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interview: snow white and the huntsman

British filmmaker Rupert Sanders makes his feature film debut with the Hollywood epic, Snow White and the Huntsman starring Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart (who has recently been named Forbes Magazine’s highest paid actress) and Australia’s Chris Hemsworth. Courtney Dawson chats to Sanders about his experiences in the industry, what he based the casting process on, his thoughts on the immersion of 3D and the universality of this classic story.

How did you get into filmmaking?

I went to an art school in London and studied graphic design. It was an interesting course because it was about taking pages of an idea and making one image out of it – so I think my mind was always focused on image making. Then I went to America on a kind of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas tour and met Tony Kaye who was directing American History X. It was the first film set I’d been on, and I was really blown away.  After some commercial work, I got an agent and started to meet producers, studio heads and writers, and I read every script in Hollywood – nearly two-three hundred screenplays. Then I got a couple of projects that didn’t work out – but you just have to get back up again and go onto the next one. Then this came along. It seemed like a really great opportunity to do something that could be successful.

Were you a fan of the Brothers Grimm as a child?

I read them a lot – I loved the illustrations, the hidden visual meanings – the trees with faces and eyes – that kind of anthropomorphic world.

What was the biggest challenge tackling this film?

The original story is only seven pages long which is hard to sustain for two hours, so we had to create a world around that single, simple story. I wanted to honour that original story, while also making it appealing to a new generation of both sexes and all ages.

What was the casting process based on?

Charlize was the first to come on board. We saw in her this very strong, formidable presence. She’s got this incredible beauty, but was willing to go somewhere awful with it for the role. She’s a very talented actor and has that strength. For Snow White we were looking for someone who is decisive and modern. There is something very spirited about Kristen. She carries so much weight on her shoulders and she handles it in a very grown up manner. For just a 22 year old, it’s crazy. She’s an incredibly gifted actor, so she was the obvious choice.  Chris was a very athletic, well- trained, charming actor, but he was able to open up for this performance – there is a very emotional side to him which we haven’t seen before and that was thrilling to watch.

How important is star power for a film like this?

You want great actors in a big film. For the studios it’s very important because if they’re going to put $170,000,000 into a project they want some recognisability. We actually started looking for a no-name for the role of Snow White, but it didn’t work out.

The special effects are quite impressive – how long did you spend in post production?

Literally a third of the time was spent in post. We had 1300 visual effects shot in four months which is lunacy. I didn’t get much sleep.

Most of the big films today are being released in 3D – was this in the pipeline?

It was talked about. We didn’t really have the time though. We probably would have made a lot more money if we’d been in 3D – that’s the nature of the beast – especially in some territories where they only want 3D movies now as they make 20-30% more money. That’s why they keep plugging for it. It’s also harder to counterfeit – you can’t go into a cinema and film it. I’m not really a fan myself though. I think the hassle of wearing the glasses is not really worth it!

What is the message of the story in the end?

One of the messages that I really like, is the idea of the rose blooming against the defiance of the cold – that with badness all around you, you can still blossom in life. You only have one chance at it – you’ve got to be true to yourself and follow your own instinct. There are lots of underlying themes about the pursuit of beauty, moral tales that have been there since the original. But we didn’t want to make one message clear – like don’t have plastic surgery for example. I hope that people across the board take different meanings out of it. I hope it’s a film that delivers an emotional message.

Apart from the sequel which has already been announced, what’s next for you?

I have a few things cooking, bubbling over. I’m not sure which is going to go ahead first though. You need to have a few arrows in the quiver.

Snow White and the Huntsman is in cinemas now. Visit the Official Website for further information about the film here:

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