Tough but fair
Twilight darling Kristen Stewart puts a decidedly Grimm and gritty spin on the much- loved character of Snow White, writes Lucy Carne
WE ARE wading through ankle- deep mud in a medieval village in the middle of a carpark at London’s Pinewood Studios.
In a warehouse next door, the latest James Bond film is being shot under intense secrecy. But we are here for another potential 2012 blockbuster.
It is Snow White and the Huntsman – a dark, gothic remake of the beloved Grimm Brothers fairytale.
And American movie ticketing information site Fandango says it’s the year’s most eagerly anticipated film among women.
But forget everything associated with Disney’s sweet, naive Snow White, batting her eyelashes with a bow in her hair. There is a poisoned apple and some dwarfs, but that is where the comparisons with Disney’s saccharine- laced cartoon and this version end.
Disney also released a Snow White remake earlier this year – the slapstick comedy Mirror, Mirror starring Julia Roberts as the evil queen.
Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders, in his first feature film, and the producers from
Alice in Wonderland have created a tortured and terrifying tale filled with monsters, battles and bloodshed.
In the lead role is Twilight superstar Kristen Stewart.
Walking towards me with her hair pulled back and wearing metal armour, the 21- year- old actress looks luminous in the flesh. Stewart was initially hesitant to take on the role because she says: ‘‘ I didn’t see myself playing
Disney’s Snow White.’’
She admits she never pretended to be a princess as a child: ‘‘ I was always honestly the vampire.’’
She was finally attracted to the film because it retained the original tale’s darkness.
‘‘ We have stayed so true to who Snow White is classically,’’ Stewart says. ‘‘ We’re not taking the story and turning it on its head, but we’re not shying away from the parts that are gruesome, because it makes the parts that are beautiful that much more beautiful.’’
As a tomboy famed in Hollywood for eschewing glamour, Stewart is a fitting choice to take on Snow White’s themes of vanity and the exploitation of beauty.
‘‘ Fair for us, it doesn’t mean beautiful. It means what is pumping through your veins, rather than what you look like,’’ she says.
‘‘ To play a character that truly lacks vanity is interesting. Not to say everyone is stuck- up, but at a certain point you are aware of yourself. But she just simply doesn’t have that, which is pretty cool. She is kind of a freak.’’
Stewart took on horse riding and combat training so she could portray Snow White, who in one scene resembles a Joan of Arc warrior leading 200 horsemen in a gallop on a beach.
‘‘ She can seriously take care of business,’’ Stewart says, with a smile.
Her biggest battle scenes are with the evil Queen Ravenna, played by a chilling Charlize Theron.
‘‘ I’ve been getting the crap kicked out of me by Charlize,’’ Stewart says.
‘‘ She’s also not afraid to take it. She keeps telling me to hit her harder. It’s been fun.’’
While she admits it’s ‘‘ frustrating that you can’t actually take a hit or actually hit someone’’, Stewart did give the Huntsman, played by Australian Chris Hemsworth, an accidental black eye with an enthusiastic hook during one scene.
Hemsworth, 28, cut his teeth on Southern Cross soapie Home and Away and found fame with blockbuster Thor.
Stewart, whose mother grew up on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, bonded with Hemsworth over their Aussie connection.
‘‘ He is a comforting presence,’’ Stewart says. ‘‘ I know his type, that sounds weird, but we speak to each other very easily.’’
Sanders says he cast Hemsworth because he is ‘‘ an incredible actor’’ with ‘‘ a great screen presence’’. Despite her strong tie to the
Twilight franchise – made even more awkward by rumours that Snow
White and the Huntsman will have a sequel – Stewart was always first choice for the lead, Sanders says.
‘‘ Obviously everyone knew about Kristen. She was someone we wanted to meet,’’ Sanders says, standing outside one of his 30 astounding sets.
‘‘[ The film’s producer] Joe [ Roth] had just made Alice in Wonderland, where he had found a new actress [ Mia Wasikowska] and we felt there was something very innocent and pure about finding someone with no other roles that you associate them with.
‘‘ But when we went to meet Kristen it was a very simple, done deal. Yes, you are the one.’’
Coincidentally, the unknown actor they turned down for the role, Lily Collins ( the raven- haired daughter of singer Phil Collins), ended up being cast as Snow White in the rival
It seems a brave move by Universal to hire Sanders to take the helm of the rumoured $ 100 million take.
But based on his mesmerising portfolio of commercials for Nike, Call
of Duty and Guinness, Sanders has been heralded as Hollywood’s next big action director. His version of Snow White is a visual feast.
About 60 per cent of the film was shot on location, including a deserted Welsh beach and the forests of London’s Queen’s Park. The constructed sets, including the evil queen’s milk bath and a snow- covered woodland, are breathtakingly real.
‘‘ There’s quite a lot you’re nervous about when you start a project,’’ Sanders says. ‘‘ I wanted to create a world where this all felt tangible.’’
He adds that his mantra throughout the project has been to make a film ‘‘ that means something’’ and is true to the original, seven- page story.
‘‘ People think Snow White is Disney,’’ Sanders says.
‘‘ Disney really made the Grimms’ fairytale very family- orientated.
‘‘ But it is a very dark story about so many deeper issues that were never in the Disney version.
‘‘ It’s a story that is as resonant today as it was when it was first recorded.’’