In recent years, critics have criticized the fairytale of Cinderella, saying that it is an unkind myth that teaches females that they themselves are weak and that they must hope for a “Prince” to save them. The 2015 live-action film stresses that Cinderella is saved by her own integrity and her own inner strength. She is not a victim.
“Branagh presented a clear vision of the qualities the actress playing Cinderella would have to express and embody.
” ‘Cinderella has a strong sense of humor and maturity. She assumed people don’t necessarily evil,’ the director explains. ‘She can turn the other cheek. She can find things funny. She can be happy with her surroundings.
‘She knows how to enjoy a sunny day without seeming like a simpering or precious individual. She is at ease with herself, and has a full sense of her own identity. She’s interested in other people and is naturally generous and unselfish. [p. 120]
‘These things are presented as expressions of strength, not weakness,’ continues Branagh. ‘We do indeed have her stand up to the stepmother: as in modern life, one might reasonably expect someone to eventually stand up to those who have done them wrong. We see her use her intelligence. We see her forgive. We present Cinderella as a distinctly strong individual whose spirit and maturity is her easy power. She is not a helpless or self-pitying victim. She is a very present, very positive, spiritual individual.’
” ‘Clearly, the role would be a complex, challenging one for any actress, let alone one young enough to be a credible Cinderella,’ Shearmur says, ‘There were so many boxes that neede to be checked: a purity, a goodness, an innocence. Someone you believe hasn’t yet falllen in love. Someone capable of tremendous compassion. A beauty, but a real beauty. In our process of finding Cinderella, we met with many different sorts of women, not just ones defined by the classic image of Cinderella in the animated classic. We were very interested in somebody who looked and felt like a real person.’
“After discussing the performances and potential of numerous ingenues, the filmmakers chose Lily James, A British actess known for her role as the rebellious and scandalously modern Lady Rose MacClare on the popular miniseries Downton Abbey.
James, who found the proospect of playing Cinderella [p.121] both frightening and exciting, reflects, ‘Everyone has a vision of Cinderella, whether it’s from the animated or live-action films or storybooks. You’ve got a big act to follow. It’s very scary. I did yoga to try to get the posture and grace, the elegance that Cinderella has. I watched every Disney movie involving a princess, and Cinderella loads of times. But at a certain point, you have to let go of the animation and embody it your own way.’
“Turning to the complicated relationship her character shares with the stepsisters, James continues, ‘I don’t think that Cinderella actually dislikes the sisters; she doesn’t understand them, and I think she pities them. She sees they’re unhappy, selfish human beings. She also finds them funny. But there’s certainly pain involved. She hates them at times, but she struggles with her feelings. She’s got strength.’
“Halfway throughfilming, James still hadn’t fully absorbed her fairytale reality. ‘Obviously every girl wants to be a princess, but to be a Disney Princess and Cinderella feels like it’s too much to believe,’ she sommented. ‘It’s a dream role, because she’s so specia, and kind, and unique.’
“Shearmur adds, ‘As a woman and the mother of a daughter, I think it’s fantastic that she’s a strong female character. Just because she’s kind and dood doesn’t make her weak. It makes her stronger. She believes in her herself and in the goodness of the world around her, and that allows her to succeed. We [p. 122] remember the legacy of the animated film, which people love. But more of the consideration was how do me not make this a story where a girl gets rescued by a guy who thinks she’s pretty, so she gets married and has a big house and allthese great things. The strength of the character is why I believe the story keeps being told.’ ” Solomon, A Wish Your Heart Makes, pgs. 120-122, 124]