Out Friday in theaters and on Disney+ Premiere Access is “Cruella,” the origin story of one of the most iconic villains in animation. “Cruella” follows the quest of a young fashion designer to make a name for herself in the 1970s London during the era of punk rock. Prior to the film’s release, members of the cast and creative team met to discuss the film. On the panel was director Craig Gillespie, costume designer Jenny Beaven, hair and makeup artist Nadia Stacey, production designer Fiona Crombie and stars Emma Stone (Estella/Cruella) and Emma Thompson (Baroness von Hellman).
The creative team discussed how to bring an infamous villain, most known for her desire for puppy coats, to screen sympathetically.
Craig Gillespie: Villains are always so fun to portray, because you just have more license to do things that aren’t quite appropriate or push the boundaries, and create these larger-than-life characters. It was really important to me that this was not black and white. Obviously no pun intended there with Cruella. But I wanted there to be this gray area and be able to empathize with the choices that she was making. And the situations that she was responding to. And I wanted to do it in a way that was really fun.
Jenny Beaven: Hopefully, we found that arc that you see her change over from a child where she’s obviously anarchic and rebellious and does things to her school uniform,… 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 hones her skill.
Also discussed was the choices and challenges to create the setting of the film.
Fiona Crombie: 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. And so we were very busy. There were, you know, 120-odd sets to do across the course of the shoot. And some of them are enormous. And some of them are tiny, like little rooms. I think one of the things that I’m most pleased about with the film is the level of detail in every single one of those sets.
Nadia Stacey: [Hair and makeup] was all variations on themes with these different kind of sculpted hairstyles, and they were getting bigger and bigger, which was just really fun. I really love the garbage truck moment when she’s got these kind of balls in her hair. … There’s a kind of chaos to Cruella’s look, and then this completely clean, structured line to the baroness…. I kinda like the idea that everything that Cruella does has been collected from somewhere. You see those boards that she’s got all her newspaper clippings on and pictures and things. So she’s collecting things along the way.
The stars of the film discussed their favorite costumes and furry costars.
Emma Stone: My very, very favorite outfit that was absolutely ludicrous was the dress that I wear on the garbage truck, because there was a 40-foot train. And that wasn’t attached to the dress, because obviously I wouldn’t be able to move anywhere, so they added that onto the dress at the last minute when I get onto the garbage truck to shoot that part. And it was just phenomenal. I mean, nothing you would ever be able to even remotely wear in real life. … And then the garbage truck, when it drove off, that thing of the material doing that amazing sort of snakelike thing actually happens.
Emma Thompson: I mean, that was all real, and I love that about that as well, that it wasn’t the CGI movie.
Stone: The dogs are. There’s a quite a bit of the dog CGI, but those dogs were always on set. There were a lot, as many scenes as we could possibly have those dogs be comfortable, they were in, which was amazing.
Thompson: Yeah. And they were great and they were very sweet. So they have CGI’d them to be a bit-a bit nasty because they were such sweet dogs. They were so nice, and they worked so hard. And they had little crosses, and we sent [them] back to their marks like little canine actors and they would just go back and stand on their marks and wait, and then get a little treat.
Finally, the stars discussed the joys of playing over-the-top characters with no restraint.
Stone: It’s so much fun to do. You know, for a lot of roles, you sort of have to, if you’re someone like me that kind of has a face that’s made of rubber, and is always trying to sort of contain a little bit, teaspoons a little bit instead of buckets, when you get to throw buckets, it’s a joy.
Thompson: [The Baroness Von Hellman] is hardened, completely, and believes in hardness. She thinks that’s the only way, and that’s what is so kind of unusual about her, actually…. I am very interested in the dark side of a female character, because they’re so rarely allowed to be dark. You know, we’re all supposed to be nice and good, aren’t we?