Here’s What the Critics Are Saying About the 2015 Cinderella

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“Is there anyone who hasn’t seen Walt Disney Animation’s Cinderella?

“The 1950 feature is a classic that both saved the studio and inspired millions of viewers for decades to come. The fairy tale has been retold many times over the years—on film, on stage and on TV. When Walt Disney Pictures decided to revive the franchise with a live-action version, it hired Kenneth Branagh to direct. Lily James was cast in the titular role, and Branagh rounded out the cast with Cate Blanchett as Lady Tremaine, Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy GodmotherRichard Madden as Prince Charming.

“Here’s what the critics are saying about Cinderella, in theaters Friday:

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• “The color, vibrancy and unabashedly romantic heart explode off the screen inCinderella,” The Hollywood Reporter‘s David Rooney raves, adding, “The studio’s opulent update is enhanced by sumptuous physical craftsmanship as well as the limitless possibilities of what CG technology can achieve.” He writes that James plays her part with “unaffected sweetness” and notes that Blanchett’s “feline malevolence is priceless.” According to Rooney, this Cinderella has mass appeal. “Anyone nostalgic for childhood dreams of transformation will find something to enjoy in an uplifting movie that invests warm sentiment in universal themes of loss and resilience, experience and maturity,” he writes.

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• “I’d fully expected to find Branagh’s film tedious and uninspired, or, worse still, overwhelmed by a hideous deluge of computer effects, like Disney’s Maleficent, or Disney’s Alice in Wonderland. But something about Branagh’s British reserve, his devotion to Shakespeare’s formal and relatively spare storytelling structure, has rendered his Cinderella familiar but perfectly fanciful, an old tale told well,” Vanity Fairs Richard Lawson gushes. He notes that Chris Weitz‘s script is “spry and sparkling, airy and pretty as spun sugar.”

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He calls James “a fizzy flower of a thing” and Blanchett “a pro of the highest order,” while Madden’s “eyes have had their blueness turned up, his teeth put on full gleam.” In the end, he says, “I was won over, seduced by its warmth and good looks, its quaint, modest proportions.”

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Variety‘s Peter Debruge writes that Branagh “reverently reimagines Charles Perrault‘s fairy tale for a new generation the world over.”

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That being said, he argues that only Blanchett “seems fit to hold her own against such extravagant costumes and sets.” He also praises the Academy Award winner for blending “aspects of Bette Davis, Barbara Stanwyck and Marlene Dietrich into an epic villainess, so deliciously unpleasant one almost wishes the film were focused more on her. Alas, this is Cinderella’s story—relatively blasé by comparison, though still quite promising in the wish-fulfillment department.” Overall, Debruge says, “Branagh’s Shakespearean roots beg for a more literary script. It’s all a bit square, big on charm, but lacking the crackle of Enchanted or The Princess Bride. But though this Cinderella could never replace Disney’s animated classic, it’s no ugly stepsister either, but a deserving companion.”

“Branagh has delivered a construction project so solid, so naïve, and so rigorously stripped of irony that it borders on the heroic,The New Yorker‘s Anthony Lane says. “You could call it Apocalypse Never.”

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USA Today‘s Clauda Puig praises the film, writing, “With its vibrant sparkle and enchanting visuals, Cinderella almost makes you believe in magic. The oft-told story has a surprisingly fresh exuberance.” She calls Bonham Carter “appealing and playful,” but argues it’s Blanchett who “brings a new dimension to the role of wicked stepmother, providing a glimpse of what has made her so venomous. Only an actress as adept as Blanchett can take a role so easy to caricature and bring to it such subtle shading.” What Cinderella lacks in comparison to Enchanted or The Princess Bride, she explains, the film “enthralls with its ravishing style and timeless message of resilience, decency and kindness triumphing over evil.”

PHOTOS: Inside Lily James’ big Cinderella premiere!

Us Weekly‘s Mara Reinstein writes that Branagh “keeps his film old-fashioned and, well, a little safe.” While “some may quibble that this kind of snark-free narrative is hopelessly dated in 2015,” she writes, “That’s what makes this rendition so charming and timeless.” Best of all, she marvels, “the prince’s fete is a visual feast,” adding, “Cinderella’s grand entrance proves why she’s the ultimate belle of the ball.”

• “There’s no empowerment message embedded in Kenneth Branagh’s Cinderella, no ‘Girls can do anything!’ cheerleader vibe. That’s why it’s wonderful,” Village Voice‘s Stephanie Zacharek writes. “This is a straight, no-chaser fairy story, a picture to be downed with pleasure. It worries little about sending the wrong message and instead trusts us to decode its politics, sexual and otherwise, on our own.”

