Shooting underway! 'Snow White' filmmaker explains what makes Julia Roberts so evil

Julia-Roberts

Image Credit: Landmark/PR Photos

The Pretty Woman has turned into a wicked one.

Production began Monday in Montreal on the first movie in Hollywood’s Great Snow White Derby ’11, Relativity Media’s comedy-fantasy starring Julia Roberts as the Evil Queen, Armie Hammer as the prince, and Lily Collins as the apple-biting heroine.

A rival movie, Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart, Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron as the queen, begins shooting later this year, and each film has been shifting release dates in a bid to debut first. (Roberts’ movie was originally slated for next summer, and Theron’s movie was heading for the following holidays, until the Theron picture’s producers announced it would come out June 1, 2012, which led the Roberts version to leap ahead to March 16, 2012.)

During pre-production, Tarsem Singh (the surrealist director of The Cell, The Fall and the upcoming mythological action-adventure The Immortals) shared details of the Julia Roberts version with EW.

Below, read why he chose America’s Sweetheart to play a monster, how fiery the rivalry is getting with the other movie, and why dwarfs make life “difficult”:

Snow-White-illo_233.jpg

Image Credit: Everett Collection

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What made you think Julia Roberts would make a good bad-guy?
TARSEM SINGH: She’s the obvious choice of being goody-two-shoes, and I didn’t want an Evil Queen in the sense that already existed. In earlier versions, always it was mothers — mothers of the child. And then the Brothers Grimm came along, and said we’ve got to make it more family friendly and turn the mother into a stepmother, which I find really bizarre because most stepmothers are pretty great. I said, “It can’t be an evil, quintessential queen. I’m looking for a likable evil queen.” I couldn’t think of anybody who is more of a likable evil queen than her.

Is she Snow White’s mother?
No. She’s the stepmother, but other films are all about narcissism. Who’s more beautiful than the other? This one is more of a power struggle. She wants power, and beauty is just a part of that.

You chose Roberts before casting the other roles. Why her first?
We might have said, “Snow White first,” but no — the Queen comes first.… I just went about this in, I guess, the wrong way because it’s called Snow White. [Laughs] I just said, “What I want is the Queen, because that dictates how old Snow White is.” There’s a lot of banter between the prince and the queen and the person who is Snow White. So I knew the tough situation there was, if I went with Snow White, and went really young with her, and I got a queen who was much older, it would be really hard to play a comedy love-triangle with the prince because he could come off as pedophilic on one side and Oedipal on the other. So I knew the key was the Queen. Choose the Queen — that will dictate the Snow White.

A wave of fairy-tale movies was launched after Alice in Wonderland became a worldwide hit. But why do you think Snow White has triggered two movies simultaneously?
It’s such an iconic name. Everybody just always thought this was not public domain, but now everyone is coming to the correct conclusion that it’s not owned by anybody. And that’s kind of the hammer that dropped on everybody’s head together. Suddenly you find all these films coming out.

Tarsem-Singh

Image Credit: Araya Diaz/WireImage.com

This folktale has been retold many ways over the centuries. Yours is aiming more at humor, and theirs seems more action-oriented. Is it possible to make two entirely different movies from the same source material?
I will bet you if you changed the name Snow White, all of the films coming out trying to be Snow White could exist in the same market. But everybody is going for that iconic name, thus it sounds like everybody is making the same film.

Are you confident there will be appetite for both?
Fortunately or unfortunately, there really, truly is only room for the first one of these. Two Snow White movies do not exist in this market. So for me, if you’re not first with this one, you’re not in the game. I made that very clear from the beginning to Relativity.

Is there an element you find particularly intriguing from visual perspective?
I think the visual thing that interested me the most was to do a 3-D movie in snow.

How about The Seven Dwarfs?
The Seven Dwarfs are more of a handicap than anything. Everybody has a different take on dwarfs. Dwarfs are funny/they’re not funny. Dwarfs are creepy/they’re not creepy. Kids like them/kids don’t like them. So I have to have a take on that. Dwarfs are not the thing that make the film easy. They make it difficult. Do you take [regular sized] people and shrink them? That’s been talked about for a very long time. [NOTE: Singh ultimately decided to use actual little-people actors for the characters.]

Is there a specific title for your film?
Right now, I don’t think so. It could be Snow White and the Something Something. [Laughs] Or it might be Something Something Snow White.

For more fairest-of-them-all coverage, follow EW’s Anthony Breznican on Twitter: @Breznican

Read More:
Getting to know the new Snow White — Lily Collins
Snow White movies jockey release dates in bid to be first
Chris Hemsworth signs on to ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’

Comments (39 total) Add your comment
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  • Kelly

    My stepmother was awful – it happens.

  • Fit

    I’ll watch it just because it has Julia Roberts.

    • Jem

      She’s the reason I won’t watch it. Such an irritating, self-absorbed actress. Charlize > Julia

    • Liz Lemon

      I like Julia Roberts. I don’t understand why a lot of people all of a sudden don’t like her. She’s talented, funny, down to earth, and very likable imo.
      But this whole cast sounds great and I’m also very interested in directors vision for this film. It sounds great.
      And he’s completely right about getting there first. I won’t be seeing two films about Snow White.

