A Battle Royal
Against the backdrop of this meticulously imagined world, a gleefully
physical adventure unfolds as a sheltered princess 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, 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
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."
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
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
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
The film's spectacular climax is a royal ball to celebrate the marriage of
Snow White and her Prince. 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
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 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 AwardÂ® 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
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
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."
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."
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