Production on Disney’s live-action adaptation of Cinderella is currently underway in London, with acclaimed actor/director Kenneth Branagh behind the camera and a large cast of talented actors in front. Now, we’ve got a first look at the lucky, young actress playing the title role, 24-year old English actress Lily James, as she rides a horse through a lush field.
Check out the photo above, and below you can see a close-up of the actress.
As indicated by James’ elegant, very Disney dress and the official plot synopsis below, Branagh will be pursuing a traditional retelling of the story with a screenplay by About a Boy scribe Chris Weitz, bringing his well-documented flair for eye-catching visuals (see: Thor) to a tried-and-true tale.
James’ portrayal of the classic fairy tale heroine will mark her first leading role. Readers in the UK may recognize James from her two-episode stint on ITV’s Downton Abbey as Lady Rose McClare or from her eight-episode arc as Poppy on ITV2’s Secret Diary of a Call Girl.
Branagh spoke highly of James’ work so far in the lead role, saying that, “With Lily James we have found our perfect Cinderella. She combines knockout beauty with intelligence, wit, fun and physical grace.”
Branagh also elaborated on the casting of Game of Thrones‘ Richard Madden as the Prince, calling him “a young actor with incredible power and charisma,” and adding that, “He is funny, smart and sexy and a great match for Cinderella.”
Other cast members in the upcoming adaptation include Cate Blanchett as Cinderella’s evil stepmother, Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera as her wicked step-sisters, Helena Bonham Carter as Cinderella’s fairy godmother, Stellan Skarsgård as the Grand Arch Duke, Derek Jacobi as the King, and Nonso Anozie as the Captain, a loyal friend of Madden’s prince.
The full plot synopsis released by Disney reads as follows:
The story of “Cinderella” follows the fortunes of young Ella whose merchant father remarries following the tragic death of her mother. Keen to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother Lady Tremaine and her daughters Anastasia and Drisella into the family home. But, when Ella’s father suddenly and unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully renamed Cinderella, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. Yet, despite the cruelty inflicted upon her, Ella is determined to honor her mother’s dying words and to “have courage and be kind.” She will not give in to despair nor despise those who abuse her. And then there is the dashing stranger she meets in the woods. Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an employee at the Palace, Ella finally feels she has met a kindred soul. It appears as if her fortunes may be about to change when the Palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella’s hopes of once again encountering the charming “Kit.” Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand as a kindly beggar woman steps forward and, armed with a pumpkin and a few mice, changes Cinderella’s life forever.
With this version’s fresh cast and old-fashioned feel, I could easily see Cinderella conjuring up huge numbers at the box office, courtesy of its young-skewing target demographic, nostalgic fans of the original animated film and even older viewers interested in watching Branagh’s beautiful, talented cast.
Are you excited for Branagh’s take on this classic tale, or is the classic approach too by-the-numbers for your liking? Let us know in the comments section!
Cinderella will aim to enchant movie-goers on March 13th, 2015.