Here we are, cinemas are finally reopening and Disney is taking advantage of that with the release of the origin story of one of their own most villainess characters Cruella de Vil. A character who loves to turns Dalmatian skin into coats igniting fear in helpless dogs around the world, but what truly made Cruella the most stylish and predatory character of all time? Filmmaker Craig Gillespie, with the aid of Emma Stone as Cruella and her arch-nemesis The Baroness played by Emma Thompson, are about to suck you into their world to find out.
Set during the 1970s punk rock revolution in London, the story follows a clever and creative young grifter named Estella, who is determined to become a successful designer. After Estella befriends a pair of young thieves who appreciate her appetite for mischief, the three build a life for themselves on the London streets. Before long, Estella’s flair for fashion catches the eye of the Baroness von Hellman, a devastatingly chic and terrifyingly Haute fashion legend. But their relationship sets in motion a course of events and revelations that will cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the raucous, fashionable and revenge-bent Cruella.
During a virtual press conference for the feature director, Craig Gillespie revealed that there is always a reason for these villains to be the person we know, a certain event in their lives that had a detrimental effect on who they were and Stone’s Cruella isn’t just all black and white.
“Villains are always so fun to portray because you just have, you know, more license to do things that aren’t quite appropriate or push the boundaries, and create these larger-than-life characters. I wanted there to be this grey area and be able to empathize with the choices that she was making, and the situations that she was responding to. And I wanted to do it in a way that was really fun”.
Surprisingly, for a Disney feature, Cruella has some really dark moments, while as dark as you would expect them to go without going full-on psycho, Emma Stone stated her own surprise at the level of freedom both director and screenwriter Tony McNamara had.
“They really let Craig and Tony [McNamara] kind of write and make what they wanted to make. I don’t know, I think it’s definitely dark for a Disney movie, maybe not for a really intense kind of R-rated film. But yeah, it was-it was darker than I’ve seen a Disney movie for a good long time”.
Then we have Emma Thompson, stepping into the shoes of Cruella’s inspiration and this film’s antagonist. Thompson, who we rarely see in a villainous role absolutely, relished being able to play the bad guy for once.
“I drew on the life, obviously. I think if my husband were in the room, he’d say, no acting required, really. I had such fun doing her because I think I’ve been asking for quite a number of years if I could be a villain, a proper villain. I spent decades playing what my mother used to call, “Good women in frocks.” And, now I got to play a really evil woman in frocks. But, oh boy the frocks. I mean they wore me, actually, I had just the best, best time. Every time Em and I would come on set, we’d just look at each other and walk around each other like we were sculptures or works of art or something, which we were”.
This isn’t just all about Stone’s Cruella and Thompson’s The Baroness, we do have a third character and that would be the fashion. From start to finish, the costume creations from costume designer Jenny Beavan are a Fashion obsessive’s dream – they literally take on a life of their own. However, with an origin story inspiration for those designs has to come from somewhere and Beavan stated thanks to Glenn Close’s portrayal of Cruella in 1996’s 101 Dalmatians, that base was set.
“I think she comes out of the script and the story. We know where she ends up about 15 years later as, you know, Glenn Close, obviously, so there was definitely that in my mind, it had to just be possible that this character could become that character”. Beavan stated. “So of course I looked at Westwood, McQueen and Galliano, and BodyMap, and sort of dug into my past at Biba just trying to really find all those funny things that we loved.”
For Stone, the idea that this feature would ever get off the ground was sometimes a pipe-dream, having been 6 years and numerous ideas bounded about the excitement finally start to kick in when the right team were finally in place to bring this unexpected story to the big screen.
“It was six years ago. I mean, it was long before we shot the movie. There was sort of an idea. You know, Disney has all this IP, all these characters that they have, and there are sort of some brainstorms. It was a process of about four years and different writers and different things were brought to the table, and it really felt like we might not ever really make the movie of Cruella, because even though she’s such a fun and interesting character, what world would we want to explore her in that would really make sense and make a good film that didn’t feel shoehorned into this character. I sort of think taking her and putting her in the ’70s and she’s sort of-as much as she is Cruella from 101 Dalmatians, she’s not also, because you’ve taken this character and you’ve created this whole new story for her with fun nods to 101 Dalmatians, obviously, and all that. So, I think once Craig and Tony came on board, it really started to kind of fly and get very exciting, and it was like, oh my God, we’re making Cruella”.
Cruella hits UK cinemas on May 28th.