The first I’ve heard of Disney’s new Cinderella movie is the announcement that Cate Blanchett is considering the role of the evil stepmother (or as she’s known in the Disney original, Lady Tremaine). First off, that would be fantastic. I can completely see Cate as the stern, cold, cruel woman who subjects her own stepdaughter to her every whim. But you know what else? I could also sympathize with her.
You might ask yourself, “Do we really need a new Cinderella?” I’m of the opinion that the Disney archetypes never get old and can always be reinvented. It helps that Mark Romanek (Never Let Me Go) is attached to direct the script from Chris Weitz (About A Boy).
However, it’s not so much the question of a new Cinderella as a new evil stepmother. This year’s fairy tale movies, plus at least one project next year, point toward a trend of sympathetic villains: Charlize Theron was the strongest character in Snow White and the Huntsman, whereas Julia Roberts brought great comic relief to Mirror Mirror; and we’re dying to find out how Angelina Jolie makes Maleficent compelling.
Have I convinced you yet? Consider that the stepmother in this story finds a guy who shares her experience of a broken first marriage and children lacking another parental role model. She marries this guy late in life, only for him to unexpectedly die shortly into their marriage. So now she’s trapped in his house — because of course she and her daughters move in with him and Ella — with his servants and his daughter who’s mourning her dad and holds her at arm’s length because she’ll never measure up to her mother. How can you blame her for lashing out at her stepdaughter? You saw a little of that in the celebrated Cinderella adaptation Ever After, where Anjelica Huston’s character genuinely loved her deceased husband.
Of course, the stepmother becomes “evil” when she reduces poor Ella to sweeping out the cinders (hence the nickname) and excludes her from the same social events that she pushes her daughters to go to. But like I said, Charlize Theron made the bloodthirsty Ravenna someone we wanted to root for more than weak little Snow White. So, it’s totally possible.
Really, if you think about it, that Julia Roberts drama Stepmom already tread this ground. And if you would watch her sing “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” into a hairbrush with her stepdaughters, then I think you could buy Cate Blanchett terrorizing whatever young starlet plays Cinderella.
Photos: Disney, Adriana M. Barraza/WENN.com