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Snow White Gets a Facelift in Mirror Mirror

Snow White Gets a Facelift in <i>Mirror Mirror</i>

In the early 1980s, a strong woman could “bring home the bacon and fry it up in the pan,” as noted by the popular Enjoli women's fragrance commercial from that era. Today, she can also “save her man” as seen in Mirror Mirror, the new family-friendly film adaptation of the classic Snow White fairy tale.

Make no mistake—this isn’t your delicate Disney princess yarn of yore. But while the centuries-old fable has indeed been remixed with a little twenty-first century “girl power,” the surprising twist is that it’s not heavy-handed and is portrayed in a very light and comical way to entertain audiences of all ages.

Snow, as she is now called in the live-action retelling from director Tarsem Singh (Immortals, The Cell), is brought to life by the luminous Lily Collins (The Blind Side) who adds both sweetness and spunk to the multi-faceted role.

The only daughter of the King (Sean Bean, TV's Missing), Snow has been groomed since a young princess to one day lead the kingdom in his stead. However, when he vanishes unexpectedly, his ruthless wife and Snow’s wicked step-mother the Queen (played charmingly, yet devilishly by Julia Roberts, Larry Crowne) seizes control and keeps her kindhearted step-daughter hidden away in the castle.

But not for long. Snow, whose innocence and goodness easily melts the hearts of the royal staff—including the Queen’s faithful-yet-bumbling servant Brighton (Nathan Lane, Astro Boy)—is now 18 and she’s ready to see what’s going on in the kingdom and the world around her. After sneaking out of the castle one day, she crosses paths with Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer, J. Edgar), a royal from Valencia who himself has left his home in search of adventure.

Eyelashes soon bat, repartee flies and hearts begin to flutter. But when the jealous Queen finds out, and proceeds to have her own designs on the handsome young prince, she banishes Snow forever from the castle to a nearby forest—where it just so happens that seven rebellious, yet kindhearted, dwarves also live.

With names much bigger than their bite (or height, for that matter), Butcher, Grimm, Half-Pint, Napoleon, Wolf, Chuckles and Grub soon take in Snow as one of their own. And if she’s going to live with them, that means she has to be one of them. Which in this adaptation means “bandits,” stealing from passing horse-drawn carriages and walking on some mighty tall stilts to intimidate the opposition. But Snow helps change their hearts and challenges them to use their skills for the good of the people. Trading her gown for some pantaloons, Snow is trained in all things combat, sword-play and self-defense—so that not only will she be like one of the dwarves, but one day she will be ready to take back her rightful place as heir to her father’s throne.

Along this coming-of-age journey, Snow learns she is stronger than she ever knew. She even vows to forgo literary tradition and change the typical fairy-tale ending in efforts to save the Prince. And when called to do so, she rises to the challenge to face the evil “beast” in the woods, as she helps rescue the kingdom from the Queen’s wicked ways.

I spoke with Lily Collins recently about her role in Mirror Mirror, why this updated version of Snow White encourages young girls specifically to “believe in yourself” and what makes this film a suitable comedic adventure for the entire movie-going family.

Mirror Mirror has a very light, fun and engaging quality to it with a sweet, yet spunky, protagonist. Did this draw you toward wanting to play the part of this version of Snow White?

We didn’t set out to make a film that was in-your-face feminist or anything about girl empowerment completely. But I think that the idea that it shows a young woman who finds herself along this journey in a way where she accepts spontaneity, she accepts life and love and help from others and finds herself within the process and learns that she can do as much as the Prince . . . I think that was a new twist on this character that really intrigued me.  And I thought, Wow, it would be great for young girls to see this princess they think they know so well not just be the damsel in distress, but really be someone that fights for something they believe in. And that new twist on it was very, very appealing, and it was a complete honor to be even considered for the part let alone grab it.

I heard that you also tried out for the part in the “other” Snow White film, Snow White and the Huntsman, which hits theaters in June. Is that true?

I read the script, and it was definitely around the same time. But [Mirror Mirror] for me captures everything about a fairy tale I would love to be a part of and the vibe of it and having it be this comedic adventure that was about positivity and acceptance and believing in oneself. I thought that was kind of the ultimate message of this fairy tale. So to be a part of this particular one was such an honor.

Were there any fun or memorable moments working with Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer or the actors who portrayed the seven dwarves?

Every day was really fun because it is such a fun film to be a part of, and the energy on set was always positive. But the dwarves and I . . . we all became such good friends, and they truly became like my comrades in real life. We would just sit around before filming and laugh. And you know the scenes when they’re training me, we had so much because there were tons of goof ups and mess ups and improv going on during all of that that sometimes I just couldn’t stop laughing. And then I’d find myself finally in the moment and laughing and then [others] would start laughing, so it was just kind of lots of jokes being played all the time and just lots of laughs. And the same with Julia [Roberts]. She plays an evil queen but in such a fun way. And having Nathan Lane and her together in a room doing a scene is, you know, that’s like fireworks going off. They play off each other, and they’re so incredibly fun. And Armie [Hammer] is kind of this perfect mixture of goofy and funny at the same time, as well as being so gentlemanly and humble and intellectual. So we would have such interesting conversations about all sorts of things, and then all of a sudden someone would say a joke and we’d burst out laughing. It was kind of like the perfect combination for an experience.

