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Those familiar with the age-old fairytale will not be surprised to learn that ‘Mirror Mirror’s spectacular climax is a royal ball to celebrate the marriage of Snow White and her Prince. Director Tarsem Singh wanted to heighten the festive atmosphere with a dazzling musical number done in classic Bollywood style.
He selected Nina Hart’s late ’60s pop song “Love.” “I had the song in mind from the beginning, but they kept telling me I wouldn’t be able to get the rights,” says the director. “Finally, right before we started shooting, it worked out. When I heard that Lily could sing, I had her record a version of the song for us. She was fantastic. We knew we had to incorporate her vocals into a big dance sequence.”
Choreographer Paul Becker came in during preproduction to design the number, which involves the entire cast as well as over 200 extras. “It starts almost without warning,” he says. “Lily suddenly breaks into song and dance and everyone else seems to be wondering what she is up to. But then slowly the Dwarfs join in and then everyone starts to dance. It’s just a big party.”
Becker designed the dance to resemble one of Hollywood’s unforgettable Busby Berkeley production numbers, with overhead shots capturing the swirling patterns of dancers below. According to Lily Collins, “It was a great time. It felt like a huge music video with hundreds of people dancing around me. We really let loose. I never in a million years thought I would be able to do a number like that. It was just amazing.”
The film’s music, which ranges fom haunting to exhilarating to poignant, was written by eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken, composer of a host of unforgettable scores for movies including four classic Disney animated treasures: The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Pocahontas.
The subject matter of the film has something in common with those earlier projects, but the treatment is very different, according to the composer. “What’s unique about this movie is the visual beauty and sophistication of Tarsem’s directing, combined with the innocence of an oft-told tale,” says Menken. “It’s a new kind of fairytale—elegant and edgy and fun.”
Singh gave Menken two directives before setting him to work. “He told me to make the score my own,” says Menken. “And he trusted me to own the process. That kind of artistic freedom made it a lot of fun for me.”
The director also asked him to develop a “thematic” score, one in which the music would reflect and enhance the characters and the story. “That’s unusual these days,” Menken says. “He wanted big, broad themes and that’s right in my wheelhouse.”
For the innocent and gallant Snow White, the composer created purely emotional music, heartrending as Snow gets her first glimpse of the financially ruined townspeople or soaring as she fell in love with the Prince at first sight. “We didn’t walk any fine lines,” he says. “We went right for the primary colors in those themes.
“And I threaded the themes throughout,” he goes on. “The dwarfs are like the Marx Brothers at times, so their thematic material emphasizes the comedic. When we first meet the Queen in the court, we’re playing a very formal, Mozartian theme. The Prince himself is introduced with classic hunting horns that signify nobility.”
The net effect of Singh’s brilliant leaps of imagination is to transport both the film’s stars and the audience into a sparkling world of fantasy. As Collins says, “Everyone loves a good fairy tale. They create a space where you can laugh, where you can be scared, and where you can simply be amazed. Ours is a multi-generational story and that’s what a fairy tale is supposed to be, something that everyone can enjoy.”
Julia Roberts agrees, adding, “I think the audience is going to get lost in this film. I would love for them to just sit back and be transported somewhere else for two hours.”
Singh’s greatest hope is that the audience will be the ones to reap the rewards of the cast and crew’s meticulous efforts. “My primary goal with this film is to create a family movie that people will have a lot of fun seeing,” he says. “It’s been a great honor getting to creatively reinterpret this classic story, which has meant so much to so many generations. I really hope the audience enjoys what we’ve created.”
Image Courtesy of Mirror Mirror