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Into the Woods with Anna Kendrick, Chris Pine and Emily Blunt

December 19, 2014

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By: Lynn Barker

In Disney’s movie version of the Broadway musical Into the Woods, don’t expect the familiar fairy tales you know to have the same endings. You also have to be onboard for a crazy, twisted intertwining of characters that, in fairytale land, might never have met. You’ll recognize “Jack and the Beanstalk”, “Cinderella”, “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Rapunzel” and more.

Cinderella after the ballCinderella after the ballCourtesy of Disney

Anna Kendrick, so popular in the film Pitch Perfect (and its upcoming sequel) applies her singing voice to a more modern Cinderella while handsome Captain Kirk actor Chris Pine plays a very vain Prince Charming who, despite his love for Cinderella, makes a little detour through the woods where he woos and confuses a star-struck baker’s wife played by Emily Blunt.

Is it happily ever after for Cinderella?Is it happily ever after for Cinderella?Courtesy of Disney

How did these popular actors take to singing and playing characters that might not quite be true to the fairy tales they grew up with? Check it out.

Q: Anna, your Cinderella’s certainly not like the stereotypical character we all know.  Is that something that attracted you to the role?

  • Anna: It’s not the traditional Cinderella and it’s a fascinating Cinderella, but it could have been the lamest Cinderella of all time. It’s (director) