Lily James Cinderella Interview | A Princess Makeover
When Lily James enters a room, you notice. The elegant gliding steps, an infectious smile, flowing wavy blonde hair…I definitely felt like I was in the presence of a fairy tale princess. Then she opens her mouth and this lovely English accent pours out like velvet. Yep, that’s Cinderella. Confident yet nervous and oozing with a “this is my first big film” glow, the Lily James Cinderella interview left me with sore smiling cheeks and a new founded respect for the girl in the glass slipper. Chatting with Lily gave me so much more insight into the modern day Disney Princess. A new message for today’s young girls, landing her first Disney princess role and dress malfunctions that would leave Cinderella speechless, we waltzed right into a really bubbly and bright interview.
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop of MomStart.com
What was your initial reaction when you found out you got the role of Cinderella?
You had to be there for this response. The hand motions, the scream, she really was IN the moment as she told us about the day she got the call.
“Ken rang me himself and I screamed so loudly I’m sure I burst his eardrum. And he said “I want you to be my Cinderella.” And I just, my heart (as she clutches her chest). I was on set and I screamed. And Laura and Michelle came running overand 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 at the Downton dining room table. It was really sweet.”
How did you prepare yourself, leading up to the beginning of filming to be Cinderella?
“First of all I started horse riding lessons ‘cause I’d never ridden before. And 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, ‘[GASP] great…’ And I had to bare back as well so I was going, every time, every second I wasn’t filming Downton, I was at this farm learning to ride. And then I did yoga to sort of try and feel in my body and [be] graceful and breathe properly. And then I was just working on the script, on back-story. When I met with Ken as well, he was like, ‘I want to know, does Ella sleep with the blinds open or closed, what does she dream about, what’s her favorite food.’ He wanted for me to know all those details so that I could sort of just exist on set being her.”
Favorite Filming Location
I couldn’t believe how detailed the sets were that Lily James described. Built from scratch.
“So, actually everything was at Pinewood but the forest was at the back of Windsor Castle. So Ella’s family house, it was built in the back lot of Pinewood. Again, in the forest. And so the whole house, the garden, the greenhouse, 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 stroll around the grounds, and then the inside of the house was entirely built in the studio. All of it, the ballroom, all built. 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 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 really sweet.”
THE Dress, because we are all obsessed with the dress.
We probably could have spent the whole interview just discussing this dress. It’s more delicate than you think.
“Me too [LAUGHS]. The dress is insane. When I first put it on, there’s a scene from Runaway Bride with Julia Roberts where she looks, she puts this dress on and she looks in the mirror and, I think Richard Gere is looking really handsome somewhere and she just goes like ‘swish, swish.’ She makes this sound. And I put it on and I felt like Julia Roberts, it was just the best feeling ever. [LAUGHS] I was so nervous about this bit of the movie ‘cause it’s the bit where she’s the princess. It’s like the moment, you know, and I think, ‘how can anyone live up to that?’ Really, 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 honor. But, [LAUGHS], it was really hard to wear and it was incredibly tight and incredibly…it had a life of it’s own basically.”
Cinderella Dress + Bathroom = ……..
I’m so glad that I wasn’t sipping my coffee at this point.
“Yeah, it was really heavy. It was like crazy heavy and it pulled down on my waist and it took about twenty minutes to get in and twenty minutes to get out. [LAUGHS] 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. [LAUGHS] 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]”
So, next to the dress you think about the glass slipper. How was that? Were they comfortable? Were they really made out of glass?
“They were really made out of Swarovski crystals, so, even more amazing. And they’re so beautiful but, sadly, I hate saying this, but they don’t fit any human foot.”
You could hear the record screech to a stop. What do I tell my princess about THE shoes?
How did you feel during the dancing? Did it feel like you were really at a ball?
You could tell how much pressure Lily felt during this ballroom scene.
“The dance switched from being the most beautiful, romantic moment of my life actually, to being one of the most stressful and hardest. Because the dress was so heavy and it ripped by basically if Richard looked at it, it ripped. It was so delicate. [LAUGHS] So we learned the dance. We were getting really smart, and we’d been doing it for months at Pinewood studios in London with these incredible choreographers. And then suddenly they were like, ‘okay, the dress’ and I just almost fainted, I thought, ‘the dress, of course, how are we gonna do this in the dress?’ And I had a complete nervous breakdown. [LAUGHS] Richard had to like ice skate so he didn’t step on it. He had to like slide his feet. And five minutes later, the skirt would catch up. [LAUGHS] But there were 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 ‘til the end of the hall, where we run out of the ballroom.”
