, why why’. She asks these questions about why she is so cruel, she wants to know and we feel that in another life she would have gone, she would have gone sooner rather than later.

We also find a girl who wants to know the man she has a strong connection with, this Cinderella doesn’t jump into a marriage race and that’s interesting.

Finally, the film’s release has been hit by some controversy amid claims that the waist of actress Lily James, who plays Cinderella, was digitally resized to make it appear more narrow. Do you have any comment to make on that?

It remains a beautiful, healthy, slim, undoctored waist!

Cinderella, starring Lily James, Cate Blanchett and Richard Madden, will be released in Irish cinemas from March 27th.