Adapting to the ever-changing times of modern society can be a challenging, but equally rewarding, process for anyone, especially those people who are steadfast in their traditional views. Golden Globe Award-nominated actor, Pierce Brosnan is giving a vulnerable, heartfelt performance as a conservative king whose family encourages him to change the way he rules his kingdom, in writer-director Kay Cannon’s new modernized adaptation of Cinderella.
The musical movie, which features covers of hit pop and rock songs from the past few decades, in addition to several original tracks, highlights the importance of society supporting suppressed people who strive to overcome any obstacle that stands in their way of obtaining their dreams. Cannon, who rose to fame in part for scribing and producing the female empowerment musical film series, Pitch Perfect, created a powerful character arc for Brosnan’s King Rowan in her latest project. The monarch is continuously reminded that he has to be more supportive of his family-and entire kingdom-choosing how they want to lead their lives.
Synopsis : Cinderella is a musically-driven bold new take on the traditional story you grew up with. Our heroine (Camila Cabello) is an ambitious young woman, whose dreams are bigger than the world will allow, but with the help of her Fab G (Billy Porter), she is able to persevere and make her dreams come true.
Brosnan and Cannon generously took the time last week to promote the distribution of the comedy during individual exclusive interviews over Zoom. Amazon Studios is releasing Cinderella this weekend exclusively on Prime Video.
Q: Kay, you wrote the new musical film, Cinderella, which is a modern adaptation of the classic fairytale. What was your inspiration in penning the script for the movie, and what was the scribing process like on the screenplay?
KC: Whens James Corden (who stars in, and served as a producer on, the film,) first approached me with the a Cinderella idea, I didn’t think anything was going to come of it because I wasn’t a fairytale type of gal. (Cannon laughs.) But I was a fan of James, so I was like, I’ll take this meeting. (Cannon laughs.)
James then pitched this idea of doing Cinderella with contemporary songs, and I liked that. I then asked him, “I can rewrite the Cinderella story and modernize it, and make it more relatable to how young women and girls, and really anybody, are viewing themselves today?” It was really exciting to me to be able to take all of the things that we love from the Cinderella story that are iconic, and also adjust and modernize some of the things that feel antiquated.
Q: Speaking of modernizing the story, Cinderella is notable for showing the importance of women choosing their life destinies. Why do you feel it’s important to make a modern-day fairytale that shows that people don’t have to give up on any element of their dreams?
KC: For all of the advancements that women have made over the generations, we’re still fighting recently for the same or equal rights. We’re still fighting to get paid equally to men.
It still feels extremely relevant to say that not only should everybody be able to dream, but they should also go after those dreams. You may think that that’s not something that needs to be told again, but is is. So it was really important to make Cinderella active, and show her confidence and belief in herself, and that she never gives up.
Q: In addition to writing the screenplay, you also directed the comedy. How did penning the script influence the way you approached helming the new screen adaptation? How would you describe your overall directorial style on the set?
KC: My directing style and philosophy is the best idea wins, and I don’t care where it comes from. (Cannon laughs.) I’m very collaborative; if the production design team pitches a joke and I think it’s funny, then it’ll go into the film.
I’ve been asked about why I think I could direct a big studio musical when I haven’t done that before. My answer is because I wrote it! (Cannon laughs.) Since I wrote it, I felt like I could see it, and felt like writing it was part of my prep for directing it. I write very visually, so I had in my head what I wanted it to look like.
I’m so grateful that they greenlit the movie and I got to make it, and people said yes to being in it. I got to make the movie I wanted to make, and it looks the way I wanted it to look, and I’m really excited about that.
Q: Cinderella stars an ensemble cast that includes Camila Cabello, Billy Porter and Nicholas Galitzine. What was the casting process like for the musical?
KC: With Camila, I flew to Miami to talk to her, tell her what my vision of the movie was and see if we were a good match, and we were. Once she said yes, it was like, game on, we’re making this movie. (Cannon laughs.)
Casting Billy Porter was super easy. Casting all the roles actually came easily in a really great way.
The hardest role to cast was actually the Prince because he had to fit all these different boxes. Nick had to be funny, sing Freddie Mercury, dance, ride a horse and have great chemistry with Camila, which was a lot! But I think Nick really nailed it, and I’m really happy he’s in the movie.
Q: Pierce, you play King Rowan in the new reimagining of Cinderella, which is a contemporary adaptation of the classic fairytale. What was it about the overall project that inspired you to take on the role?
PB: My good agent said, “I have a script for you; they offered you the role of King Rowan in Cinderella, which is being directed by Kay Cannon.” I had heard about Kay and her work, and I also thought this script was meaningful. I thought it had a beautiful embroidery of characters, story and originality, as well as sentimentality about family life.
That was all mixed up in this wonderful world of Cinderella, which has been around now for many generations. Those generations have seen the story of Cinderella, whose story I think goes back to the 17th century. What Kay had done with the story really engaged me to say yes.
I had also seen a few (music) videos from Camila, who is a wonderful artist and has a great voice; she’s a great singer, and she also has a wonderful presence. She holds every moment on the screen throughout the film.
This is a major film for Camila, and she had a great working relationship with Kay, who’s a magnificent director. Kay nourished Camila with love and affection, and they supported each other.
The film is full of magnificent ingredients; Minnie Driver played my Queen. She and I previously worked together, for the first time, on the James Bond movie, GoldenEye, so we’ve known each other for many years. So I just had a great time working on the film.
Q: Speaking of working with Kay as the director of the movie, what was your experience like of collaborating with her throughout the shoot?
PB: Well, I didn’t have a song in the film, so I said to Kay, “I have to sing. You have to give the king some kind of song.” So she came up with a song in which I have to woo my dear wife back because I’ve been rude. Kay also came up with this whole delightful scene in which I, King Rowan, go to the window of my Queen as a knight in shining armor and sing to her, which she tolerates.
