It’s one of the first blockbusters of the year to hit theaters. Opening in Portugal this Thursday, May 27th, “Cruella” stars Emma Stone as the famous (and iconic) villain of the “101 Dalmatians” in a story that explores their origins to explain it all what shaped them and shaped life.
The film was made by Craig Gillespie – the filmmaker who directed “Me, Tonya” for example. The cast also includes names like Emma Thompson, Paul Walter Hauser, Mark Strong, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Joel Fry. The story takes place in the London punk era, at a time marked by creativity and rebellion, and shows that the protagonist had a particularly difficult childhood and adolescence.
Most of the action takes place in adulthood and focuses on a major confrontation in the fashion world: between a renowned stylist (and one who has a connection to her traumatic past), the Baroness; and Cruella, a kind of alter ego for this young woman who is really called Estella, who is the new stylist of the moment, innovative and disruptive.
It’s a huge production with a budget of around 160 million euros that has involved hundreds of professionals. NiT reveals some numbers that serve to give an idea of the scale of this production – which has been highly acclaimed for work on wardrobe, characterization, and scenarios.
In addition to the opening in theaters on May 27th, you can watch the film at home from Friday May 28th. You must have an active Disney + account and pay a surcharge of € 21.99. It will eventually be available to all subscribers to the streaming platform at a later date. NiT was at a press conference speaking to director Craig Gillespie. Read the interview.
What attracted you to this film?
I got a call from Sean Bailey, who was in charge of Disney’s creative department, and I had worked on one or two of her films in the past before “Me, Tonya”. And he called me out of the blue and said, what do you think of Emma Stone who plays Cruella in ’70s punk in London? And me: that’s very fascinating [risos]. And I already loved the idea of working with Emma Stone. When I received the script I thought there was a lot to understand about how we were going to do it and that was intimidating. And then there was Tony McNamara who wrote “A Favorita”. I worked with him on something else and then he got really excited.
When a villain receives such an origin story, the question of sympathy is always relevant to the character. In this case, we know that he is a person who at some point in their life will try to kill dogs. What was it like turning a vicious character into a complex heroine in an almost cartoonish fashion?
Rogues are always more fun. And in this case we have two bad guys. I was trying not to have sympathy, but to have empathy for them. As long as we were able to show the choices she makes … We may not agree with them, but we could understand where they come from, where this anger comes from, their marginalization, the oppression, who they are as a person I hope people don’t want to do the things she does, most of them are illegal [risos]but i think you can root for it. And it’s interesting because she’s facing the Baroness, another villain in the movie, and the worse we’ve made her the better we can understand why Cruella is like this. And there was a great dynamic during the film.
Was it necessary to move away from some of the more vicious aspects of what she will do in the future, like being a dog killer? Although there is already evidence of this in this film.
I think the only rule we had in this movie is that we couldn’t kill dogs [risos]. But it wasn’t an issue, we argued on these two strong women who were facing each other trying to overthrow the other in their careers. And then it was: How do we pay homage? [aos filmes de animação]? Everyone is waiting for it. And I think there was this brilliant idea of … sometimes it’s better to be what people want you to be. So that you can use this to your advantage.
For which audience did you make this film?
It’s probably not the right answer, but I made this film for myself. I’ve reached a point where I want to do things that I really want to see. And be excited to see it in a movie theater on a Saturday night. And so I was constantly looking for ways to make this fun and surprising. And she used the interpretations of these two strong women. That same day we improvised and added things and tried to take a little more risk. Obviously this is under the Disney house, we have to consider the age classification. But I think as long as we can do something that is really fun and entertaining, it will find its audience.
Was there a discussion with Disney considering the tone of the film?
No, they have always been great supporters. Obviously there is a very tragic situation that happens in the first act – but from the moment it happens it opens the horizon for the rest.
What was it like to think about the soundtrack that contains so many songs?
I selected many of them from my own cell phone [risos]. I collect 1,400 songs and listen and listen, regardless of the decade, that create an emotional connection with me, and as soon as I start recording I keep editing … And the day I record the scenes, I put songs on top to try. And there is a scene where I suggested Emma when she came to have a drink and got off the elevator … Let’s put Nancy Sinatra’s “These boots are made for walking” with her singing. And we did a take and it’s in the movie. An attempt was made to keep things spontaneous and fresh.
How was it to combine the genres of comedy, horror and action while adapting to a real Disney character?
I know it sounds crazy, but it’s where I feel most comfortable: convincing others that it will work. It was a lot of work to find actors who could master the tone, but it was also a credit to writing the scenes. There is a scene where she talks about her mother’s death and the baroness … in the text it is difficult to read and understand how this is understood emotionally. But the actors were really good at setting the tone.
Obviously this is a huge production. What do you think was the biggest challenge?
I am very greedy when it comes to getting as much as possible, whatever it is. Regardless of the size, it’s never enough. In this case we had 65 days and my assistant told me at the end of production: We made almost 270 scenarios. That means we lit a scene every 25 minutes. The actors are amazing, I knew they could do it and they were always very well prepared, but the pace at which we made this film was a little crazy …
There are certain themes that we can find in both “Cruella” and “Me, Tonya”. There is a common visual style, a rhythm, and even Paul Walter Hauser participates in both. Two women are brought to the margins of society. Was there a big dialogue with Me, Tonya on your mind when you were making this movie?
After inviting myself, after doing “Me, Tonya” I thought they knew what to expect. I brought my cameraman and approached Cruella like we were doing an independent film. With the same energy. I didn’t want to get away from it. And when they called me they referred to “Me, Tonya” with the question of music, how to use clash often. And I’ve been thinking about the whole movie with music. There are about 50 songs there. And it’s something you need to prepare because the camera movements have to work around that. Basically I learned from what I did in “Me, Tonya” and used it in one version for 13 years [risos].