*Disney’s latest live-action film “Cruella” is a fashion and crime caper, wrapped in the origin story of Cruella del Vil – the villain from the animated classic “101 Dalmatians.”
The film stars Emma Stone (“La La Land”) as a young grifter named Estrella who’s trying to break into the fashion industry during 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution. She builds a life on the streets with the help of two young thieves, Joel Fry (“Jasper”) and Paul Walter Hauser (“Horace”), who share her appetite for mischief.
Estella’s flair for fashion catches the eye of fashion legend Baroness von Hellman, played by two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson (“Howards End,” “Sense & Sensibility”). Their relationship sets in motion a course of events and revelations that cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the audacious yet fashionable Cruella.
Munroe: The film was very pro-woman…How did that help you with your choices for both leading Emmas?
Gillespie: What I love is that there are two very strong women. Very career orientated, going head-to-head. And that’s the whole story. But the other story I think is wonderful is, be your true self. She gets punished for that in the film. Particularly coming from that era, 1960s London. Everybody has to color in between the lines, and she’s got a very specific talent. She wants to express that. It gets repressed in her.
Munroe: When you take on a project that has a historical significance, but you’re doing something completely new with it, what type of challenges did you face, and what were your concerns going in?
Gillespie: It’s funny, we had such a clean slate going in because there’s not much known about Cruella’s backstory, other than she went to school with Anita. When Disney presented me with this idea, it was set in 1970s punk London. With the clash and this great backdrop, and they wanted me to lean into it. So I said, great! They had me with that. The challenges for me, and this might sound odd, a production head would come in, and I would say, ‘we’re not making a Disney movie.’
This is a coming of age story set in 1970s London. Very gritty on the Cruella side. We shot on 35 millimeter and handheld to mess up the look of it for Cruella. And the Baroness we shot on a 70-millimeter camera. Very rigid, with different styles. Leaning into that was very exciting. The freedom that Disney gave us.
“You approach it differently, a little bit because the characters have been established…But then, personally, I try to forget about [the character]. You can’t forget about it completely, because it is what it is…And even that, it’s Cruella del Vil. But the bedrock of it is the cartoon,” said Fry.
“Cruella” will be available in theatres and streaming on Disney+ starting May 28.