Hopefully everyone has good fun listening to the song. It was a lovely collaboration on that level.
Kay is passionate and fills every day with such an energy to make a great movie and people believe in, and feel comfortable with, themselves. She creates an environment where you can go out there and do anything you want.
She’s a lovely woman and director. She was so clever that she took all these great songs by these great artists and managed to weave them into the narrative of the movie.
Q: Kay, what was the experience like of working with the actors to build their characters’ relationships?
KC: You never know if people are going to have chemistry until you put them together and you put a camera on them. When we did the chemistry test between (Camila and Nick), they immediately had great chemistry. It was really nice to see their connection grow.
They’re both athletic-minded, and I was an athlete growing up, so I come from a coaching athlete background. So my favorite people to direct are the ones who are athletic.
So here are these two young, amazingly talented people who are just working so hard, and that trickled down, so everyone felt it. No one came on set without knowing their lines, and everyone came on set with different jokes hey wanted to pitch, or really thoughtful notes that were really great. People cared about what they were doing in this movie.
Q: Pierce, you mentioned earlier that you reunited with Minnie Driver on Cinderella. What was the experience like of working together again, almost 26 years after GoldenEye was released?
PB: Minnie and I have known each other for many years. GoldenEye was my first James Bond movie, and my first scene on my first day was with Minnie. It wasn’t one-on-one, but she was in the scene, and we knew each other from before.
My late daughter, Charlotte, and Minnie were also good friends, so there I was, working with this young actress who I already knew. Life went on and we eventually did another movie together, (the 2018 thriller,) Spinning Man. Now Cinderella is our third film together.
After I was cast in Cinderella, I called Kay and asked her who was going to play my Queen. She said Minnie Driver, and I said, “She’s brilliant!” Minnie then showed up the next day and said, “I’m here!,” and it was perfect. We celebrated her birthday, and then we celebrated Cinderella.
Q: One of the major plot points in the film is that your character wants his son, Prince Robert, who’s played by Nicholas Galitzine, to get married soon so that he can take over the throne. What was your working experience like with Nicholas during the production, in order to build your characters’ relationship?
PB: It was all on the page; Kay really did a magnificent job writing the script. Nick was a delight to work with; he was a fan of mine, and I’ve become a fan of his. He was a wonderful son to become a father to, and he’s so strong and has a great voice. He and Camila also worked gloriously together; you can really feel their love and friendship.
The film’s production started in February last year, and my and Minnie’s first day of work playing the king and queen was in the ballroom sequence in Blackpool. It has this magnificent ballroom. We then filmed for a week before getting shut down because of COVID.
So I then hopped on a plane, came home for five months and played golf and painted. I then went back to work and finished the movie, under the restrictions of COVID. So it was a massive undertaking, but I enjoyed the entire experience.
Q: Kay, you mentioned the songs that are featured in Cinderella earlier. The musical features snippets of popular modern tracks that fit into the fairytale’s story and showcase the title protagonist’s journey. What was the experience like of creating the music for the screen adaptation, and incorporating the contemporary tunes into the score?
KC: Since the songs were dialogue on the page for me, it was more work. With Pitch Perfect, if I put a song in a scene, it felt lazy writing-wise because I would just copy and paste lyrics into the script. (Cannon laughs.) I would be like, “I wrote six pages today!,” but three of them would just be of lyrics.
But with Cinderella, it had to be dialogue on the page. So I not only had to find which songs worked for each scene, but also figure out which ones we could afford the rights for.
Once the songs were chosen, I then had to arrange the visuals for them and treat them like dialogue. So that was an interesting part of the writing process, and was like a puzzle I had to figure out, with the help of a lot of people.
Q: Pierce, you sing a romantic song in Cinderella, which King Rowan uses to serenade Queen Beatrice, like you mentioned earlier. What was your impression of including the overall music in the movie, particularly in sharing the characters’ emotions?
PB: Some of the songs caught me by surprise. I was listening to the song at the very end of the movie, and I had no idea that it was by Queen. I asked if it was an original song, and they said, “No, it’s Queen.” I thought it was great.
Q: Kay, Cinderella was shot on location in Blackpool and Waddesdon Manor in England. What was the process like of deciding where you would shoot the film?
KC: It was really funny with the ball because I am one of seven children and grew up in a very small town. I never thought I was going to fly in an airplane, and I didn’t until I was in college; I was bout 18-years-old when I flew in a plane for the first time.
So when I was scouting the castle and ballroom, I couldn’t believe that I was walking into these amazing castles. But then I’d look around and go, “No, this isn’t good or big enough.” (Cannon laughs.)
We then ended up shooting the ball in Blackpool, and we were at Waddesdon Manor for the exterior of the castle. We then went to Blenheim Palace for some things. That was so incredible because they’re so beautiful and there’s so much history. It was such a really great experience.
Q: Pierce, Cinderella was shot on location in Blackpool and Waddesdon Manor in England. What was the experience like of shooting the comedy on location?
PB: It was a joy to go back to London! I try to go back to the city as often as I can because I have family there; I have a son there, and my mother and some friends are also there.
I was staying in a gorgeous hotel in Windsor. I used to stay there to be close to my daughter and her family, so I knew the neighborhood.
There was studio work on the film, but I shot entirely on location. I got to film in Blenheim Palace, which is magnificent; there aren’t too many of those in England, and Blenheim is definitely one of the few that are there.
But I got to go to work every day in these beautiful locations and walk down these amazing corridors. I also got to be a king and sit on the throne and wear the crown. So no acting required! (Brosnan laughs.) I was being myself being the king and had fun.
Here’s the trailer of the film.