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

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTS­MAN, Opens at Vil­lage Cin­e­mas on Thurs­day

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

Mir­ror, Mir­ror.

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.’’

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