NEWS: Kenneth Branagh shares his vision for Cinderella

The New York Observer‘s Rex Reed writes that James is “too sugary” for his taste and jokes that Madden’s Prince Charming is “carved out of foam rubber,” though he does praise the supporting cast. “The big improvement is the story of Ella’s family history, which was only hinted at in the famed 1950 Disney animated version. Father is now a handsome traveling salesman (Ben Chaplin) dashing enough to earn his daughter’s hero worship without question. Mother (Hayley Atwell) is a golden-hearted role model too good to be true. Derek Jacobi is a wise old king who wants to see his son marry his true love before he dies,” Reed writes. He also calls Blanchett’s performance “sinister and captivating.” In the end, he says, “There’s a refreshing surprise. Cinderella suspends kindness and courage, the two talismen she lives by, for a resolution that may shock you. Everyone in a fairy tale no longer lives happily ever after.”

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The 2015 Cinderella Is Absolute Magic!

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The 2015 Cinderella is Absolute Magic. Last night, I feasted upon the Premier; and in every way, the 2015 Cinderella is Oscar-worthy. Don’t miss seeing this on the big screen. The movie does a couple of minor plot twists–just enough to allow you to feel that you are seeing a new flick. But nothing is weird or bizarre. It is very human–but humanity filled with the spirit of hope — distilled through the visions of several brilliant people.

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Sandy Powell’s Costume Designs for the 2015 Cinderella Are Dazzling

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“Sandy Powell, who won Oscars for her costumes for The Young Victoria, Mrs. Henderson Presents, and The Aviator, recalls ‘One of the very first things I did in my research [for Cinderella] was investigate setting it in different periods.  The eighteenth century is really beautiful, but I was not interestedin it because that’s usually the pantomime version of ‘Cinderella.”  I wanted to avoid any similarity to pantomime.  I thought rather than be completely specific  in a period, let’s do my take on it as far as costumes were concerned.  I was kind of doing a 1940s, 1950s version of the ninetheenth century,’

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“Like the other artists and designers, Powell enjoyed the freedom Branagh gave her to exercise her imagination.  ‘I did a lot of research,’ she continues.  ‘I presented Ken with all of that and we talked in great depth about each character.  As we developed costumes, I would show him the fitting pictures so he could see what was happening as we went along.’

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“For Cinderella’s daily chores, Powell dressed the heroine in a pale green dress with a light bown apron–shabby but becoming.  The muted colors reflect the subdued mood of those dreary days of toil and abuse.

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“But for the ball, Powell created a sweeping gown of shimmering blue, glittering with thousands of crystals.  On the bodice are tiny fabric butterflies, recalling a special memento from Cinderella’s father–a treasured btterfly toy contained in a lotus flower-shaped box–and the lesson about beauty lying within that it embodied.

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” ‘To become Ella in her normal rags is a much simpler journey, although I’m still in a corset every day, which is tortue,’ says James.  ‘To become Princess Ella takes a long time.  I have hundreds of Swarovski crystals hand stuck into my hair  The dress has skix layers to the skirt, and it takes a really long time to get in and out of.  I’ve had to learn a lot about posture.  You can’t slouch ina corset.’

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” ‘The gown is ver cleverly engineered, so that even though it’s voluminous, it’s actually very well balanced; it’s not even heavy,’ explains Powell.  ‘Where it sits on the body, and how the boning supports it makes it incredibly easy to move in.  She does an amazing dance routine in it and never had any problems.  It’s fun to do things on a large scale, but [the gown] had to be delicate because thiis is Cinderella.’ [Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, pgs. 162]

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” ‘It really is everly little girl’s dream to put on a dress like that,’ James adds enthusiasticallly.  ‘Around the top of the corset there are butterflies, which have a sentimental value.  When the fairy godmother appears, Ella says of her torn frock, “Don’t change it:  it was my mother’s,” so the shape is very similar to the dress her mother wore.  When she has the dress on, it feels like her mother and father are with her:  Ella wants the strength of her parents by her side.  The dress looks beautiful, and there’s a lot of story in it.’ [Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, pgs. 162-63,]

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“Creating a look for the fairy godmother who effects Cinderella’s transformation proved more challenging.  ‘The fairy godmother was actually quite hard because it could be absolutely anything,’ says powell.  ‘I really came to how the fairy godmother should look once we knew it was Helena.  Casting is often the key.  I wanted her to be every little gir’s idea of a fairy godmother, literally sparkling with with light, so we worked with a lighting company (Phillips) that created small lights throughout the dress designed to twinkle on and off.’

