The Art of Random Willy-Nillyness: Interviewing Cinderella ~ Lily James #CinderellaEvent
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Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Interviewing Cinderella ~ Lily James #CinderellaEvent

Disclosure: I attended the #CinderellaEvent and my expenses: flight, accommodations, transportation and some meals were covered by Disney. All opinions, however, are 100% mine.

I cannot imagine a more perfect Cinderella than Lily James. She is so beautiful and so enchanting that I think this movie without her would not have been as good as it is. She is perfection as Cinderella.

We were fortunate to speak with Lily about her role in Cinderella. How she got the role. What the role means to her and to young girls. How her work on Downton Abbey helped he in this role. She also talks about The Dress! That amazing dress!

Q: How did you prepare yourself, leading up to the beginning of filming to be Cinderella? 

Lily James (LJ): First of all I started horse riding lessons because I’d never ridden before. When I first met Ken early on after he cast me he was like, ‘so, how do you feel about horse riding?’ and I was like, ‘great, um.’ I had to [ride] bare back as well so I was going, every time, every second I wasn't filming Downton [Abbey], I was at this farm learning to ride. Then I did yoga, to sort of try and feel in my body and, you know, graceful and breathe properly.

That was physically and then I was just working on the script on back-story. When I met with Ken he was like, ‘I want to know, does Ella sleep with the blinds open or closed, what does she dream about, you know, what’s her favorite food.’ He wanted to know, for me to know all those details so that I could sort of just exist on set being her.

Q: What would you tell young girls today that your character Cinderella, how is it relevant to them? What is the message that Cinderella has for them today? Because it is a bit of an old fashioned, some would say, out of date message.

LJ: Yeah, well, I think with our film, it was being really faithful to the fairytale. This is a girl that’s not sitting around waiting for a prince to come and save her. She’s got this unbelievable strength and it doesn’t come from fighting; it comes from within. She has the strength [it] is her courage and her kindness. If she has that, she can, in a way, deal with what life throws at her.

By being this person that, she’s being the best version of herself. And with such an open heart when she does meet the prince not knowing who he is, he falls for her because she’s a strong, powerful, and beautiful from within woman. That’s the idea.

Q: Can you tell us about your experience with the dress? Can you tell us about, you know, how you felt when you first saw it, you tried it on, what it was like.

LJ: The dress is insane. I put it on and I felt like Julia Roberts [in Runaway Bride], it was just the best feeling ever. I was so nervous about this bit of the movie because it’s the bit where she’s the princess. It’s like the moment, you know, and, and I think, ‘how can anyone live up to that?’

Really, you know, it’s this fairy tale, it’s this sort of thing that’s very far removed from me. And then I put on that gown and I just felt transformed and it felt like a suit of armor. It was really hard to wear and it was incredibly tight and incredibly it had a life of its own.

Q: Was the dress heavy?

LJ: Yeah, it was really heavy. It was like crazy heavy and it pulled down on my waist and it was also, it took about twenty minutes to get in and twenty minutes to get out. [LAUGHS] It was kind of cool because it was almost like a ritual every morning. The only thing was if I needed to toilet. [LAUGHS] You’re always so rushed when you’re filming so it would be like a forty minute break, so the crew would be like, ‘god, where’s Lily?’

Me and Helena had same problem so in the end, we had these like port-a-loo’s that we’d like put under us. [LAUGHS] And it was like the most unglamorous thing ever. So Helena and I would sometimes be in our tent and be next door and be both using the port-a-loo’s at the same time. [LAUGHS]

Q: So, next to the dress you think about the glass slipper. How was that? Were they comfortable? Were they really made out of glass?

LJ: They were really made out of Swarovski crystals, so, even more amazing. They’re so beautiful but I hate saying this, they don’t fit any human foot.

Q: How did you feel during the dancing? Did it feel like you were really at a ball?

LJ: The dance switched from being the most, sort of beautiful, romantic moment of my life, to being one of the most stressful and hardest. Because the dress was so heavy. It ripped if Richard looked at it, it was so delicate. [LAUGHS]

And I had a complete nervous breakdown. He had to like ice skate so he didn’t step on it. He had to like slide his feet. And, and, you know, five minutes later, the skirt would catch up. There was a few takes where we ran it like real time so I would start outside the doors, I’d knock on the doors, I came in, I walked down the steps, the music started, I walked towards Richard and we danced.

And, Ken didn’t say it but he let it run right until the end of the whole, like where we run out of the ballroom and because we didn’t know who was going stop or not. It was really, it was lovely, it was such a special moment. And then, these like big burly guys in the crew would like come over with tears in their eyes and we were like, ‘guys, come on stop.’ [LAUGHS]

Q: What was the most emotionally difficult scene to shoot?

LJ: The stuff at the start was hard and even the stuff watching with the younger me. And last night, one of the little girls came up to me at the end and she was like, ‘it’s so sad, both your parents died.’ I was like, ‘I’ve got the mice and the prince.’ Those scenes were really hard. The scene where the farmer comes and tells me the news. And there was a bit in shooting when I felt like I was crying all the time.

I felt like is this a fairy tale or is this a tragic drama? I found those bits hard but also it elevated the rest because it felt that she deserved it you. The magic and the beauty and the romance, you know, she’d earned that by that point.

Q: [I was] wondering if you’re role of Lady Rose played any part in who you are in this film.

LJ: Yeah, from doing the period there’s a way that you stand and there’s a sort of an etiquette and a grace. From the animation there a few things and one of them was her physicality. In a real way for Cinderella to be graceful and I think it helped from doing Downton.

And I think, Ella influenced that series of Rose a bit. Rose became so nice, and I was like, oh no, have I got them mixed up?’

Q: What was your favorite film location? There was some really beautiful places.

LJ: Everything was at Pinewood but the forest was at the back of Windsor Castle in the park. So Ella’s family house, it was built, it was real in the back lot of Pinewood. Again, in the forest. And, so, the whole house, the garden the green house, the well, you know, the entrance, the carriage, the driveway, the walls to the house.

Everything was built. It was unbelievable. I used to walk around with music in my ears and just like stroll around the grounds and then the inside of the house was entirely built in the studio. Dante Ferretti sets are just out of this world. It was like the storybook just exploded into real life. And you kind of just had to exist in these, in these settings.

And there was a moment when they were building the ballroom and there were all builders in hard hats and I think they, you know, they had begun the marble staircase and the dance floor. And me and Richard were walking past and we went in and we went just started practicing the dance just in our own clothes with these guys in hats watching. And it was, it was really sweet.

Q: What was your initial reaction when you found out you got the role of Cinderella?

LJ: Ken rang me himself and I screamed so loudly I’m sure I burst his eardrum. He said “I want you to be my Cinderella.” I was on set and I screamed. And Laura and Michelle came running over and they knew I’d been doing this torturous audition process and they’re like, ‘what is it, what is it?’ And then Ken was like, ‘you’re not allowed to tell anyone.’ So, I was like, ‘oh, nothing, nothing.’ And then, later that day, Hugh Bonneville announced [it in] the Downton dining room table. It was really sweet.

Q: Do you have any of your dolls yet?

LJ: No but Helena texted me a picture of one last night.

Q: They're adorable.

LJ: Yeah. [LAUGHS] It’s so, so weird. Helena was like, ‘you're officially a Barbie doll.’ And then she put ‘love, FGM, your fairy godmother’ and wished me luck.

CINDERELLA opens in theaters everywhere on March 13th!

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