Based on the iconic villain in One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Disney’s CRUELLA follows the path of Estella/Cruella de Vil (Emma Stone) from being orphaned at a young age, to an aspiring Fashion Designer, and eventually achieving notoriety. Getting there isn’t easy, as she must contend with Fashion’s wicked Queen Bee, The Baroness (Emma Thompson), whom she also happens to works for. Directed by Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya, Lars and the Real Girl), who might know a thing or two about telling a story about a misunderstood hero, this dazzling spectacle combines revenge, phenomenal fashion and family for one of this year’s must-sees.
We had the joy of attending a Press Junket with the talent behind Disney’s Cruella, including:
Jenny Beavan (Costume Designer)
Nadia Stacey (Hair & Makeup)
Fiona Crombie (Production Designer)
Craig Gillespie (Director)
Emma Stone (“Cruella de Vil”)
Emma Thompson (“The Baroness”)
Jenny Bevan, Costume Designer on CRUELLA, details costuming two characters, Estella and Cruella, for Emma Stone.
Jenny: I think it’s actually quite clear in the Script. There’s a real arc for her. Hopefully we found that arc that you see her change from a child and does things to her school uniform much like I remember my wonderful Associate Designer Sarah Young‘s younger sister was quite the inspiration for that because she used to turn her blazer inside out. But you just see how she develops and I think when she gets to The Baroness, who is a little old-fashioned but a very good designer, she learns quite a lot and hence her skills. So you can use all the elements in the story to make that change come about very naturally.
Fiona Crombie, Production Designer talks to building the fantastical world we see in CRUELLA.
Fiona: I’ve thought of that quite a lot and I think the biggest challenge was actually the number of sets. The Film has great pace and we move around a lot and there’s lots of little moments that are important moments that require different sets. So we were very busy, there were 120 odd sets to do across the course of the shoot and some of them were enormous and some of them were really tiny, like little rooms. One of the things I’m most pleased about with the Film is the level of detail in every single one of those sets. I feel at the moment I’m not busy enough and wonder why that is and it’s because of CRUELLA. It really set the benchmark how to block my day… I’m a bit still at the moment.
How does Hair & Makeup change between the two characters, Estella and Cruella?
Nadia: Her Hair & Makeup is kinda used as a tool of deception. She’s got to disguise herself from The Baroness. When we first see Estella, she needs to be believable she’s a girl growing-up in London at the time and then she’s creating this persona in Cruella who when she first starts arriving to these red carpet moments, there’s kind of a mask-like quality to the Makeup because she’s got to disguise herself. I needed the difference to be huge between the two looks. We had to make Estella quite simple, so we had somewhere big to go for Cruella. I feel very much like Fiona in that it’s never going to be the same again! I’ll never have that many looks to do again!
The Soundtrack heard in CRUELLA is superb, taking us to the time and placethis is set in the ’70s.Director Craig Gillespie talks about incorporating Music into the Film.
Craig: I actually designed the Movie knowing that I was gonna have Music, so I had to design shots that give space for Music. I cut on the set as I go so I’ll be putting Music on the scenes as we’re shooting them. So that The Doors track heard when we first meet The Baroness, that I threw on that day and it never changed. There’s a great Nancy Sinatra song which was kinda spontaneous when we’re shooting. She’s (Cruella) in The Liberties and she’s in the elevator, we did four takes and I thought what could she be singing here and I went to my phone and I had Nancy Sinatra‘s “These Boots Were Made for Walkin‘” and she came out dancing to that. So there’s always Music in my mind as we’re looking for opportunities throughout.
The Film features some very talented dogs, which give us glimpse into Cruella‘s character.Gillespie talks to the integral part they play to the story.
Craig: Obviously, the dogs are a large part of One Hundred and One Dalmatians, but I wanted to bring them in, in a more grounded way and definitely we worked on the story a lot with the Dalmatians and her role in relationship to them. One you get into it, you see they’re very intertwined with her emotional journey. And also having these mutts that were part of their crew, and just to be able to have fun with that, we designed these set pieces that were almost grounded in reality and plausible for dogs to be able to do. They were supporting characters in a way and they had their own personalities and concerns. It was great always being able to keep an eye on that and you know what? Let’s see cut to a reaction shot of them here when Cruella‘s going off, just to keep them engaged and present. There were some great little moments.
The Film goes to some dark places, star Emma Stone is asked about this unconventional move for a Disney film.
Emma Stone: They really let Craig and Tony write and make what they wanted to make and it’s definitely dark for a Disney movie, but maybe not for a really intense R-rated film. It was darker than I’ve seen Disney do in a really long time.
Emma Thompson is asked about The Baroness’ meanness and where she channeled that from.
Emma Thompson: I think if my husband were in the room, he’d say ‘No acting required really!’. I had such fun doing her because I’ve been asking for quite a number of years if I could be a proper villain. I’ve spent decades playing what my mother would call ‘good women in frocks’. And now I got to play a really evil woman in frocks. Oh boy, the frocks! They wore me actually really is what happened. I had just the best, best time. And every time Em (Stone) and I’d come on-set, we’d just look at each other and walk around each other like we were sculptures or works of art – which we were! It was in a way, everyone created The Baroness and I sort of just stepped-in and just said the words!
