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“This Cinderella is a really powerful, strong character — I wanted to bring a strength of spirit to the role,” James, wearing a Dolce & Gabbana outfit with Stuart Weitzman heels, told The Hollywood Reporter before a Sunday afternoon screening at New York City’s Tribeca Grand Hotel.
Madden added of Kenneth Branagh‘s modern take, “This young woman in distress doesn’t need a man to save her. That’s totally irrelevant — she’d be fine without the prince, she’d get on with it.” Plus, his spin on Prince Charming includes a “sense of humor — the ability to make fun of himself and have a bit of banter with his dad.”
James was overjoyed about the recent announcement of Disney’s live-action Beauty and the Beast, starring fellow Downton Abbey breakout Dan Stevens opposite Emma Watson. “I’m so excited he’s playing the beast! I couldn’t believe it, I texted him immediately,” she said. Madden’s advice for playing such a beloved character? “Practice your dancing because you’re gonna have to do it at some point!”
Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (also featuring Luke Evans) follows Cinderella and Maleficent in starring British actors (or at least accents, in Maleficent’s case). When asked what it is about a U.K. cast that seems to make these live-action retellings inherently magical, James told THR, “I don’t know! It’s weird! [On set,] there was a sense of a theater company, of epic storytelling in an intimate nature. I don’t know whether British actors are more theater?”
Richard Madden guessed it might have to do with the European roots of the stories themselves. “Maybe it’s just because it goes back further — fairy tales are just bred in us. Or maybe it’s just coincidence! I don’t think it’s deliberate.”
The stars’ close friend Matthew Goode, who brought his daughter to the screening, had a hypothesis on the topic. “Good on the Brits, yes! It’s because of the wild, imaginative people that the Brits are,” he joked to THR while grabbing more popcorn for his family. “I think it’s merely because we’re cheap — that can be the only reason, because there’s so many good American actors!”
Before the screening — presented by Disney, The Cinema Society and Stuart Weitzman — Lee Daniels, Michael Gelman, Ioan Gruffudd, Michael Shannon, Cuba Gooding Jr., Gabourey Sidibe, Padma Lakshmi, Debi Mazar, Edie Falco, Bethenny Frankel, Stuart Weitzman, Stacey Bendet and their kids snacked on tea and sandwiches in the colorful and flower-filled Paul’s Baby Grand and stocked up on candy and popcorn in the lobby. James was happy to pose for many photos with little girls (some dressed in Cinderella gowns) excited to meet the film’s title character, but the actress was most star-struck herself when crossing paths with Caroline Rhea: “You have no idea how excited I am right now!” she shouted as they hugged.
Cinderella hits theaters March 13.
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