SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN
About The Production
From Alice to Snow White:
Reimagining Epic Tales
Joe Roth, former chairman of 20th Century Fox
and Walt Disney Studios and producer of Tim Burton's
fantastical global hit Alice in Wonderland, knew that
his team had found something incredible when Evan
Daugherty's script for what would become Snow White
and the Huntsman arrived at his Los Angeles-based
production house, Roth Films. At the time, Roth's head
of development (and executive producer of this film),
Palak Patel, saw the potential in Daugherty's story, which
was an innovative take on the age-old Brothers Grimm
tale, originally published in 1812 in the text "Kinderund
HausmÃ¤rchen" ("Children's and Household Tales").
Roth and Patel were also responsible for finding
the man who would helm the company's next epic
action-adventure. Rupert Sanders, a highly decorated
commercial director, had made his way to the top of his
game with a unique visual style that distinctly branded
ad campaigns such as those for the juggernaut video
game Halo 3. Roth, Patel and fellow executive producer
Gloria Borders grew fascinated by the uncompromising
tone and impressive variety in Sanders' work, as well as
the depth of soul to his commercials.
When Roth's team had a draft of the script with
which all were comfortable, Sanders was the first
and the only filmmaker to whom they sent the idea. A
veteran of imaginative gaming spots, Sanders believed
it was as important to reimagine the story as it was to
open up a filmic Snow White to both genders. Everyone
felt that Sanders' vision and skill
set offered a deft balance that
would guarantee the production
its green light.
Roth reflects that with this
time-tested story and Sanders'
visual arsenal, he knew they
were on the right track: "I loved
the idea of turning this story on
its head. What I realized after
making Alice in Wonderland is
that if you find the right story and
you put a visionary filmmaker
on it-someone who's got a real
eye-and you have a modern
take and use all the modern
tools, you have the best of all worlds." He tells that he
found that man in Sanders: "When we looked at his
commercial reel, it was clear he had a fantastic eye.
I was impressed at how bright he was, and I knew he
would be a fast learner."
Admittedly, it wasn't initially an easy sell to the
British filmmaker. Recounts Sanders: "I'd been looking
for a project, and I'd been close on a couple of things.
Then I was sent the script, and I thought, 'Snow White?
Are you having a laugh?' But after I read it, I thought,
'Wow, this is an incredible opportunity to create a world
that people haven't seen before.' What touched me about
the story was that it drew on something that so many
people have within them. We all read it as a child and
saw the cartoon that was done in 1937-the first Disney
foray into fairy tales. I loved the idea of a reinvention."
Sanders acknowledges that he was also excited by
"the chance to do something more masculine with the
story." He says: "Snow White has an arc that is a very
mythical rise of a hero. She's almost the female Luke
Skywalker. We've built a universe that touches on her
themes, including the iconic metaphors and imagery,
but everything is skewed. We still have the mirror, the
red apple and the evil Queen, but we've thrown into
that massive battles and a rebellion. This story is much
bigger, and the stakes are much higher. It's a battle of
life against death."
Within 24 hours of reading the screenplay, Sanders put
together a library of ideas for his producers. He presented
his preliminary vision the next day, incorporating into
Daugherty's story visual concepts that borrowed from
English and French sculptors, as well as German artists.
Sanders had no interest in delivering a fragile Snow
White who was relegated to being saved by someone
else; his heroine was as laser-focused upon her mission
as her antagonist was.
As the script developed, the director found the
symbols in the Brothers Grimm tale to be quite
imperative in moving along the narrative. He notes:
"They're very potent. Everything in that story-the
mirror, the apple-is iconic and has so many deeper
themes. The apple is the knowledge in the tree of life.
The Snow White story helps us to understand mortality
and teaches us not to bury ourselves in jealousy and
rage, because that stops your living. It teaches that you
should enjoy your life and not try to seek something that
is ultimately irrelevant."
To demonstrate to executives at Universal Pictures
the action and emotion of which a first-time features
director was capable, Sanders took a skeleton cast and
crew in January 2011 and filmed select visual scenes
that would be captured in his vision of Snow White and
the Huntsman. Pulling in several favors from friends and
colleagues in the industry,
he cut together a short reel,
added a few special effects
and relied upon a friend
to conduct the voice-over.
When the studio saw
the tonal guide that took
Sanders approximately a
week to complete-with
the Queen dissolving
into ravens, her apple
disintegrating to its core, and fairies emerging from
the breasts of birds-it green-lit the film. Everyone
recognized that the young filmmaker was more than
capable of helming and delivering an epic with a
Sanders sums his thoughts on the visual style for this
film: "I wanted to make a very rich, fantastical world,
but I wanted to separate fairy tale from fantasy; they are
very different to me. I wanted to create something that
was muscular but very emotional and to make a grand,
epic-scale film that carried as much emotion as it did
scale. A lot of the times, you see a film of this nature that
is very heavily visually affected but has very little heart.
I wanted to find that emotion in the story."
As preproduction took shape, The Blind Side's John
Lee Hancock and 47 Ronin's Hossein Amini contributed
to what would become the final script based upon
Daugherty's story, and Roth requested that a seasoned
filmmaker and longtime M. Night Shyamalan collaborator,
Sam Mercer, join the team as a fellow producer.
Mercer describes that his interest in coming aboard
the production was due to how this reinvention still
honored the lasting appeal of this character. He reflects
upon our heroine: "Snow White is on a journey, but she
hasn't yet accepted it. She's got to take control of the
kingdom and ascend to what her father left her. The
character is someone who is out for her people, and
those core issues fundamentally resonate with us. With
Rupert's aesthetics and eye for cinematic detail, we
knew he would give this material a contemporary feel
and make it into a big, fun summer action movie."
By Fairest Blood:
Casting the Action-Adventure
Roth, Mercer and Sanders aimed to create a film that
was not only timeless, but would also capture the spirit,
style and tone of the Brothers Grimm, perhaps in the way
these folklorists might envision a version of their story
200 years after they first wrote it down. With production
due to start in the United Kingdom in fall 2011, casting
director LUCY BEVAN began the search for actors all
across the world to bring life to this new vision.
The first role cast was also the wickedest: Queen
Ravenna. The daughter of a sorceress, Ravenna slowly
found her way to the dark side. Abducted by a vicious
master when she was a girl, the only power Ravenna
wielded was her astonishing beauty. Though her mother
upon her an enchantment to protect her from
the ravages of time, Ravenna is forced to maintain it by
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