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Kenneth Branagh is nothing if not unpredictable. Famed for his stage and screen productions of William Shakespeare’s plays, he moved from helming Marvel’s Thor to Jack Ryan: Shadow One (in which he also portrayed the villain) to currently filming Disney’s live-action take on Cinderella. And now the studio has released a first look at Downton Abbey actress Lily James in the title role.
“It is impossible to think of Cinderella without thinking of Disney and the timeless images we’ve all grown up watching,” Branagh said in a statement. “And those classic moments are irresistible to a filmmaker. With Lily James we have found our perfect Cinderella. She combines knockout beauty with intelligence, wit, fun and physical grace. Her Prince is being played by Richard Madden, a young actor with incredible power and charisma. He is funny, smart and sexy and a great match for Cinderella.”
The film also stars Cate Blanchett as the stepmother Lady Tremaine, Helena Bonham Carter as the Fairy Godmother, Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera as stepsisters Anastasia and Drisella, Derek Jacobi as the King, Stellan Skarsgård as the Arch Grand Duke and Nonso Anozie as the Prince’s pal, the Captain.
Here’s the official synopsis from Disney:
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.
Cinderella opensMarch 13, 2015.