The Lily James Cinderella interview took place at the luxurious Montage Beverly Hills. A hotel where loads of A-list celebrities stay to find their oasis in the craziness of Los Angeles. The hotel had a calm to it, a serenity and quietness that any busy celeb would come to appreciate after a long evening of publicity on the red carpet. From floor to ceiling, the hotel was styled in true old Hollywood vintage glam yet, it had a refined contemporary and modern feel. Still, I felt like I had arrived at Prince Charming’s castle. A perfect setting for the cast and filmmakers of Cinderella to be interviewed.
I was not a Downton Abbey cult fan like so many others, so my history with the rising film star was thin. Up until this point, my only real connection to Lily James was from the Cinderella trail I had been chasing over the past six months. The image of her totally rocking that famous Cinderella dress with that insanely tiny waist was etched into my mind. I didn’t scramble to watch Downton Abbey either. I naturally did my research as a writer, but I kept it superficial. I wanted my first performance impression of Lily James to be in the role of Cinderella.
When I first saw Lily James at the red carpet premiere of Cinderella she immediately stopped me in my tracks. If not for the Elie Saab couture dress she so graciously donned in a vintage Cinderella flare, she had an overall angelic presence. I watched her as she compared slippers with a little girl. It was perfectly unplanned and so sweet. My image of Lily James as Cinderella began to etch its way into my memory. She was Cinderella, pure and gracious, I knew before I even saw the premiere, she would etch her way into the hearts of every little girl and boy who went to see this film.
I had just finished up my interview with Cate Blanchett when Lily James came into the room. She was every bit as flawless at 10:20 am as she was the evening before on the red carpet. Her gracefulness was just like Cinderella’s.
-Christa Thompson, The Fairytale Traveler
credit: Louise Bishop/Momstart
Lily James Cinderella Interview
Getting the Part
Ken rang me himself and I screamed so loudly I’m sure I burst his eardrum! He said
I want you to be my Cinderella.” – Kenneth Branagh, Director
And I just, my heart, I was on set and I screamed. And Laura and Michelle came running over they knew I’d been doing this torturous audition process and they’re like, ‘what is it, what is it?’ And then Ken was like, ‘you’re not allowed to tell anyone.’ So, I was like, ‘oh, nothing, nothing.’ And then, later that day, Hugh Bonneville announced it on the Downton Abbey set at the dinner table. It was really sweet.
Getting Prepped for the Part
First of all I started horse riding lessons. When I first met Ken early on after he cast me he was like, ‘so, how do you feel about horse riding?’ and I was like, ‘[GASP] great, um. I had to bare back as well so I was going, every time, every second I wasn’t filming Downton, I was at this farm learning to ride. And then I did yoga, to sort of try and feel in my body and, you know, graceful and breathe properly.
When I met with he was like, ‘I want to know, does Ella sleep with the blinds open or closed, what does she dream about, you know, what’s her favorite food.’ He wanted for me to know all those details so that I could sort of just exist on set being her, you know.
That Killer Iconic Blue Dress and the Coveted Glass Slipper
They slippers were really made out of Swarovski crystals, so, even more amazing. They’re so beautiful but, sadly, I hate saying this, but, they don’t fit any human foot.
The dress is insane. I felt like Julia Roberts from Runaway Bride, it was just the best feeling ever.
I was so nervous about this bit of the movie ‘cause it’s the bit where she’s the princess. It’s THE moment, you know, and, and I think, ‘how can anyone live up to that?’
Really, you know, it’s this fairy tale, it’s this sort of thing that’s very far removed from me. And then
I put on that gown and I just felt transformed and it felt like a suit of honor [LAUGHS].
It was like crazy heavy and it pulled down on my waist and it was also, it took about twenty minutes to get in and twenty minutes to get out.
It was really hard to wear and it was incredibly tight it had a life of it’s own basically.
[LAUGHS] In the end me and Helena had same problem
we had, we had these like port-a-loo’s that we’d like put under us. [LAUGHS] And it was like the most unglamorous thing ever. Helena and I would sometimes in our tent and be next door and be both using the port-a-loo’s at the same time. [LAUGHS]
That Amazing Cinderella Wedding Gown
It’s all Sandy Powell she’s amazing and that wedding gown I feel like so sad that it was only in the film for like thirty seconds.
I was like, ‘Ken, you’ve gotta shoot it from the back, you’ve gotta shoot it from the back!’ ‘Cause the flowers were hand painted and, you know, the detail that goes into these dresses. And that veil, and the crown, and actually we did the hair like Cinderella in the animation how she wears it at the ball, so that was a kind of like little echo.
I was doing a sort of photo shoot in it one day when we were very busy and I rushed in and we did the photos.
I rushed in and I was so cold and I was walking past this heater and my skirt caught on fire! [LAUGHS] And I didn’t care about myself I was like, ‘the skirt!’ They had to redo, like a whole section of the skirt.
The stuff at the start was hard and even the stuff watching with the younger me.
Last night, one of the little girls came up to me at the end and she was like, ‘it’s so sad, both your parents died.’ And I was like, ‘I’ve got the mice and the prince.’ [LAUGHS]
There was a bit in shooting when I felt like I was crying all the time. It’s like, ‘god, is this a fairy tale or is this a tragic drama?
The dance switched from being the most, sort of beautiful, romantic moment of my life, actually and to being one of the most stressful and hardest.
Because the dress was so heavy, basically if Richard looked at it, it ripped, it was so delicate. [LAUGHS]
So, we learned the dance we were getting really smart, we’d been doing it for months at Pinewood studios in London with this incredible choreographer. And then suddenly they were like, ‘okay, the dress’ and almost fainted, I thought, ‘the dress, of course,
how are we gonna do this in the dress? And I had a complete nervous breakdown.
The Incredible Dante Ferretti Fairy Tale Set
Ella’s family house, it was built, it was real in the back lot of Pinewood in the forest. The whole house, the garden the green house, the entrance, the carriage, the driveway, the walls to the house. Everything was built.
It was unbelievable, I used to walk around with music in my ears and just like stroll around the grounds,
The inside of the house was entirely built in the studio. All of it, the ballroom, all built. Um, Dante Ferretti sets are just out of this world. It was like the storybook just exploded into real life. You kind of just had to exist in these settings.
There was a moment when they were building the ballroom and there were all builders in hard hats and I think they, you know, they had begun the marble staircase and the dance floor. Me and Richard were walking past and, and we went in and just started practicing the dance just in our own clothes with these guys in hats watching. It was really sweet.
The Message to Kids
This is a girl that’s not sitting around waiting for a prince to come and save her. She’s got this unbelievable strength and it doesn’t come from fighting it comes from within.
The strength is her courage and her kindness. If she has that, she can, in a way, deal with, as best she can what life throws at her. By being this person that, you know she’s being the best version of herself. And, with such an open heart when she does meet the prince not knowing who he is, he falls for her because she’s a strong, powerful, beautiful from within woman. That’s the idea.
Missed the Cinderella Trailer See it Now!
I was flown to Hollywood for the red carpet World Premiere of Cinderella by Disney Motion Pictures and given hotel and meals along with press events all weekend. This Lily James Cinderella Interview took place during that weekend. All opinions are my own and in no way were shaped by my press weekend.