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MIRROR MIRROR

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 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."

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 sequence."

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 Award® 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 wheelhouse."

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 nobility."

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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