When Julia Roberts got a phone call about the possibility of being cast in a new live-action movie based on the Snow White fable, she dismissed it right away.
“I had no interest in some fairy tale movie — I didn’t even consider it at the time,” Roberts said with a laugh.
In many ways, her response made perfect sense. For what reasons would Roberts, a seasoned, award-winning screen veteran, be interested in a project like this? Up until that point, fairy tales on the big screen had almost been the exclusive territory of Disney’s animation department. A project like this seemed strange to Roberts, and the only reason she ended up going in for an audition was because of the director attached to the project: Tarsem Singh.
“The first part I had cast in my head was Julia Roberts as the evil queen — Snow [White] and the prince, they all came later, but I knew who I wanted was Julia right away,” Singh said.
With Singh’s insistence, and the realization that his vision was much different than what the actress had originally imagined, Roberts quickly signed on for the project. It’s a good thing she did, because she captures the heart and soul of the movie.
As the sassy, controlling and evil queen, Roberts is the center of attention whenever she is on screen, treating everyone around her with an unmistakable bite. It is not a role audiences are probably used to seeing Roberts in, as she’s generally cast in roles significantly more good-natured.
Roberts said that it wasn’t difficult to make the transition, as the part was so much fun for her to tackle. The only time she encountered any trouble was when she had to direct some especially mean lines at her co-star Lily Collins, who portrays Snow White.
“It was like yelling at Bambi,” Roberts said. “She was just there looking up at me looking adorable and I’m just saying all these things to her. I wanted to give her a big hug afterwards.”
Off the screen, the two stars had a good relationship, with Collins gushing about Roberts at every opportunity.
“I was so thrilled that I would actually be working with Julia Roberts,” Collins said. “When we got on the set, I saw how great she was in all of our scenes and how great of a mother she was and it really helped me feel comfortable.”
Roberts was right in her description of Collins as “adorable” — the young actress is a slam dunk in the lead role. Collins, with her innocent aura and immediate beauty, is exactly the kind of girl viewers would imagine portraying a princess who sings with birds and befriends outcast dwarves.
Mirror Mirror follows the story of Snow White that many people have come to know well. The evil queen, Snow White’s stepmother, is desperate to find a rich husband to help pay the debts accrued from her lavish lifestyle, which has left her kingdom in poverty. The queen starts pursuing Prince Charming — played by Armie Hammer of Social Network fame — using her charms, spells and persistence. The queen grows jealous of his attention toward Snow White, however, and orders her to be killed. Left alone in the woods, Snow White finds the seven dwarfs and befriends them.
In Mirror Mirror, however, the seven dwarfs are not miners, as in the 1937 Disney movie, but rather bandits who steal from the rich à la Robin Hood. They are quite successful at this task, using stilts, swords and traps, and end up teaching Snow White their ways. In the process, Mirror Mirror portrays a Snow White story that audiences have never seen before.
According to Singh, this change is not something to fear.
“The story of Snow White has been around for centuries. Yes, some things are changed from the Disney version, but a lot of things were changed for that one as well,” Singh said. “In the original story, the queen is Snow White’s mother — something that doesn’t sit as well when she starts to want her killed. Fairy tales are adapted to the times they are told in.”
Singh is correct in this assessment, as his visually arresting, comical and updated vision of Snow White is perfect for modern viewers.
It seems, then, that Roberts made the right choice by reconsidering the role.