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” ‘My costume is possibly the biggest one I’ve ever had to wear,’ replies Carter with a laugh.  ‘It’s white, silvery, and about four feet wide.  And I light up!  There’s about twenty batteries up my bum.  This lovely man from Phillips basically turns me on with a switch o my bum and then he goes off and he operates me remotely from his computer.  Every time I do a spell, I change color.  I’m like a thing that you could put on a Christmas tree.’ ” Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, p. 166.

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“In contrast to the white costume of the fairy godmother, Powell gave Cate Blanchett’s mother a great, black picture hat with a veil that focuses [Solomon, p. 166] the audience’s attention on the actress’s piercing gaze.

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Sneaks Cinderella Costumes

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“For the ball, the stepmother wears a sweeping gown of green and gold satin with a aigrett.  The hats and coiffures hold her hair away from her face, creating an effect similar to the animated character.  ‘It’s a designer’s deream because Cate Blanchett is one of the greatest people there is to dress,’ Powell comments.

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‘There’s only a handful of actorys that you can throw anything on and they look fabulous.  Evil’s easy.  The baddies are easier to dress than the goodies:  It’s quite difficult to make a good person not dull.’

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“When Ollie Johnston animated the stepsisters, Walt Disney insisted they were grotesque and comic, but not aggressively ugly.  The live-action [Solomon, p. 167] filmmakers took a similar approach:  Anastasia and Drisella are not gargoyles, but spoiled, arrogant, thoughtless young women.

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” ‘We’ve never thought about the ugliness without, but the ugliness within,’ says Shearmur.  ‘Both actresses are very pretty.  But there’s a lack of selfpawareness about just how far thy’re pushing heir hairstyle, their makeup, the garishness of their dresses.  Their appearance reflects the singular attention on their own needs without any consideration for anyone else:  that defines their ugliness within.’

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” ‘The whole idea behind the stepsisters is that they weren’t physiclly ugly:  they are beautuful but ugly on the ind=side and vain,’ agrees Powell.  ‘That was fun to play with.  Basically, I overdressed them.  They went one step too far with what they were wearing–without becoming a visual mess.  I dressed them identically, like twins, except for the colors:  if one was in pink with green trim, the other was green with pink trim.  Exactly the same outfit, the same print, but in different colors.

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” ‘I thought I had an original idea; then I looked back at the animated film, and that’s what the Disney artists did,’ Powell sighs.  ‘I thought I’d forgottten all about the Disney cartoon, until after I had designed this Cinderella and saw there were quite a few similarities.  I think they were unintentional, ut maybe they were subliminal.  But in the animation, no one changes their clothes much.  In our fim, the stepsisters and stepmother change every five minutes.’  [Solomon, p 168]

“The actresses who portray Anastasia and Drisella were delighted with their over-the-top outfits.  ‘The sisters,’ costumes are amazing:  they’re really beautiful, but they’re a little bit too garish, or the lengths of the skirts are not quite right, or the way the toes of the shoes turn up,’ says Grainger.  ‘Something’s not quite right with their taste.’

” ‘I’ve never had a job where I ‘ve had so many costumes.  I know that a lot of them are supposed to be in bad taste, but I love all my costumes,’ agrees <cSjera/

Beomg wotj Jp;;odau amd javomg pir ,atcjomg pitfots om dofferemt cp;prs jas beem sp fimmu’ we love everything Sandy puts us in.’ ” Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, pgs. 168-69.

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“For the prince, Powell says, the brief was simple:  ‘Make him handsome.’  ‘Of course, I had a handsome actor to begin with,’ she adds.  ‘But I added sparkles.  The prince is military looking.  There’s nothing more attractive on a man than a really beautifully fitting uniform.  He looks very dashing.  I wanted him in light blues and greens and whites, as opposed to more somber, masculine colors.’

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“Madden found the uniforms affected his performance as the prince.  ‘The costumes are so intricate and detailed.  I’ve had so many fittings, trying colors and textures; then the tailor goes away and makes them with Sandy,’ he explalins.  ‘They have a romantic feeel that’s also masculine.  They affect the way I move, the way I stand, the way I sit on y horse.  These things become very useful for me as an actor to work at how the character holds himself.’ ” Solomon, p. 171.

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“The iconic glass slipper proved more problematic in real life than it had in illustrations or animation.  ‘We made shoes of real crystal, which in reality, no one can wear, not even Cinderella.  Crystal has no flexibility, so you can’t actually fit your foot into it,’ says Powell.  ‘The shoe we created out of crystal is the shoe that’s held and passed around.  It’s the shoe that peole try to get their foot into.  When we see the shoe on Cinderella’s foot, it’s the visual effects version.  We made leather shoes she could actually wear that were the same shape, thenvisual effects magically transformed them into the glass slippers.’

