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Against the backdrop of this meticulously imagined world, a gleefully physical adventure unfolds as a sheltered princess of ‘Mirror Mirror’ learns to adapt to life outside the palace walls. From her woodland hosts, Snow White begins to learn to stand up for herself in stirring action sequences. As always, director Tarsem Singh was concerned with authenticity. “I wanted actual physical fighting with real weapons and real aggression,” says Singh. “But more than anything, I wanted the actors to actually take part in the adventurous parts of this film.”
The film’s stars underwent months of intensive training for grueling action scenes involving swordplay, acrobatics, high-speed horseback riding and more. “It was five days a week, almost six hours a day of sword fighting,” says Armie Hammer. “And I had the blisters and the calluses to prove it.
I learned how to do a back flip with a sword in my hand, and a front flip with a sword in my hand, and a side flip and a vortex flip—all things that I never knew how to do before. I was always excited to see what we were going to be doing next. My favorite thing was riding the horses right on the soundstage at a full gallop.”
Lily Collins adds, “There was a lot of fight training in this film. We did sword fighting and fencing and wrestling and acrobatics and then physical training. We worked out in the gym, we ran, we lifted weights. It was really intense.”
Fight coordinator Jean Frenette taught the actors the basics of combat, step by arduous step. “There’s a progression to it,” he says. “It’s like boot camp in the beginning. The process of repetition helps the actors build up their confidence and skill level over time. We want them to treat it seriously but we don’t want them to over-train and burn out. It’s a lot like preparing an athlete for a competition.”
Stunt coordinator Marc Desourdy adds, “Lily and Armie were fantastic. They’re so coordinated and so talented. They learn very quickly. Lily was very keen on doing all of her own stunts. We put her to work doing flips and acrobatics. And we did the same with Armie. When you see them close-up, sword fighting, it’s all them.”
In the end, the work paid off in action sequences that appear effortless, says Goldmann. “Watching them on film, it’s easy to forget all the work that went into it. Lily and Armie rehearsed and trained, and rehearsed and trained. They put in the time so that when we shot these sequences, they came out perfectly.”
One of Singh’s cunning innovations resulted in a series of action scenes that require complex preparation and physical daring. Since the Dwarfs had been thrown out of the village because of their size, he thought, they might likely become fixated on their height. Trying to compensate for their stature, Mirror Mirror’s little men commit their robberies on stilts. Desourdy tracked down a group of daredevil stilt walkers in Toulouse, France, to train the actors to fight on stilts.
“They were amazing,” he says. “They taught our guys to walk, run and jump with stilts. The stunts that are performed on the stilts are absolutely sensational and unlike anything you’ve seen before. The audience is in for a treat.”
Image Courtesy of Mirror Mirror