THE HUNTSMAN WINTER’S WAR
“He’s much more grounded and human than Thor”
Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairytale “The Snow Queen” clearly still has the power to enchant. It transfixed today’s kids in the form of recent Disney blockbuster Frozen, after all. So it’s little surprise that Andersen’s frosty femme fatale has been summoned into the world of sword and sorcery for the follow- up to 2012’ s Snow White And The Huntsman. The “Ice Queen” Freya ( played by Emily Blunt) now joins her sister, Snow White’s “Evil Queen” Ravenna ( Charlize Theron), battling Huntsman Eric ( Chris Hemsworth) in a film that’s being sold as both prequel and sequel. As first- time feature film helmer Cedric Nicolas- Troyan – an Oscar- nominated visual effects director on Snow White – tells SFX, it was an opportunity to raid the storybook realm for inspiration. “The story expanded to, ‘ What other characters in the fairytale world do you have?’” says the French- born director, who replaces Snow White’s Rupert Sanders. “The thing with fairytales is they’re always simple stories. About children – children are eaten or stolen or they don’t have parents – or love. Whether you lose the love of your parents, you lose the love of your fiancé, or you’re looking for love, whether you go up in a giant beanstalk to save the love of your life… All these simple stories resonate with everyone, and they’ve been doing so since they were first told. In the beginning they were told, then they were written, then they were read, and then they were drawn and became cartoons, and now they’re movies just because today they can be done. Before they couldn’t be done, and so no one was making them. Because how do you make a witch become a dragon? Now a movie can show that. When you look back and ask, ‘ What are the big characters?’ the Snow Queen is one of them.
It’s about different types of women, at different moments in their lives
This character that’s lost a sense of love, and has a cold heart. That is a very simple character yet one that resonates with everyone.”
Freya’s heart is so cold, in fact, that when she creates the corps of Huntsmen to do her bidding, she forbids them to fall in love – a rule Eric breaks when his heart is ensnared by the warrior Sara ( Jessica Chastain).
“Sara is Eric’s wife. He talks about her in the first movie. She died. We explore that and explore how she died, and what really happened. Freya is part of the story of where the Huntsman comes from and why he’s called the Huntsman. Of course there are many Huntsmen. We explore what they are and where they come from.”
Though mainstream action films are often accused of lacking strong roles for women, Winter’s War, Nicolas- Troyan points out, is first and foremost “about women”.
“It’s about different types of women, at different moments in their lives. There’s love, there’s love lost, there’s motherhood, there’s wifehood. There are different aspects of the lives of women, in a world that is principally ruled by women. The story is the story of the Huntsman, obviously. It’s his story. But it’s his story within this world, surrounded by all these different female characters. Ravenna is very different than Freya, and Freya is different than Sara. Then we have the female dwarves, who are funny as hell, to explore a completely different part of the female character, which is independence and spunkiness.”
Joining the returning Nick Frost to play the dwarves are newcomers Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach, as well as Rob Brydon.
“Nick has a little bit more of an exploration of his character, Nion. Because in the first movie we really didn’t know who this character was, what this character was about. In this movie, you’ve got the whole story going on and then the Rob Brydon character, Gryff, and two female dwarves that are kind of a team. They’re a little team that goes around and tries to make a living out of dealing and smuggling things. They’re really funny… The thing with the dwarves is that they are characters who are just an open faucet of thoughts. They don’t process everything. They’re just really raw characters. They speak their minds. That creates the situations between them.
“Also, we discover that female and male dwarves don’t get along very well. They don’t typically live together as couples. They’re a little bit like pandas! So that creates a lot of funny moments between them… I think people are going to be surprised by how funny the movie is. We did a preview a couple of days ago, and people were like, ‘ Holy crap! I had no idea it was gonna be this fun!’”
Nicolas- Troyan describes Winter’s War as lighter in overall tone than Snow White And The Huntsman, though more balanced in its mix of drama and humour.
“It’s a lot lighter. There are two parts to the story. There is a darker story that happens with certain characters, then there is a lighter part of the story that happens with other characters.
But it’s very well balanced. It’s not like you’re jumping from one movie to another. It’s not that at all. But there’s variation… Like in your day. You’re gonna have moments when it’s gonna be a little more dramatic and moments when you’re gonna relax a little bit more and joke around. You’re not going to go through your whole day laughing your ass off and you’re not going to go through your whole day wanting to jump from a cliff. It’s the same way with these characters. One of the great things about the Huntsman character is that he comes in and out of dramatic situations and finds a way to be lighter in some moments, throughout the whole movie. So it doesn’t get down and dark all the time.”
The filmmaker also describes Winter’s War as richer in its fantasy elements, a result of its two enchantresses. “We saw battles in the first movie. In this one we are trying to do something a bit different. There’s a little bit more magic. Magic spells are happening more often than in the first one. We’d look at different types of fight scenes to change things up a little bit. We already did the big charge in the first movie, so we’re not going to do that another time. We do different stuff but it’s as big as the first movie. I just didn’t want to do the exact same thing. Some things are being recalled, like the enchanted forest for example. But then we’re doing something new in it.”
As for anyone who may already be drawing comparisons between the Ice Queen of
Winter’s War and the Snow Queen of Frozen… “The Ice Queen is a fairytale character who has been portrayed many, many times. But because the last portrayal was in Frozen, people are like, ‘ Ooh, it’s Elsa!’ But it’s like, ‘ Yeah, well, guess where Elsa in Frozen comes from? There have been plays, books, stories of the Ice Queen or the Snow Queen or the Snow Princess. And there will be many more. It’s funny, because Elsa’s just the one that just happens to be right there on your doorstep.’ What can you say? I’m like, ‘ Yeah, it’s Elsa. Or Narnia. Or 20 other versions of it that you can find around the world.’”
Director Cedric Nicolas- Troyan on a chilly- looking set.
“And then you cut the granny out of the wolf’s stomach.”
Sara ( Jessica Chastain) stares down Ravenna ( Charlize Theron).