Of course, we’re acting so we’re not really being mean. There is nothing more fun than pretending. And I found when being mean came horribly easily, I was very well brought-up by a kind and wonderful woman, my mom and my dad. I was surrounded by lovely, kind people. My experience of people who are truly mean and hardened and narcissistic is quite rare. But there are quite a number of them in Show Business. And some of those names have come to light recently. So awfulness in any profession and walk of life is always possible. I suppose The Baroness is a mix of all kinds of people. She’s quite venal, her greed is really just for herself. It’s like she can’t bear anyone else to succeed in any way. She has to destroy all the competition, instead of thinking the competition might make her better. In fact, she appears and presents as this very strong personality, but in fact she’s very weak and contains the inevitable seeds of her own destruction because she can’t acknowledge talent in any other person. So when she finally sees someone more talented, younger and more beautiful than her, she finds it very difficult. And of course, I found it very difficult being with Emma Stone who’s more beautiful, young, talented, etc. But I swallowed my bitterness and I dealt with it mostly through drinking Negronis, one after another late into the night. (chuckles)
What was it like getting into these unbelievable outfits, our two stars are asked.
Emma Thompson: My underwear was sort of like a ships rigging – there were people hauling on ropes. It was a lot. So peeing was hard and involved a team of people. Also the shoes were a real challenge because I don’t wear anything higher than a flip-flop really in real life. And also I had wigs that made me a great deal taller than I am used to being. I had to go in and out of spaces sideways. And generally I had three Dalmatians at my feet too. So the underwear was a big old deal – not for Emma Stone, as she’s slender as a lily.
Emma Stone: Your costumes had such structure like that Marie Antoinette look and that silver dress at the end. You had really some very intense, shapely costuming.
Emma Thompson: If you have flesh – which is what they did in the olden days is you take the flesh, like me – and if you squeeze it in the middle, it moves up and down like toothpaste in a tube. So you can really make quite extreme shapes. And that’s really good fun. That’s not fantastically comfortable at the center of the toothpaste tube, but they are wonderful Tailors and Designers, they had such a good time pulling-in the corset tightly enough so that bits of me would squish out the top of the costume and they would push a bit back again and squish it back down and pull-in again. It was kinda kookery.
Like Scarlett O’Hara, The Baroness is only allowed to eat little bits of cucumber here and there and throws her rubbish out the window because she’s monstrous. That was one of the things I really loved hating about her was the fact that she didn’t eat. I don’t trust people who don’t eat. There, I’ve said it!
Emma Stone: My very, very favourite outfit which absolutely was ludicrous, was the dress I wore on the garbage truck because there was a 40 ft. train and that wasn’t attached to the dress because obviously I wouldn’t be able to move anywhere. So they added that to the dress at the last minute when I got on the garbage truck to shoot that part and it was just nothing you’d ever be able to remotely wear in real life. But to be honest, there also was that insane skirt when I cover the car and that was epic too, trying to walk up on a car and cover an entire car with the switch of a skirt was just fantastic. That really is the moment I’m like, ‘I am in a movie right now!’.
Emma Stone is asked about what she found most challenging filming CRUELLA.
Emma Stone: The accents are always a little bit of a learning curve, but I think any time a character has a very important emotional scene – a scene that you know is incredibly poignant and moves the story along in a way that is necessary. I think that is always a little bit of pressure because you only have that little bit of one day and that one time to do it, which is the difference between Theatre and Film. It doesn’t matter how tired you are or how you feel that day. If you’re doing that scene, that’s what the scene will be. I think that always is a sleepless night the night before, when it’s something I know is a pivotal moment that we’re shooting the next day. So that’s probably the most challenging thing, but that’s also why I love it.
The more present you can be, the more the nerves go. That’s why I wanted to become an Actor in general because I’m naturally very anxious. The time I found I was most present was when I was doing Improv, Comedy or Theatre because you don’t have time to think about all the other things you are worried about. You have to just be in the moment. That’s the great gift of acting I think – not getting rid of the nerves, but using presence to move through it.
Emma Stone and Emma Thompson reflect on their experience working with the dogs in the Film.
Emma Stone: There was quite a bit of Dog CGI, but those dogs were always on-set. As many scenes as we could possibly have those dogs be comfortable in, they were in!
Emma Thompson: They were great and they were very sweet. They CGIed them to be a bit nasty. They were such sweet dogs, they were so nice, and they worked so hard. And they had little crosses, were sent back to their marks like little canine actors and they would just go stand on their marks and wait. And then get a little treat.
Emma Stone: Estella’s dog Buddy, whose real name is Bobby, is genuinely the cutest and sweetest dog I’ve ever known in my life and I’ve had a lot of dogs, so that’s saying something.
I’ve been jealous of Wink (Bluebell) since Day One and I’ll say it right here. I saw Bluebell and would say ‘You bitch!’. But that just means ‘female dog’.
Emma Thompson: I tried to get Wink fired and said she’d come and widdled on one of my costumes and nobody believed me. They just knew I was lying and that it was a vicious attempt to get rid of this dog that was frankly upstaging me and getting in my light!
Walt Disney Studios Canada release Disney’s CRUELLA on Friday, May 28, 2021 in theatres and Disney+ with Premier Access.