It’s a film that’s dividing audiences but I’m a big fan of Snow White & The Huntsman. Director Rupert Sanders was in Sydney for the Australian premiere and I was lucky enough to get 10 minutes with him to talk about the movie and his background...
You can listen to a quick extract from the interview by clicking here.
Matt: I know you’ve won a string of award directing commercials. I’m guessing you always saw it as a lead in to one day making feature films?
Rupert: Yeah, it’s kind of the next progression really. It’s a similar art form but you’re just dealing with a different dynamic of time.
Matt: From my outsider’s viewpoint, you’d usually start off a lot smaller than a $170m blockbuster. How did you get approached about this movie?
Rupert: I’ve never done things according to the book. I’ve been a bit of an outsider in that respect. I was lucky enough to be offered this script and my instincts were the same of the producers in terms of where the material should go. We worked on the script and put together a visual package which we took to the studios and ultimately sold to Universal. I made a three minute film based on what I wanted to do with the feature film and that was what I took back to the studio to show them what the film could be. They were blown away and it ultimately became the blueprint for the first trailers that came out.
Matt: With so much money at stake, I’m guessing the studio was a little nervous. We always hear stories about the influence of studios and overbearing producers. Did they lay down many ground rules or did you have a lot of creative freedom?
Rupert: I had a lot of creative freedom. They really trusted me and I think that three minute piece helped. We had a budget that we categorically agreed that we wouldn’t exceed and once they’d signed off, they let us go do it.
Matt: Now I’m not sure how it eventuated but there was another modern adaptation of the Snow White tale that was released earlier in the year – Mirror Mirror with Julia Roberts and Lily Collins. Did you always know that film was in production?
Rupert: Yeah, we did. We were kind of jostling for space between the two studios but Joe Roth, the producer, told me to make my own film and not worry about that.
Matt: The stand out performance for me comes from Charlize Theron. She’s just so good at playing the villain. Was she an easy casting choice?
Rupert: She was the first person that we talked about and the first person we ultimately went to with the project. She gives an amazing, powerhouse performance that is very grounded, very real and kind of psychotic. We also wanted to find some kind of empathy within her character and some kind of understanding of where she’s come from to become this person.
Matt: What about Kristen Stewart? I know a lot of people will forever know her from the Twilight franchise. How did you picture her in a role here that is quite different from Snow White?
Rupert: Through meeting her, you get to see that she’s not Bella Swan. She’s got the world on her shoulders at a young age and she’s very instinctive and exciting as an actor. I’d seen her in Into The Wild, Welcome To The Rileys and The Runaways that showed her incredible talent. She really changes her expectations in this film and I think people will see her in a different light.
Matt: There’s been a bit of controversy over the last few weeks with the casting of the dwarves. Instead of using short-statured actors, you’ve used some bigger names and make them look shorter with the help of CGI and camera trickery. One actor even said it was ““akin to black face”. What are your own thoughts on the subject?
Rupert: I think the controversy has been slightly overblown. I chose the best people for the roles and I was creating mythical dwarves where you can use whoever you want to be honest.
Matt: The look of the film is amazing with so many huge sets and some great locations. The Dark Forest really got me though – was that a location or some kind of set?
Rupert: We built a set in a location. A lot of the forest work we did, we kept it outside so it had a realism in terms of light. We built trees inside of forests.
Matt: It was shot in the United Kingdom, is that right?
Rupert: Yeah. Everything was shot near Pinewood Studios.
Matt: We see fierce battle sequences, particularly near the end, with people on horses and fighting each other with swords. Try to give us some perspective – how hard are those scenes to pull off and how much work is involved?
Rupert: You’re lucky that you’re working with people who do this for a living. Their forte is horse riding and stunts falls and arrow hits. It’s about designing the most impactful sequences and figuring out how to put it on film in a way that makes it more intense and immersive. That was the real challenge for me.
Matt: With all the fighting that goes on, were there many injuries on set?
Rupert: You try not to. When people are falling off horses, they’re prepared for it and the ground has been laid properly for them. Whenever you’re on a film set though, there are a lot of moving pieces and it can be a dangerous place. You have to be very careful about people’s safety.
Matt: So many big blockbusters these days are being shot in 3D. Was that a consideration with Snow White & The Huntsman? Why did you choose 2D?
Rupert: I think we wanted to do something more “paintfully”. We shot on 35mm anamorphic and we wanted to do something that harkens back to paintings of that era rather than really bright and sharp images.
Matt: I’m already hearing word of a sequel given the strong opening of this film in the United States. Where is all of that at?
Rupert: I’ve started sketching out ideas with David Koepp who is the screenwriter.
Matt: And so what is planned next? Will the focus be on a Snow White sequel or are you pursuing other projects?
Rupert: I’ve got a few projects that are all circling. I actually need to take a little holiday before getting back into battle.
You can read my review of Snow White & The Huntsman by clicking here.