What was the most emotionally difficult scene to shoot?
“The stuff at the start was hard and even the stuff [you’re] 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.’ And I was like, ‘I’ve got the mice and the prince.’ [LAUGHS] Those scenes were really hard. The scene where the farmer comes and tells me the news, that was. And there was a bit in shooting when I felt like I was crying all the time. I felt like, this is when they come up with my name and when I don’t believe anymore and it’s like, ‘God, is this a fairy tale or is this a tragic drama?”
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop of MomStart.com
A Hint of Lady Rose and Downton Abbey
Fans won’t be disappointed.
“From doing the period there’s a way that you stand and there’s a sort of an etiquette and a grace, I think that I wanted, I really wanted [Cinderella] to be, like. From the animation there a few things and one of them was her physicality like I wanted it. In a real way for Cinderella to be graceful and I think that it helped from doing Downton. But what was nice with Cinderella was that, there was a period but in the fairy tale world it was much looser, so I didn’t feel as bound by a sort of style.”
The final wedding gown, and a fire
I probably would have been heartbroken to witness this. And had I been Lily James, I would have had the same first reaction.
“That was all Sandy Powell. She’s amazing and that wedding gown, I feel like so sad that it was only in the film for like thirty seconds. I was like, ‘Ken, you’ve gotta shoot it from the back, you’ve gotta shoot it from the back.’ ‘Cause the flowers were hand painted and the detail that goes into these dresses. And that veil, and the crown, and actually we did the hair like how Cinderella in the animation wears it at the ball, so that was a kind of like little echo. And that dress I was doing a sort of photo shoot in it one day when we were so busy and I rushed in and we did the photos. And at Pinewood Studios it’s just, it’s England, and it’s cold and it’s miserable and gray. And I rushed in, I was so cold and I was walking past this heater and my skirt caught on fire. [LAUGHS] And I didn’t care about myself I was like, ‘the skirt!’ And it was all hand painted flowers and they had to redo, like a whole section of the skirt.”
Do you have any of your dolls yet?
No, but Helena [Bonham-Carter] texted me a picture of one last night. It’s so, so weird. [LAUGHS] Helena was like, ‘you’re officially a Barbie doll.’ And then she put ‘love, FGM, your fairy godmother’ and wished me luck.”
What would you tell young girls today about your character of Cinderella? What is the message that Cinderella has for them today?
“I think with the 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 or from what happens. It comes from within. And the strength is her courage and her kindness and if she has that, she can, in a way, deal with as best she can, what life throws at her. And by being this person, 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, beautiful from within woman. That’s the idea.”
Through the smiles and the lightheartedness and the laughter is a strong woman who is passionate about giving the Disney princess a modern makeover. No longer the damsel in distress waiting on a prince to rescue her, Lily James portrays a new Cinderella who’s just as strong as “the next guy.” With her own firm opinions, ideas and at the very depth of it all, heart, the 2015 Cinderella will have you believing that the Disney princess can have her own happily ever after. What an amazing interview with a star who’s just beginning her film career. And what a moment for us that we were able to interview, witness and absorb her first major film role with her. Interviewing Lily James was a highlight of my blogging career and is the perfect role model for young Cinderellas everywhere.
Disney’s Cinderella steps into theaters this Friday, March 13, 2015.
Have you been following along my #CinderellaEvent journey? Check out my own Cinderella Moments at the JCPenney Glam Ball and My First Red Carpet Experience. Stay tuned for more amazing of my Disney Cinderella interviews with Richard Madden (The Prince), Director Kenneth Branagh, Costume Designer Sandy Powell, and Frozen Fever Directors Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee.
- Check out my exclusive Cate Blanchett interview as we discuss what makes a Wicked Stepmother.
- Check out my exclusive Director Kenneth Branagh interview as we divulge the details and the story within the story.
- Check out my exclusive Frozen Fever interview as we get a behind the scenes peek with Directors Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee.
Disclosure ~ I was invited to attend an all-inclusive Disney media trip in exchange for this posting. All opinions are 100% my own. Be sure to follow Raising Whasians via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and YouTube for Disney movie updates, exclusive interviews and more.