Most directors' first film is something, shall we say, smaller in scale than Rupert Sanders' debut, "Snow White and the Huntsman." Sanders says a big movie like "Snow White" -- with Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron -- is easier to get developed than a small film, which he's tried. In a recent chat with HuffPost Entertainment, Sanders explains how he got this job in the first place, what's riding on the film's success for both he and Kristen Stewart, how the effects were accomplished for the dwarfs (played by actors who are not dwarfs), and his fears of a "Mirror Mirror" backlash. (Plus: at the conclusion of the interview, view an exclusive "Snow White" video, featuring clips from the movie and Sanders further explaining his vision.)
I feel you're having a big week.
Yeah, well, I hope it's not a small week.
This is your first feature length film and it's a really big one at that. So, I'm just going to ask: How did you get this job?
Well, I wasn't just kind of standing in a queue at McDonald's and someone sat down and said, "You're the director of a $100 million Hollywood movie." I've been working in commercials for ten years. I've been actively looking at projects and meeting on things. I got close to things and I pulled out of other things that I felt weren't going in the right direction. So, I've been actively seeking a project. And people were trying to find projects for me and I was sent "Snow White" and I really loved the idea of working with a classical piece of literature. And building a world of that scale. I met with [Producer] Joe Roth and we got on well. He came and watched me doing a big World War II Iwo Jima scene in a burnt forest and saw that I wasn't kind of shell shocked, weeping in a bush.
In a perfect world, would you have wanted to do a small project first? Like how Marc Webb did "(500) Days of Summer" before "The Amazing Spider-Man"?
I mean, you know, sometimes, yeah, you wish for something and you don't get quite what you wish for. But you get something bigger and better. I was actually doing a film called "Out of the Furnace" that Ridley Scott and Leo DiCaprio were producing. And it was just kind of dragging its heels a bit and this came along. To be honest, it's harder to get a film of that scale off of the ground then it is to get a big film off the ground. And this big film really excited the studio. It wasn't the studio coming to me; we sold it to a studio.
It's interesting that you mention Ridley Scott. I noticed some scenes in this movie that felt that they were inspired by Scott's influence. Am I off base?
Ridley is definitely an influence. He does the Medieval epic like no other. I'm influenced by a lot of filmmakers; I like English filmmakers because I feel a kin to them. I also love Peter Weirr and Terry Gilliam, so it's kind of a mixed bag of references that I have, you know? I'm not a complete Ridley Scott-only obsessive -- he's just someone whose work I admire. I've made no secret that would be my aspirational part -- if you're starting out playing high school basketball, you want to be Kobe Bryant. You want to be Ridley Scott.
It's not just a big movie for you, it's a big movie for Kristen Stewart. In a, "I'm not just Bella Swan," kind of way.
To me, casting is all about finding a character within the actor off the screen as much as on the screen. I think Kristen is incredibly brave.
People forget that she was in movies like "Panic Room."
Well, my theory is a simple theory: She played such a good version Bella Swan, people think Kristen Stewart is Bella Swan. She's not, you know? If you meet Kristen, she's wildly kind of giggly and vivacious and rebellious and naughty -- all things that Bella Swan isn't.
How did the dwarfs work? I'm assuming some CGI was involved?
Very little, actually. I wanted the dwarfs to be leading the performance, not an effect. So it was important for me to create an effect that gave them the freedom so we did as little green screen as possible. And to be character first, basically.
Was there any thought to casting actual little people?
We used a lot of little people as stunt doubles and as body doubles. To me, that was one of my early ideas -- I wanted to take this cast of a British gangster movie and put them in as the dwarfs. It was never really, "Oh, we want to cast little people but we can't find the right people." Those eight actors are some of the best character actors in the world. And that's why I cast them.
Did you see "Mirror Mirror"?
No, I haven't yet. I saw the trailer -- which was a relief.
Why is that?
Well, you know, I was worried that they would be similar. I didn't think they'd be similar, but I thought they would be closer than they ended up. I saw the, "Snow what? Snow way?" And I thought, Well, we are really a million miles apart. Actually, I think it helped us, that other project. A lot of people are talking about how dumb we are for making two Snow White movies and people are intrigued to see what we've done. I think when they first saw that trailer, we went from being, "the other Snow White movie," to, "this is really interesting." And, now, hopefully one of the contenders for a big summer movie.
There is one similarity: Both feature two characters that have been hung upside down by the dwarfs.
[Laughs] I know. I saw that. I was like, "Well, fuck it. I'm tying them upside down as well."
So, halfway through this movie, Snow meets a mysterious Stag of some sort. What did that scene mean?
The stag scene, really, is nature blessing the human to free. Thematically, the stag represents what is good in nature. The stag is the spirit of nature. And Snow White is brought there to be blessed by him so that she can continue her journey to return nature to its proper place by ridding the kingdom of this plague that is The Queen. It's really nature doing its part to inspire her to pick up the sword. One of the things I hope people take away is that life is difficult, life is complicated, life is dark -- but you have to blossom in whatever you do because we only get one bite of the cherry and it's very short.
I'm surprised that you didn't just say, "one bite of the apple."
[Laughs] Well, you said it for me, Mike.
Mike Ryan is senior entertainment writer for The Huffington Post. He likes Star Wars a lot. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.