‘Cruella’: Emma Stone, Emma Thompson and Paul Walter Hauser on whether the movie looks like ‘Joker’
When Disney dropped the trailer for its next 101 Dalmatians history of origins Cruella in February, the internet went into a kind of collapse. The trailer, it was quickly noted, had a distinct similarity to that of Todd Phillips’ 2019 smash. Joker.
There were allusions to a troubled past resulting in the villain we know and love (hate) today; the first-person voiceover detailing the protagonist’s meanness; snapshots of the nemeses who knocked our anti-heroes overboard (Baroness Von Hellman for Cruella, Thomas Wayne for the Joker); a soundtrack from the golden age of singing in the 1950s (Connie Francis’s Who’s sorry now for Cruella vs. Charlie Chaplin’s Smile); and the overwhelming feeling that we were going to learn a lot more about the titular characters than we ever would as they played second fiddle to the heroes of the movies we’ve seen them in before.
The #DisneysJoker hashtag quickly caught on in fashion, but is it really a fair comparison? There is no doubt Cruella delves into a bit darker territory than you might expect from a live-action Disney spin-off. It even received a PG-13 rating in the United States, only the second recent series of live-action Disney remakes to enter this “adult” territory, after Mulan. But it’s still not in the R-rated world Joker. Cruella, after all, is the story of a narcissistic aristocrat with a penchant for dog fur coats, while Joker tells the story of a psychopathic maniac staunchly bent on global destruction, as he teems with tales of abuse and torture that would never come close to PG-13 territory.
It’s definitely dark for a Disney movie. Maybe not for a really intense R-rated movie, but it was darker than what I’ve seen a Disney movie in a long time
Paul Walter Hauser, who plays Cruella Horace’s henchman in the new movie, concludes that sometimes the internet just likes easy comparisons. “People like to find a quick way to describe something, and it gets catchy and all of a sudden people are okay with that without even knowing what they’re talking about – it’s just Twitter,” the actor laments. “The Joker the comparison is a bit lazy. I would love to be compared to that by promoting cool conversations and making a lot of money, that would be cool, but I think the comparisons end there.
Actress Emma Stone, who herself plays Cruella, agrees with the Joker the comparisons are overkill, even though she’s happy with the film’s undeniably dark side. “[Disney] really let craig [Gillespie, director] and Tony [McNamara, screenplay] write and do whatever they wanted to do, ”she said. “It’s really dark for a Disney movie. Maybe not for a really intense R-rated movie, but it was darker than what I’ve seen a Disney movie in a long time.
Stone co-star Emma Thompson, a veteran of British dramas at the time as Howard’s end and Sense and sensitivity, also seems to have taken the opportunity to get a little closer to the dark side in her latest role as the film’s real villain, Baroness Von Hellman.
“I had so much fun doing it, because I’ve been asking for a number of years if I could be a bad guy, a real bad guy,” she says. “I’ve spent decades playing what my mom called ‘the good women in the dress’, and now I have to play a really bad woman in the dress.”
The hired comedian appears to have taken her newfound love for evil as well, as she jokingly admits trying to get her co-star, Wink the dog, fired from the film for stealing her show. “I told stories. I said he came to grab one of my suits, and no one believed me. They just knew I was lying and it was just a vicious attempt to get rid of this dog that frankly was bothering me and putting me in my light, ”she laughs. “The dog was an obstacle.”
I think Disney is figuring out how to put creative people in the driver’s seat of an IP vehicle, and … do something really interesting with it.
Paul Walter Hauser
What is perhaps most surprising about the film, however, is not how Disney has plunged into obscurity for the origin story of this classic animated villain, but how much love we have for her at the end of the movie. In the 1961 animation and the two ’90s live-action remakes, starring Glenn Close as the haute couture-laden harridan, there is no doubt about Cruella’s perversity. In Cruella, however, the character starts out as nothing more than naughty schoolgirl Estella (played by Tipper Seifert-Cleveland in the opening scenes of the film), and becomes the sympathetic but downtrodden budding fashion designer of the London-based design house of 1970s of the Baroness.
Her adoption of the Cruella mantle is not just an alter ego with which to fight the Baroness, but part of her effort to shake up the reassured culture of the time. The parallels with the enfant terrible Vivienne Westwood and the punk rock movement are inevitable – and signalized both in the fashions and in the soundtrack – and quite commendable.
Cruella can deliver cheap blows, but they’re all designed to defeat the infinitely more wicked Baroness, whose crimes are far more serious. It’s not the darker tone that might take audiences away from the source material, but the fact that we end up rooting for this previously hated character.
However, Hauser doesn’t seem concerned with the apparent overhaul of his fictional mistress’s moral compass. “We have to start twisting and contorting these deadlines and these materials, otherwise we won’t have any more films,” he says.
“Hollywood doesn’t invite a lot of entirely original movies – a movie like Little miss sunshine is very difficult to make, whereas a film like Superman or Batman is not as difficult to do.
“I think Disney is figuring out how to put creative people in the driver’s seat of an IP vehicle, and let them drive their way and do something really interesting with it. And I think Cruella is the best example I’ve seen in several years of Disney letting someone creatively take the reins and do something totally new with something we’ve seen before.
“I really hope people can take advantage of the full extent of the creativity of Cruella. “
Cruella is in UAE cinemas from Thursday