“Everyone involved in Cinderella was eager to retell the well-loved story. But inevitably questions arose about how to present the fairy tale in a away that would appeal to modern audiences while retaining the elements that made it a favorite of generations of readers and filmgoers. [p. 113]
” ‘It’s not only the quintessential underdog story, it’s a story that says if you conduct yourself with kindness and dignity and courage in this world, you will be rewarded,’ says Bailey. ‘If you are brave and generous in the midst of cruelty, ultimately there is a good end for you. It’s tremendously affirming. The story releases something very emotional inside most people.
” ‘I think a lot of us go through a lot of change inthe modern era, things are not as reliable as they once were,’ Bailey continues. ‘Cinderella’ explores how to conduct yourself in times of tremendous adversity, so the story has resonance. Revisiting the Disney movie and [Charles] Perrault, going back to the original sources, was very rewarding. But we looked to Perrault more than the naimated picture. We paid pretty good attendtion to the Disney picture, but we said if we’re going to do the definitive version we need to go back to Walt’s source.’
“Although the story retains a relevance for contemporary audiences, society has undergone enormous changes since Perrault gave the tale its definitive form in 1697. A young woman who was perceived as dutiful and obedient in the late seventeenth century might strike twentypfirst-century viewers as a subservient doormat. But if the heroine abandoned her chores to take up the sword and fight injustice, no one would accept (or recognize) her as Cinderella.
” ‘The version of “Cinderella’ we’re doing is not revisionist,’ states Weitz. ‘She doesn’t learn kung fu. She doesn’t start her own business. She does what the character did in the fairy tale. If you’re not careful, that character can seem submissive to a modern audience that’s used to a different kind of heroine. The question was how to embody what we though was great and beautiful about the story and the heroine. For us it was a trememndous sense of purpose and honor and fortitude that you don’t see much in heroies these days.
” ‘For a modern audience, it’s very hard to figure out why Cinderella doesn’t run away and go to social services or something like that,’ he adds. ‘She satys in what we would think of as an abusive parental relationship. But she has a tremendous sense of duty and honor and keeping her promise hto her parents that prevails.’
” ‘The reason this story is told again and agin is ecause the character is defined by her kindness and goodness and generosity towards others; she doesn’t have to change those values to have her life work out in ways far better than she ever imagined,’ agrees Shearmur. ‘She can still be who she is, even though she’s tested by cruelty and unkindness. I think we all like to [p. 114] believe that goodness and kindness will win out at the end of the day. This story allows our protagonist to be treated and emergy the same pure, kind soul she was from the beginning.’
“As Bill Peet noted sixty-odd years earlier, when he was at work on the story for the animated feature, the audience knows how Cinderella will end befoe they walk into the theater. The trick is to tell the sotry in a way that’s so engaging,the viewers forget they know the outcome and worry about the heroine’s fate. ‘
“The filmmakers added a prologue depicting Cinderella’s happy childhood with her father and mother. Her mother dies when the girl is seven. On her deathbed, she asks Ella to promise she will have courage and be kind. Cinderella keeps that promise, even when her life darkens, first with the arrival of her stepmother and stepsisters, and then after the death of her father.
” ‘On her deathbed, her mother says to Ella, promise me that you’ll have courage and you’ll be kind, and you’ll be able to survive life without me. Ella lives by that promise,’ says Lily James, who plays Cinderella. ‘The father brings in a wife who’s not wicked, but who’s been battered by life. She needs to be supported. Ella’s gooodness versus her bitterness means that she begins to treat her like a servant. When Ella’s father goes off on his travels, the stepmother can’t cope with her goodness, so she abuses her.’ [. 115]
“Cinderella’s virtue and strength give her an independence and an autonomy that became central to the story. As Shearmur explains, ‘Something that Ken always talked about that was very importat to us is Cinderella would be fine if the prince found her. A major consideration was, ‘How do we not make this a story where a girl gets rescued by a guy?’
” ‘To fulfill this vision of ‘Cinderella,’ the artists had to expand the role of Prince Charming, who has traditionally been little more than a cipher.
” ‘In the animated film, he represented an ideal and the realization of a dream, but he wasn’t imbued with much personality. This prince had to have more depth and complexity or this Cinderela wouldn’t be interested in him.
” ‘ “Cinderella” is an inredible love story. We know from the original that the princes becomes so enamored of her, he’s determined o find her,’ says Bailey. ‘We had a lot of fun sitting around saying, “So what were the obstacles in his way?” Om amu great love story, both sides have tremondous obstacles to [p. 116] overcome in order to be together. It was really interesting to bring dimensions to the prince who had traditionally been a one-dimensional chaacter.’ …
” ‘We give our prince the sense of a man who has been in the wars, who knows in a very personal and meaningful way the cost of war,’ says Branagh. ‘He’s less shinily innocent than princes have been in the past. We give him pholosophical and political positions about how a country is ruled. He’s surrounded by people who suggest that countries are ruled effectively by having wars, claiming other coutries, and uniting kingdoms. He finds in Cinderella a kinded spirit who believes that the important thing is not to go to war with your fellow man, but to have courage, to be kind and generous, and, where possible, to turn the other cheek to see that as strength, not weakness.’ ” Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, pgs. 111-116. 120]