FilmInk speaks to Rupert Sanders who has made an epic directorial debut with ‘Snow White & The Huntsman’, an edgy but faithful retelling of a classic fairytale.
Resembling the thin white duke on first appearance, even when Rupert Sanders speaks he reminds one of a young David Bowie. The Englishman, with only a history of slick commercials and video clips to his name, makes his feature debut in the surprisingly impressive Snow White & the Huntsman.
This was a big effort for your first feature. Was there any point on location you thought, ‘What am I doing here?'
To be honest, I had to rely on others as well as my own instincts. I had my vision that everyone knew about, which came about very well.
How did you choose this project?
Well, I was considered for The Hunger Games and the recent X-Men while I also had been developing a new version of the British war movie The Wild Geese. I wasn't ready to make the break from commercials and videos at that time, but when Snow White & the Huntsman came along, it seemed like an epic, imaginative, solid story I wanted to participate in.
The film is already a success worldwide. Would you go back to commercials if offered or is film your outlook?
I enjoy the medium so yes, I would do the right commercial or music video if I felt strongly about it.
Was it your choice to go with an orchestral score as opposed to contemporary bands?
I am not really into modern rock and I think the Snow White & the Huntsman score is orchestral, but the sound is electronic, which is very much original. I worked with [composer] James Newton Howard from the premise and we worked out certain scenes as a duo.
Were the leads always your first choice or did you consider others in auditions?
Charlize [Theron] was always the first choice so we built her character and other cast members around her. Chris [Hemsworth] came in and made it his own in the end, but Michael Fassbender and Viggo Mortensen were the only other two serious contenders as Huntsman. Chris is classically trained and came into it so prepared. I like how he understands film, which is great for me. Kristen [Stewart] nailed it and I am so happy we had her.
How many takes did Charlize do rising out of that white milk bath, an iconic scene in the film?
Not that many actually, she got it in about three takes. Our cinematographer (Australian Greig Fraser) is a quick worker and captures significant angles at once. It was made of a food thickening agent, basically McDonald's thick shake without the flavour.
Colleen Atwood's costumes were amazing. Did you have an influence on design?
Yes, but she is so imaginative and talented I didn't have to change much. I hope she is back for the sequel.
The rumoured sequel is green lit I believe. Can you say how the story will transpire?
Not really [laughs]. I don't want to say anything yet as I have written my outline, but nobody is on board yet. It was a great story we created and it wasn't a love story so let's see where the leads end up.
Ian McShane and Bob Hoskins, among other classic British/Irish actors, were cast as dwarfs. Who came up with that concept?
I did. I wanted classical trained actors as you said in the roles. Using green screen, we used a dozen cameras shooting various lifts and angles. These guys have some good stories by the way. They were the life of the set - funny men.
Lily Cole, a supermodel literally getting the youth sucked out of her was a unique moment. Your idea?
I know Lily. She has a very fairytale face and we spoke about it. It was something different for her and she loved the character, a bit like Charlize. A beautiful woman without vanity getting the youth sucked out of her as you say, people didn't see it coming from the reaction I have had.
The themes were quite dark, was it always intended for an older audience in mind?
I wouldn't take a three-year-old to it, but my kids are seven and five and they both love it. The dark forest scenes were not too hard to handle for them. I wanted to give the Grimm fairytale some respect.
Overall, was the studio happy with your vision?
Universal supported me from the start and they knew which way I was heading with the images. I met with them on a regular basis throughout the shoot, but they trusted me and that's a big thing when you're doing a grand old Hollywood style adventure like this one.
Snow White & the Huntsman is in cinemas now.