“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’
“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.’
“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
“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.’
“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.