In Hollywood, sometimes it’s not about the most original idea, but the first one out of the box with the same good idea. That’s why two competing studios each put their money behind a ‘Snow White & The Seven Dwarfs’ reboot. Arriving, wisely, two months before the far-more-ambitious ‘Snow White & The Huntsman’ (out here June 1st), ‘Mirror Mirror’ puts a somewhat comedic slant on the much-loved fairytale about the fairest of them all and how her beauty drives a wicked stepmother a tad homicidal with jealousy.
Playing like an xmas panto at Hollywood High, this seemingly studio-bound and CGI-drenched Snow White reimagining from Indian director Tarsem Singh (The Fall, Immortals) benefits from one sly piece of casting – Julia Roberts as the vain, desperate and despotic bad apple queen determined to hold onto her crown.
The ageing, unloved queen’s petrified anger at being replaced at the top of the pile by a younger, fitter, more beautiful model probably didn’t take all that much researching on Roberts part.
The younger, fitter, more beautiful model in ‘Mirror Mirror’ is played by Lily Collins, daughter of Phil Collins (a man, ironically, many music lovers have wished could be taken to a remote woods and gutted), whilst the prince in shining long johns is played by Armie Hammer, so impressive as the Winklevoss twins in The Social Network.
For Collins, it’s her first real chance to shine on the big screen, having previously popped up in ‘The Blind Side’, ‘Priest’ and ‘Abduction’.
What is it that attracted you to this retelling of ‘Snow White’? I think the idea that we’ve modernized Snow. She starts out as the fairy tale princess that everyone grew up knowing, the wide eyed, naïve, innocent princess who knows no evil, locked up in her tower, is not aware of what’s going on outside, to a girl who ends up fighting for what she believes in, mentally and physically finding herself, embracing herself, loving herself, and is able to then open up to the world and find love, new adventures, and grow into a young woman.
Has Snow White’s relationship with the queen changed much from the classic story? Snow’s relationship with the queen, it’s kind of brilliant, actually, at the beginning. The way that Julia plays the queen, she uses that laugh, and that smile that everyone loves so much in this in such a sinister, creepy, eerie way that she’ll say something incredibly horrible with a smile on her face, and Snow, being innocent and naïve and having no idea what’s going on, doesn’t know how to take that, and then doesn’t realize the true evil nature of the queen. As Julia put it, she said it was like being mean to Bambi. It was a very, very bizarre moment being mean to Julia Roberts. It was very weird.
How have the seven dwarves been reimagined? What I love the most is that throughout the process of preproduction, and initial filming, each actor who played a dwarf really incorporated their own personality into their characters, and their names very much reflect their personalities. They became comrades, but also teachers to Snow White in the sense that they physically and mentally trained her to ultimately take back the kingdom, but also to become a young woman, and to become confident, and to find herself. They taught me how to wrestle and sword fight. They taught me about balance and taking charge, and knowing how to use my voice and really finding my inner strength. It was so much fun shooting with them. They really took me under their wing as Snow White, but also as Lily.
It looks like you had to undergo a lot of training to play Snow White? I was training sword fighting and fencing for about four months, and it was very intense. Armie and I sweated and endured a lot for those fight sequences. We had one fight together. It was about 150 sword fight moves and we were doing it in, you know, in the snow that they created, in theses crazy costumes with trees surrounding us trying not to fall over, trying not to trip, and trying not to hurt each other. We also did mixed martial arts and acrobatics and balance and endurance, cardio, everything you can imagine in like four hours a day. We would just switch on and off. I couldn’t have been happier and prouder when we were finished, not only because I was exhausted, but also because they shot it in a way that really proved that it was us. And we were so hoping that it wouldn’t be, like, huge wide shots behind us where everyone’s thinking, that’s not them, so we were very proud.
What does a director Tarsem bring to a film like this? I see Tarsem as kind of this absolute visionary genius, this artist almost of another period, another time. I watched ‘The Fall’ so many times just because of the artistic references. It’s like very Salvador Dali meets Gaudi, which I know were kind of influences for him in this world as well. They’re so otherworldly and so different than anything I’ve ever seen before. The aesthetic is just so magnificent and then, when you add the 3D aspect from ‘Immortals’, that was absolutely beautiful. The way that he tells stories through his characters and just the overall feel of his movies. I knew, after seeing what he’d done, even with just his commercials, because his vision, his sense of humor, first of all, is so quirky and so different, and his attitude about life is kind of all about living in the moment, and he brings that to everything he does.
Knowing his attitude and his aesthetic, his imagination, there was no way that there was anyone else for ‘Mirror Mirror’, because there’s an undertone of humour throughout the entire film. All those aspects of who Tarsem is create the perfect person to kind of steer the ship of a fairy tale. He allowed everyone to be themselves and to be open to giving opinions on scenes, or rewriting lines, or asking if something was okay to change. He would say, are you happy? If you’re happy, I’m happy. Just go with it.
Mirror Mirror hits Irish cinemas on April 6th Words : Paul Byrne