To create the aesthetics of a 70s punk rock vibe within the British fashion scene is one thing, it’s another to find the right cast to play the roles to give that world life. And Craig Gillespie’s “Cruella” did that by casting Emma Stone as the title character and Emma Thompson as the Baroness. Together, they make an excellent protagonist and antagonist pairing because there are no real heroes for a film like “Cruella,” just a villain you can root for.
Last week, ThatsItLa joined their fellow journalists for the “Cruella” virtual press conference where Stone and Thompson talked about how surprisingly dark the film is, finding the inspiration for their characters, working with dogs, and more. Check out the top then things that were said during the press conference.
1 – Surprised at how dark Cruella is.
“Cruella” isn’t the first time that Disney has explored a villain’s origin story, but it is a terrific one because it is willing to be dark and go places no other Disney live-action film has explored.
“I mean, they really let Craig and Tony write and make what they wanted to make. It’s definitely dark for a Disney movie,” Stone said. “Maybe not an intense kind of R-rated film. But it was darker than I’ve seen a Disney movie for a good long time.”
2 – Finding the inspiration for Baroness.
When it came to finding inspiration to play the Baroness, Thompson, saw it as an opportunity to play a role she rarely gets to play.
“I drew on the life, obviously. I think if my husband were in the room, he’d say, ‘no acting required,'” Thompson said. “I had such fun doing her because I’ve been asking for quite a number of years if I could be a villain, a proper villain.”
“And I spent decades playing what my mother used to call, ‘Good women in frocks.’ And, now I got to play a really evil woman in frocks,” Thompson added. “But oh, boy, the frocks. I mean, they wore me is what happened. I had just the best, best time.”
“Every time Em[ma Stone] and I would come on set, we’d just look at each other and walk around each other, like we were sculptures or works of art or something, which we were,” Thompson added. “I mean, it was in a way, everyone created the Baroness, and then I sort of stepped in and just said the words.”
3 – Moving around in those dresses
Considering that the film revolves around two brilliant fashionistas engaged in a fashion war, it only makes sense that the dresses make a powerful statement. While they make a visual impact, that doesn’t necessarily make it easy for the person wearing it to move.
“I mean, my underwear was like a sort of ship’s rigging,” Thompson said. “There were people hauling on ropes. It was a lot. Peeing was hard and involved a team of people. Also, the shoes we’re a real challenge because I don’t wear anything higher than a flip flop in real life.”
“I had wigs as well, so I was a great deal taller than I’m used to being. I used to have to move in and out of spaces sideways as well, and generally, I had three dalmatians at my feet too,” Thompson added. “The underwear was a big ordeal. Not for Emma Stone, obviously, cause she’s slender as a lily and didn’t need to wear a corset-like a frigging, you know, whalebone.”
“That’s what I was going to say,” Stone chimed.
“What you don’t have, if you have flesh – what you can do is just what they used to do in the olden days, is you take the flesh, and like me, you squeeze it in the middle. It moves up and down, like toothpaste in a tube,” Thompson said. “So, you can really make kind of quite extreme shapes, and that’s really good fun.”
“It’s not fantastically comfortable at the center of the toothpaste tube, but our wonderful tailors and designers, Jenny Beavan have such a good time just pulling in the corset tight enough so that bits of me would squish out of the top of the costume,” Thompson added. “And then they’d push a bit back again and squish it back down and then pull in again. And it was, oh my goodness, it was kind of cookery as well.”
4 – Favorite dress
Though some of the dresses did not allow for much maneuverability, there were still a few that Stone and Thompson enjoyed wearing. “My very favorite outfit that was absolutely ludicrous was the dress that I wear on the garbage truck because there was a 40-foot train,” Stone said. And that wasn’t attached to the dress because, obviously, I wouldn’t be able to move anywhere, so they added that onto the dress at the last minute when I get onto the garbage truck to shoot that part.”
“There was also that insane skirt when I cover the car,” Stone added. “And that was epic too. Trying to walk up onto a car and then cover an entire car with a switch of the skirt was just fantastic.” That moment was one of Stone’s favorites as she wore an actual dress and reminisced that she was in a real movie during the shoot and how something like that would probably never happen again.
“Those are the moments that were real, weren’t they, Em,” Thompson asked. “You were really on that care for both those bits, and none of it is CGI. It’s all real. You actually walked onto the car and pulled the material around, and you did it about a million times cause it was hard.”
5 – Working with dogs
Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a “Cruella” origins film without having a few dogs in the picture. And there is no shortage of man’s best friend in “Cruella.” And they aren’t there just for show or obligatory reasons, they are in on the fun as they help with some of Cruella’s capers.
“There’s quite a bit of CGI dogs, but those dogs were always on set. There were a lot of scenes as we could possibly have where those dogs are comfortable, which was amazing,” Stone said.
“They were great, and they were very sweet. So, the CGI’d them to be a bit nasty,” Thompson chimed. “They were such sweet dogs. They were so nice, and they worked so hard. They had little crosses, and they were sent back to their marks and stand on their marks and wait, and then get a little treat.”
“Estella’s dog, Buddy, whose real name is Bobby, was, I genuinely think, the cutest and sweetest dog I had ever known in my life, and I’ve got a lot of dogs,” Stone said. “So that’s saying something.”
