'Mirror Mirror' First Look: Snow White Gets a Makeover (Exclusive Photos)

David Strick

Lily Collins saves the prince on sets magically transformed by Tarsem Singh, with Julia Roberts, Nathan Lane and Armie Hammer by her side.

This story originally appeared in the January 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter.

It was the dog days of summer 2011, but Lily Collins found herself running through a forest covered in snow.

EXCLUSIVE PHOTOS: First Look at Relativity's Snow White Project, 'Mirror Mirror,' Starring Lily Collins

Collins, then a semi-unknown actress whose biggest previous role had been as Sandra Bullock's daughter in The Blind Side, had scored the lead opposite Julia Roberts' evil queen in Relativity's then-untitled update of the Snow White story.

This particular scene, in which Collins is pursued by Nathan Lane in a carriage through a vast Montreal soundstage, required her to get physical, employing the four months of sword training she took for the role and shaking off the timid stereotype of Snow White that audiences remember from the story-books and 1937 Disney animated classic.

"She is modernized and doesn't stay a victim," says Collins, 22, the daughter of rocker Phil Collins. "She can take control of her destiny and is the princess saving the prince."

Mirror Mirror, opening March 16 and also starring Armie Hammer as the prince, is the first of two high-profile Snow White re-imaginings that will hit theaters this year. The movie, budgeted at $80 million, began in early 2010, when screenwriter Josh Pate saw an Annie Leibovitz photo of a model dressed as Snow White and showed it to his producer friend Bernie Goldmann (300). Believing the fairy tale might make for a good live-action movie, the duo turned to Goldmann's wife, Melissa Wallack, to tackle the script, which she based on early tellings of the European tale.

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Relativity quickly won a bidding war for the project (with Brett Ratner originally attached to direct), and Mirror picked up a sense of urgency when Universal announced a competing project, Snow White and the Huntsman.

"I know it seems like a race [to theaters]," says Goldmann, "but on the inside, it was an immediate commitment. From the first day, Relativity said, 'We are making this movie,' and they never varied from this course."

Still, what followed was a dramatic game of Hollywood hopscotch. Relativity's Ryan Kavanaugh pushed up the release date of Mirror to March 16 from June 29 only days after Universal moved Huntsman up six months to June 1. Tarsem Singh (Immortals) hopped into the director's chair for the 14-week shoot when Ratner stepped aside, turning the movie into an "all stage" production. Singh crafted the movie's many environments exclusively on soundstages with the help of digital effects and elaborate costumes from Oscar winner Eiko Ishioka (Bram Stoker's Dracula). The result, producers hope, is a whimsical family film with modern sensibility.

"It's an animated movie come to life," says Goldmann. "You can only do that with the greenscreen effect."

Click here to see 23 exclusive behind-the-scenes photos from the film.