Of course, there’s CGI in Disney’s Cinderella.
The pumpkin transforming into a gilded stagecoach.
The lizards turning into slithery-tongued footmen.
The helpful mice.
The glass slippers.
But those blue eyes on Prince Charming? Totally real. They belong to Scottish actor Richard Madden, last seen dying a most unmerciful death in HBO’s gruesome hit Game of Thrones.
Madden, 28, was alive and quite well Thursday at the Soho Beach House to talk about Kenneth Branagh’s new live-action adaptation, which hit theaters Friday.
To play someone so gallant and handsome wasn’t such a stretch. But that’s not to say there was no prep involved. “I was doing a lot of horse riding, galloping. I did a bunch of fencing,” Madden said. “And dancing, since I’m not a natural at that at all! I had to take lessons a few times a week for months before shooting.”
All the effort paid off while filming the grand ball — arranged so that the prince can find a suitable wife — when housemaid “Ella” (Lily James, of Downton Abbey) appears in her jaw-dropping, fairytale of a dress. The prince’s decision about his future queen is made. Don’t just pay attention to the duo’s elegant waltzing performance, incredible effort was put in to the staging of the magically evocative scene, Madden explained.
“It was a huge ballroom built at [famed British studio] Pinewood. We had 600 actors and dancers, 2,000 lit candles, chandeliers imported from Rome. A feast for the eyes.”
The actor thinks he has an idea why this classic romantic tale never fails to enchant. Though he thinks this latest, updated version is more realistic in the year 2015.
“This retelling [is] very tied to the original, but the characters are modern and we get to understand them more,” said Madden, who is dating lucky Dr. Who star Jenna-Louise Coleman. “Also the idea that she is the damsel in distress who needs a man to save her from her life is old fashioned and not relevant anymore. Actually, she’d be fine without the prince. They’re equals and bring out the best in each other.”