WonderCon 2012: Director Rupert Sanders Talks 'Snow White and the Huntsman'

Monday, 26 March 2012 21:12 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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WonderCon 2012: Director Rupert Sanders Talks 'Snow White and the Huntsman'

First time feature film director Rupert Sanders brought his highly anticipated re-imagining of the Classic Brothers Grimm fairy tale Snow White to WonderCon 2012 in Anaheim, California this year and the film received an enthusiastic response from fans and critics alike. Snow White and the Huntsman, which opens in theaters on June 1st retells the iconic tale in what has been described as “Lord of the Rings-style” starring actress Kristen “Don’t call me Bella” Stewart (The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1) in the title role.

The film’s impressive cast also includes Academy Award-winner Charlize Theron (Young Adult) as the Queen, Chis Hemsworth (Thor) as the Huntsman, and actors Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), Johnny Harris (Atonement), Bob Hoskins (Who Framed Roger Rabbit), Toby Jones (The Hunger Games), Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), Brendan Gleeson (The Guard), Ray Winstone (Edge of Darkness), and Nick Frost (Attack the Block) as the Dwarves, which there are now eight of.

After the Snow White and the Huntsman presentation and panel, which featured some of the first footage to be seen from the film, as well as stars Kristen Stewart, and Charlize Theron, director Rupert Sanders had a chance to speak with IAR and several other members of the press about the upcoming film, the classic story it is based on, the cast, magic, and the possibility of a sequel.

The director began by talking about the mood and tone of his interpretation of the classic Grimm fairy tale. “I'm not a young man anymore but I feel like they're the things that excite me of the moment. I think what we're trying to do as filmmakers is make a big, gritty, raw, epic movie and within that show things graphically in a way that they haven't been seen in that world before,” explained Sanders. “It was really nice to find new ways of telling the story. I think that everything in there comes from the story, all the visual effects, and all the ideas. They come from how do we show the mirror man, what does the mirror man look like, what does he mean to the character, what does the character mean to him and just more rich tapestry that you can build in that world.”

“One of the first things that I did was I went out and found a group of fifteen contemporary artists around the world and I'd give them an idea, and they'd start to sketch it,” the director continued. “I'd call them again, we kept up this kind of constant accumulation of imagery in which we created a bible. Then everyone who came into the film, I made them read the bible, understand the world and understand the mechanics of the world, the physics of it, why the dark forest is what it is, why the enchanted forest is. What is the spell? What are the three drops of blood? What's the symbolism? What's the mythology? So once everyone had that, I think they really were able to go into a very rich world that was already kind of designed for them. Knowing that, I think as an actor is like getting into costume. Once you know the world you know how your character fits into it.”

I followed up on the director’s comments by confirming that he actually created a new mythology around the Snow White world rather than just adapting the film straight from the original source material. “I took inspiration from everywhere and, you know, I actually haven't seen the Walt Disney one because I didn't want to be tarnished by it. I've read that book a lot. I've looked at a lot of other filmmakers like Roman Polanski's Macbeth, and I watched Kingdom of Heaven. I was just trying to find different ways not making a big commercial fairy tale movie. I wanted to make a big kind of Lawrence of Arabia, a kind of medieval tale and that's really what I think the film is.”

Next, Sanders was asked about the magical aspect of the story and, besides the mirror, how much magic would actually be involved with the plot of the film. “There's quite a lot. There's a great sequence in the Dark Forest, which is really a forest that plays on the mind. Snow White runs in and she falls into a patch of spore-like puffball mushrooms that are hallucinogenic. She falls into that and instantly the trip starts to take her and she's like trying to run away but then the whole forest starts to turn in on her,” he explained. “There's a lot of magical realism in there, there's a lot of great symbolism in the Enchanted Forest. We created a world that was protected by the Dark Forest where the Evil Queen's poison hasn't reached and that's where the magical fairy tale exists, where there are still fairies and strange creatures. So it's a very rich journey, you go into so many different worlds and see so many different things and hopefully every scene you go to there's a new discovery of something else that is happening.”

The director also spoke about casting Oscar winner Charlize Theron as the film’s antagonist. “I think what she did so well and what we really all felt was the best kind of root for the character was that she wasn't playing pure evil. I don't think anyone's born pure evil, things happen to them growing up that make them who they are and I think that's very true with her back-story that you see later in the film,” Sanders explained. “She plays evil because we can relate to her, because we understand he things she's gone through and why she's become evil. She's not just sitting around with a white cat on her lap and hacking people's heads off. Her evil comes because of how distorted the character has become. So she plays it very real and I think that's sort of really the success of the character; that she's incredible to watch.”

Sanders went on to talk about the controversial casting of Twilight star Kristen Stewart as the movie’s title character. “I think we were looking for someone who was obviously a great actor first and foremost but also someone who's incredibly physical. Outside of Twilight, which everyone just thinks she is Bella for some reason, I think she's such a good actor and that she encompassed that role so well that people think that's how she is. When you meet Kristen, she's so far away from that character. I saw her first in Into the Wild and I was really blown away. I remembered that she was the girl from Panic Room, The Runaways, and now On the Road. She's one those actors who does this and then she does these big movies and she's really managed her career so well in that. She's incredibly spirited and very kind of wild and also she's got this kind of alchemy to her. You're not quite sure what it is about her but on screen she's just incredible. When you start turning and you see her act you realize why she is such a huge movie star and why she's going to continue to get bigger.”

The director was also asked why he thinks this particular fairy tale has withstood the test of time. “Look, it's one of those stories that is about human condition. It's about so many of those emotions that we go through. Jealously, the way we look. I think in a way it's gone more relevant today than it was early on,” said Sanders. “Everything is so image-obsessed and I hope it does what those fairy tales did to those audiences in the fourteen hundreds. I hope it has the same lesson in life to our young people. It teaches you a lot of how to cope with the human condition, how to cope with death basically. They're big ideas, all of those fairy tales, and they're kind of crafted in a way that people love to hear them but they're taking something subconsciously about the human condition what I think is great. It's nice to be able to work with something like that rather than something kind of vacuous or beauty-orientated.”

Finally, I asked Sanders if the film is a self contained story or if he has plans for a sequel or possibly a trilogy, if the first film were to be a success. “Yeah, look, I think it would be really rude to kind of leave the "to be continued." It's it own story. If there's a desire for people to want to continue with those characters, there will be. They're such great characters, they're so well played and the world can only keep expanding,” he confirmed. “I think when you make a sequel and then a trilogy, the first film is really the first toe in the water and it's kind of discovering the world. Then you can really start to get deeper into that sort of world. We've got so much stuff that we didn't even use in the film, there's so many ideas so we'll see.”

Snow White and the Huntsman attacks theaters on June 1st. 

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