    • Michael

      I love Julia Roberts. I always have, and I don’t understand why people don’t like her.

      • Willie

        That’s cleared my thoughts. Thanks for cotnribunitg.

  • Lisa

    Lily is so AWESOME, can’t wait for Snow White to come out. Lily was great as Lucy in the movie Priest.

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  • Penn

    I love Tarsem but I am NOT rooting for this Snow white because they are not honoring the dark feel of the Grimm fairy-tale. The originally sinister fairy-tale source is being turned into some spirited comedy 0.o
    I am sorry but there ain’t absolutely NOTHING funny about Snow white’s tale, it’s a tale about a girl that has to escape from her murderous step-mother for God’s sake. So I am sticking with the other project that is respecting the dark and gritty take of the Bros. Grimm source material and just cast Ian McShane, loved that dude ever since Deadwood!
    Snow white and the huntsman is the one.

    • Tony

      I agree. And why in bloody hell do they want to make the Evil Queen sympathetic? This is a woman who has no qualms about sending a hunter to rip out the beating heart from the chest of a young girl, and who later gave that girl a poisoned apple. Why would I want to feel bad about and relate to a person like that? Ugh.

      • Lincoln

        Remember: all bad guys, if written properly, must be sympathetic in some way and some form. They are human after all. Why is the Evil Stepmother evil? How did she get that way? No one is born bad. Something happened along the way to make her so dark.

      • quiqui

        lincoln that’s boring and that’s not the way the story was originally written. geez

    • Liz Lemon

      I think the comedic side to this one will help it more than it will hurt it.
      I think it’s going more of a Pirates of the Caribbean tone than “slap-stick” comedy.
      So, it will be dark, but still humorous.
      That will ultimately help this film succeed, because it will be able to target a larger audience.

  • Emily

    Looking forward to this, and I’d much rather see Lily as Snow White than see Kristen Stewart.

    • Miggietomgirl

      I agree. I was excited for the other snow white until I heard they cast Kristen Stewart. I’m sorry, I like Kristen Stewart but that girl is NOT a good actress.

      • badboy

        haha yeah i totally agree..if twilight wasnt a series of books she would have been in the first one n no one would have seen her again

    • ????

      Totally agree. Why in the world would I want to watch a talentless girl.

  • Jeff

    Let’s talk about how the Brothers Grimm had some of the most gory and violent stories of all time?

    Gather round children, hear about Cinderella’s step sisters CUTTING OFF THEIR OWN HEELS TO FIT INTO SHOES.

  • AQS

    There’s definitely room for two Snow White movies in the market, mainly because the feel of these films seems to be so radically different. I think the Charlize/Kristen rendition should move back to its original holiday release date; I have an odd feeling that this is going to be a mess, and audiences forget rather quickly… Regardless, I’ll be there opening weekend for the gritty, dirty version of Snow White. If done correctly, there’s a lot of room to honor the dark shades of these original tales (I’m also outrageously excited for Joe Wright’s Little Mermaid plans). I don’t need a janky comedy with a love triangle, already bored by the idea. Sorry I’m not sorry.

  • justme

    I’ll watch both..I hate Kristen Stewart as Snow White (unless eh plays her fully asleep throughout the movie), but prefer Charlize Theron to Julia Roberts.

  • ve

    This one has my money – its Julia Roberts for goodness sake.

    Plus I really like how the director has positioned his film as a power struggle between the women instead of some vapid beauty competition.

    And 3D in the snow! Sounds a lot like Hanna (goodness I hope it is)

    • Liz Lemon

      Me too. I like the idea of them both being after the Prince’s affections and like you said the power struggle.
      And I think Armie Hammer could believably play a love interest for both Julia and Lily.

  • Heidi

    I like the angles of both films. What does concern me, though, is Tarshem’s rush to get there first… its NOT about who gets there first, its who does the story justice. He sounds like he’s not even sure how it will all go, that he’s making it up on the fly.

  • googie

    julia!

  • Molly

    Kristen and Lilly both seem like adorable (yet different) young women. I just don’t understand the Kristen “haters”. What has she done to YOU?

    • Julia

      it’s not about what she’s done to “us”. it’s about her CONSTANT complaining about being famous and having no freedom. be grateful you have an amazing career that gives you plenty of money and benefits than that of tons of other people in this country and around the world. if you don’t like, stop making movies, or at least stop complaining about it every chance you get.

    • Lisa

      Kristen is a awful actress

  • Leigh

    Wierd. This is an old interview from months ago when this film was still set for Jun 29 and the other film for Dec and Relativity’s Snow White was going to shoot in 3D. Both of which has now changed. Wonder why are they reprinting a barely extended version of an old interview now?

  • Jem

    More of Julia Roberts’ annoying cackling? No thanks. Charlize Theron is a much better choice for the evil queen. She is a chameleon whereas no matter who Julia Roberts plays you see Julia Roberts.

  • Liz Lemon

    All the actors they’ve cast as the dwarves in this version are brilliant! So excited!!
    Mark Povinelli
    Jordan Prentice
    Danny Woodburn
    Sebastian Saraceno
    Ronald Lee Clark
    Martin Klebba
    Joey Gnoffo

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