Wink, whose real name is Bluebell, was the target of jealousy. “I’ve been jealous of Wink since day one, and I’ll say it right here,” Thompson said in resenting tone. “Yeah. I tried to get Wink fired. I told stories. I said he’d come and widdled on one of my costumes, and nobody believed me. They just knew I was lying and that it was just a vicious attempt to get rid of this dog that was, frankly, upstaging me and getting in my light.
“We saw Bluebell, and she was like, ‘You bitch.’ But that means female dog,” Stone joked.
6 – Character preference
There are many films where the title character can be an inspiration or role model, but for something like “Cruella,” it’s a bit hard because we know her trajectory. And yet, here, we see Cruella as an underdog who must use her skills as a fashion designer and grifter for Estella, and her powerful persona as Cruella, to beat her arch-nemesis, The Baroness. But who does Stone prefer to play?
“What character do I prefer to be more like in life,” Stone asked. “Well, you know, it’s interesting because there is a sort of rejection of Estella that comes at a point. Estella is sweet, but-but, um, she’s not fully embodied.”
“So, I would say there is something about Cruella that’s pretty enticing because she just kind of is who she is,” Stone said of Cruella. “She’s in full acceptance and autonomy there. So, I am kind of interested in that Cruella world. That said, she does some things that I – some lines that I don’t think I would necessarily cross. But to be honest, I sort of prefer Cruella.”
“It’s so much fun to do. That’s for a lot of roles, if you’re someone like me that kind of has a face that’s made of full rubber and is always trying to sort of containing a little bit, teaspoons a little bit, instead of buckets. But when you get to throw buckets, it’s a joy,” Stone added.
7 – What makes a villain?
Villainy isn’t a concept as simple as black and white. There are plenty of greys that embody the character’s psychology. And that was something Stone and Thompson wanted to explore because we rarely see that on any medium.
“I don’t think I would ever be able to play a character if I truly thought they’re just a villain,” Stone said. “Do you think anybody evil walks through the world thinking they’re evil? I mean, I don’t think so. I think they think they’re right.
“Inspiration behind Baroness. I suppose the Baroness is a mixture of all kinds of people. Venal, she’s quite venal, but her greed is really just for herself. It’s like she can’t bear anyone else to succeed in any way. She has to destroy all the competition, instead of thinking that the competition might bring her game up, might make her better.”
“I am very interested in the dark side of a female character because they’re so rarely allowed to be dark. You know, we’re all supposed to nice and good, aren’t we? And bad mothers are simply unforgivable. I mean, nobody can find words for the bad mother,” Thompson said of Baroness. “We don’t know about where they’ve all come from and how they’ve developed. But the Baroness, she’s so single-minded, and she says this wonderful thing: ‘If I hadn’t been single-minded, I might have had to put my genius at the back of the drawer.’ Like so many other women of genius, who died without producing anything and without using their genius. And actually, it is a very good point. So, whilst, as Em says, I wouldn’t necessarily walk that path. Her commitment to her own creativity is rather admirable.”
“So, in fact, she appears and presents as this very strong personality, but in fact, of course, she’s very weak, and-and contains the inevitable seeds of her own destruction because she can’t acknowledge talent in any other person,” Thompson said. “When she finally sees someone who’s not only talented but actually more talented than her, and younger and more beautiful than her, she finds it very difficult indeed. And, of course, I found it very difficult being with Stone, who’s more beautiful, young, talented, et cetera.”
8 – Fan of the original
Stone was a fan of the original, so much so, she was the only one within her social circle that noticed that the dogs looked like their owners. But getting the role wasn’t as straightforward as getting a call to play Cruella. “It was a process of about four years, and different writers and different things were brought to the table, and it really felt like we might not ever really make the movie of Cruella, because even though she’s such a fun and interesting character, what world would we want to explore her in that would really make sense and make a good film that didn’t feel shoehorned into this character,” Stone said.
9 – Pretending to be Mean.
Throughout the film, both Cruella and the Baroness engage in a game of a mean off, or who can be the biggest and baddest mean person in the film. Just don’t expect either of them to be that mean in real life. “We’re acting, so we’re not really being mean. I mean, there is nothing more fun than pretending,” Thompson said. “I found pretending to be mean horribly easily. I was very well brought up by a very kind and wonderful woman, my mom and my dad, a wonderful man. I was surrounded by lovely, kind people, and my experience of people who were truly mean like that and truly hard and narcissistic is quite rare. But there are quite a number of them in show business. Mentioning no names.”
10 – Character Flaws
“Cruella” proves that no matter how successful one’s business is or how much confidence and power they have, they are all inherently human. As such, they have flaws and weaknesses. “The fact that she’s human, she, of course, has weaknesses,” Stone said. “This is sort of a movie about that, about her strengths combating her weaknesses, I think, at least for-for that character, specifically.
“It’s very nature versus nurture, this story. So what she would find a weakness early on or what her mother would deem a weakness early on with just her ability to really hit the ceiling quickly, her kind of volatility and her reactiveness, becomes sort of her strength through her creativity and through her genius,” Stone added. “I think it really is a movie about how your weaknesses do sort of become your strengths, in a way.”
“Although again, you know, this isn’t necessarily an aspirational character, so to speak, except for in the fact that she is really harnessing her creativity and who she is in a very strong way, and she’s learning to accept that who she is in her nature,” Stone said. “Her biggest weakness in the end, well, I mean, you know, the original character of Cruella de Vil does get to some pretty dark places, and I wouldn’t necessarily call those a positive.”
“Cruella” opens in theaters and debuts on Disney+’s premium access on May 28, 2021.