Talk about the whole “believing in yourself” theme which is so strong in Mirror Mirror.  What does it mean to you to believe in yourself?

The big song and dance number at the end was for me one of, if not probably the most, memorable experiences of that film—just the sense of going for something full force and being very dedicated to it. I look back on that and I think to myself, Wow. And no pun intended, because the song is called “I Believe.” But it truly was a moment where I believed in myself so much that I could get up there and just be so committed to doing that in front of 300 to 400 people in the room let alone knowing that it would then be on screens around the world. I think it’s just knowing that you can do what you set your mind to if you’re truly passionate about it and feel that you have the potential to do it and just feeling comfortable in yourself and being willing and able to take a risk—knowing that there may be ups and downs. But as long as you’re trying something that excites you then you’re showing belief in yourself.

There’s a lot of resiliency and resolve that Snow must tap into when faced with evil and the poor treatment she experiences from the Queen. What do you think viewers of any age can learn from how Snow responds to difficult circumstances?

Well, I think that at the beginning of the story especially, Snow you know she’s not aware of what’s been going on outside the castle. So she’s not really aware of the evil going on. She just sees the good in people. I think that’s always an important quality to have even when faced with stuff like someone that’s not very nice or you’re in a situation where there’s lots of negativity. I think it’s important to still maintain that sense of there’s going to be some sort of positive thing that maybe sort of comes out of it. It may not be right away, but down the line I’m going to learn something from this that I can then take to the next experience. So even in the face of roadblocks or negativity, it’s important to maintain that sense of self and know that you’re going to overcome whatever it is you’re facing at the moment. And as long as you don’t get lost along the way, you remain who you are [and] make decisions based on who you are, then there will be something to learn from it.

In the scene where Snow must face “the beast” near the end of the film, what do you think that the beast symbolizes to her?

I think it’s just this ominous, mystical creature that has supposedly terrorized the land for so long, but almost ends up being the Queen’s wicked ways. It’s kind of the culmination of everything evil that she’s done just put into a character. And the idea of conquering this beast was like conquering all the evil things that the Queen had done especially when [Snow] finds out that the beast is kind of the Queen’s pet, if you will. It just symbolized all the fear and anxiety that the Queen gives to the kingdom as well as all that she’s done. So to conquer that would be to overcome the Queen. And it was just the biggest thing to overcome for Snow.

It’s nice to see Prince Alcott also rise to the occasionman up, if you willand fight for something he believes in as well, namely Snow. Do you think that is an important element in Mirror Mirror?

Yes, definitely. The Prince comes from a privileged family from Valencia, and he’s out there looking for his own adventure and does not want to rely on his family’s wealth or name to kind of just get by in life. He’s looking for his own adventure. So seeing him actually rise to the adventure and really truly put his actions where his mouth is is very inspiring—I think for young men as well to see actually saying you want to do something and [then] actually doing it. And as well it takes a strong man to accept help from a woman. So the fact that he allows Snow to help as well I think says a lot.

Do you look for films like this when choosing roles where there is such a clear message or perhaps a more defined sense of right and wrong?

I don’t think I necessarily look for specific messages. When I’m reading projects, I definitely go for story and I look at each one individually. I think some characters, as an audience member, you’re not sure if they’re evil because they’re very complex. But for a fairy tale like [Mirror Mirror] where you’re aiming for a wide audience of kids, grandparents, parents, you know in order to appeal to the kids and have them experience part of the story as well as take messages away from it I think there needs to be more delineation between good and bad—just so that they can understand it better. But when it comes to more complex characters and deeper, edgier scripts, if you will, I think as is reality you can’t always pinpoint what is good and what is bad, because if you were in that position how would you genuinely react as that character. I think those are very complex people, and those are kind of the extreme parts to play as an actress because they’re so complex. But for a story like [Mirror Mirror] I think it needed to be more black and white for younger kids to understand.

Family-friendly films aren’t always “family friendly,” as parents sometimes find out once they’re in the theater with their children. What would you say to moms and dads about Mirror Mirror and how would you reassure them that this is a good film for all ages?

I would say if you look at “the huntsman” who is supposed to be the evil “villain” of the film and is the one who’s supposed to go out and kill Snow White, which is probably the most evil act you would think of in the film, and you see that it’s Nathan Lane . . . well, I think that kind of sets the tone for knowing that the evil characters are . . . well, they’ve been cast in a way that is a different approach and is already off the bat going to be more comical and more family-friendly. You see Brighton in the trailer [for the film], and you see that there’s a song and dance number. And just in general, the comedic notes of the film really bring out smiles and laughs as opposed to fear. 


Starring Lily Collins, Julia Roberts, Armie Hammer, Nathan Lane and Mare Winningham, Mirror Mirror opens wide in theaters on Friday, March 30, 2012 and is rated PG for fantasy action and mild rude humor. Click here for more information about Mirror Mirror.

Photo © 2011 Relativity Media. All rights reserved.

Watch the official Mirror Mirror trailer here.