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” ‘The glass slipper is where I got the idea I might not be the best fairy godmother,’ says Carter with a laugh.  ‘If you think about it, it’s compleltely impractical, uncomfortable, and un-walkable-in. [Solomon, p. 171]  But I’m good at shoes.  The shoes are the only thing that last beyond midnight.  Everything else turns back.’

“Madden found the glittering slipper useful–and disconderting.  ‘Im terrified of the glass slipper because it’s worth about $10,000.  People hand it to me to use in the scene; they’re wearing white gloves and I have my bare hands,’ he confesses.  ‘I’m walking about the set terrified that I’m going to drop it.  As an actor, it helps me there’s actually a glass slipper I can pick up and be in awe of–then look at Cinderella and be not surprised that she’d wear this amazing slipper because she is who she is.’ ”  Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, pgs. 171-72.

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Kenneth Branagh Is Director of the 2015 Cinderella

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“As a director, Branagh has made an array of notable films, from the pastoral version of Much Ado About Nothing to the blockbuster action hit Thor, before coming on to Cinderella.  All the filmmakers share an enthusiasm for Branagh’s intensity, fleibility, and vision.  Supervising art director Gary Freeman says, ‘When Ken came on board, the art department presented him a conext for the film.  Fortunately he fell in love with it.  He’s a very precise man, very practical.  His attitude wasn’t, I’m the king of th ecastle, and this is what I want.’  He worked with us.’

“Grainger is even more enthusiastic in her recocclections:  ‘For the audition, we spent about an hour with Ken jsut playing: trying it really theatrical and melodramatic, trying it subtler, trying the comedy.  It felt like an acting workshop with Kenneth Branagh.  Actors would pay a fortune for that hour!  When it came to rehearsals, Ken, Sophie, and I sat down and talked about potential backstories of the characters and tried to find psychological realism for the roles.  He’ll often let you bring what you want to a scene, but then his notes are really specific.  He’s always interested in adding the psychological realism to the characters, and knowing our reasons for doing things.’

” ‘It’s a behemoth, the legacy of a Disney classic and a classic fairy tale there are such expectations,’ says Blanchett thoughtfully.  ‘Kenwas able to find the tone of the film, at once sweet and delightful, but also sinister.  He was [Solomon, p. 132] able to arness the domestic moments between the characters, and the grand moments.  He’s got a wonderful sense of rhythm as a director.  You knew you were in safe hands.  Being such a great actor, he’s very good using the rehearsal time in the morning.  He’s able to incorporate everyone’s process, and make it feel like a collective effort.’

“Branagh’s experience on both stage and screen enabled him to help Madden flesh-out the personality of the prince.  ‘I realized that we were going to have to create a character from scratch that had never been understood properly before,’ Madden adds.  ‘Ken challenges me as an actor every day, and challenges the way I’ll play a scene.  We have these great days on set where we play around with the scene and do it in many different ways, which really frees you up.’ ”  Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, pgs 132-33.

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The Stepsisters in 2015 Cinderella

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“For the stepmother’s spoiled daughters, the filmmakes decided to keep the names the Disney artists had invented:  Anastasia and Drisella (spelled with an “s” as opposed to a “z” as it had been for the 1950 fillm).  But they insisted that the girls, like the stepmother, had to have more depth than traditional versions of the story provided.” Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, p. 128.

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“Holliday Grainger, who appeared as Estella in Mike Newell’s adaptation of Charles Dickns’s Great Expectations, was chosen as one stepsister.  ‘The Disney fairy stories are such an important part of most kids’s growing up–Beauty and the Beast was always my favorite,’ the actress says.  ‘In  Cinderella, I play Anastasia, whom I’ve decided is the younger, pretty one to Disella’s not=that=cleve one.  They both have such a lack of self-confidence that comes out in jealousy and selfishness.  It’s not their fault the’re not that attractive or talented, and that no one wants to marry them.

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” ‘Finding backstories is all about finding motivations for your character, what makes them do the things they do,’ Grainger continues.  ‘The stepmother and the stepsisters have the feeling of a wolf pack.  The stepmother is the head honcho; Anastasia and Drisella look to her for approval.  They do the things they do to get approval from the master of the pack.’

