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Fans of fairytale should head to cinemas as ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ is currently spinning its magic on screen. Directed by Rupert Sanders, he has acknowledges that he was excited by “the chance to do something more masculine with the story [of Snow White].”
“Snow White has an arc that is a very mythical rise of a hero. She’s almost the female Luke Skywalker. We’ve built a universe that touches on her themes, including the iconic metaphors and imagery, but everything is skewed. We still have the mirror, the red apple and the evil Queen, but we’ve thrown into that massive battles and a rebellion. This story is much bigger, and the stakes are much higher. It’s a battle of life against death.”
Within 24 hours of reading the screenplay, Sanders put together a library of ideas for his producers. He presented his preliminary vision the next day, incorporating into screenwriter Evan Daugherty’s story visual concepts that borrowed from English and French sculptors, as well as German artists. Sanders had no interest in delivering a fragile Snow White who was relegated to being saved by someone else; his heroine was as laser-focused upon her mission as her antagonist was.
As the script developed, the director found the symbols in the Brothers Grimm tale to be quite imperative in moving along the narrative. He notes: “They’re very potent. Everything in that story—the mirror, the apple—is iconic and has so many deeper themes. The apple is the knowledge in the tree of life. The Snow White story helps us to understand mortality and teaches us not to bury ourselves in jealousy and rage, because that stops your living. It teaches that you should enjoy your life and not try to seek something that is ultimately irrelevant.”
To demonstrate to executives at Universal Pictures the action and emotion of which a first-time features director was capable, Sanders took a skeleton cast and crew in January 2011 and filmed select visual scenes that would be captured in his vision of Snow White and the Huntsman. Pulling in several favors from friends and colleagues in the industry, he cut together a short reel, added a few special effects and relied upon a friend to conduct the voice-over. When the studio saw the tonal guide that took Sanders approximately a week to complete—with the Queen dissolving into ravens, her apple disintegrating to its core, and fairies emerging from the breasts of birds—it green-lit the film. Everyone recognized that the young filmmaker was more than capable of helming and delivering an epic with a distinctive vision.
Sanders sums his thoughts on the visual style for this film: “I wanted to make a very rich, fantastical world, but I wanted to separate fairy tale from fantasy; they are very different to me. I wanted to create something that was muscular but very emotional and to make a grand, epic-scale film that carried as much emotion as it did scale. A lot of the times, you see a film of this nature that is very heavily visually affected but has very little heart. I wanted to find that emotion in the story.”
As preproduction took shape, ‘The Blind Side’’s John Lee Hancock and ‘47 Ronin’’s Hossein Amini contributed to what would become the final script based upon Daugherty’s story, and producer Joe Roth requested that a seasoned filmmaker and longtime M. Night Shyamalan collaborator, Sam Mercer, join the team as a fellow producer.
Mercer describes that his interest in coming aboard the production was due to how this reinvention still honored the lasting appeal of this character. He reflects upon our heroine: “Snow White is on a journey, but she hasn’t yet accepted it. She’s got to take control of the kingdom and ascend to what her father left her. The character is someone who is out for her people, and those core issues fundamentally resonate with us. With Rupert’s aesthetics and eye for cinematic detail, we knew he would give this material a contemporary feel and make it into a big, fun summer action movie.”
Image Courtesy of Snow White and the Huntsman