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“Sophie McMcShera, whom viewers know as Daisy, the ambitious kitchen maid in Downton Abbey, plays Drisella.  ‘The name “Cinderella” is a stroke of genius of mine,” she says.  ‘[The stepsisters] brainstorm over breakfast for mean names they could call her, and Drisella comes up with Cinderella.  I hope we provide a bit of comic relief and aren’t just vile.  We are pretty vile, but we look ridiculous, so we can’t help but feel a bit sorry for us somethimes.’

“The two actresses clearly enjoyed playing off each other, and became close friends.  Each woman is quick to praise the other’s talent, and speaks fondly of the bond they’ve developed.  ‘Soophie’s got such comic timing, she’s funny in everyday life,’ says Grainger.  ‘On set, we spend hours together [Solomon, p. 129] getting ready.  Ken likes us to do improvisation.  As a result, Sophie and I have developed a rapport:  we have to overlap our words, finish each other’s sentences, and drag eachother arou;nd, be silly on set.’

” I’ve had so m;uch fun working with Holliday,’ McShera replies.  ‘It’s been so nice to bounce off somebody, and she’s really funny and clever.  It swould have been weird if I had met my sister and we hadn’t got on, because we’ve spent every hour together.  I’m getting separation anxiety , because we’re about to finish, and she’ll go back to Manchester.’ ” Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, pgs. 129, 132.

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In the 2015 Cinderella, Richard Madden Plays the Part of Prince Charming

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“When it came time to cast the prince, Branagh, who has played clashing heroes from Benedick and Hamlet to Sir Ernest Shackleton, had definite ideas about how to flesh-out the character.  ‘We make him a pragmatic realist in a messily political world.  We give the prince a problem, but we make him a thinking man and a feeling man, not just a handsome sap.  He has to prove himself the spiritual and moral equal of Cinderella, with her depth of feeling and uderstanding’

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“The  challenging assignment was given to Scottish actor Richard Madden, who won the attention of viewers as robb Stark in the hit cable TV series Game of Thrones.  As it turned out, Madden was already well versed in the Disney animation legacy:  ‘There are so many amazing Disney moments I love:  when Aladdin takes Jasmine on a magic carpet ride; when Simba’s raised up above all the other animals.  From Cinderella, I remember clearly from my childhood the moment when yo see Cinderella crying.  It’s really moving how they capture these moments through animation.’

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“Madden understood Branagh’s desire to make the prince a more comlex character.  To prepare for the role, Madden explains, ‘I read a lot of books about bein a young ruler and being unprepared for it.  I tried to read the books I imagined that the prince would have read at the time, including Machiavelli’s The Prince.  That was one intellectual way I was trying to understand this young man.’ Solomon, p. 125

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“After seeing the two leads interact on camera, Branagh was deeply satisfied with the layers that their acting lent ot the characters:  ‘The performances of both Lily James and Richard Madden have intelligence, depth, and complexity in the way they react to things, in the way they carry themselves, in the way they present a weight of thought.  These are people you sense feel deeply, but [they] also have enormous capacity for fun and kindness.’

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“Of their on-screen chemistry, Madden comments, ‘I love the relationship between the prince and Cinderella; there’s so much humor in it.  It feels modern in terms of how they connect with each other.  The scenes where the prince and Ella speak to each other properly for the first time have a very teenage feel to them.  You don’t know how to talk to each other; you reall like someone, but you don’t quite know if they like you back.  The story lends itself to the element of insecurity that comes with a new relationship.   It get very confusing but very real.’

“The filmmakers wanted to deepen the personalities and explore the backstories of all the characters in the story, not just the hero and heroine.” Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, pgs. 125-26.

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Helena Bonham Carter is the Fairy Godmother in the 2015 Live-Action Cinderella

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“Helena Bonham Carter has played the romantic Lucy Honeychurch in A Room With a View,

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 Bellatrix LeStrange in the Harry Potter films,

and Queen Elizabeth in The King’s Speech, for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress.   As she and Branagh have been friends for years, the casting process was simple: ‘Ken texted me and said, ‘Would you like to play the fairy godmother?[  It sounded like a good idea, and it was as simple as that.

” ‘Playing the fairy godmother was fun, but it’s a bit like reinventing the wheel:  You think, ‘Why did she make a carriage, and where does she get the mice and why should it be a pumpkin?’  she reflects.  ‘I came up with the idea that she might not be a totaly efficient fairy godmother.  They’re late for the ball and sh’s incredibly old, so she’s not quite with it mentally.

” ‘I started off as an old beggar woma; it took them four hours to make me look about a thousand years old,’ she continues.  ‘It took about five hours [Solomon, p. 124] to make me look like a fairy godmother.  She’s basically what a five-year-old would think is a perfect fairy godmother–which might not be what everybody else thinks is perfect.’ ” Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, pgs. 123-24.

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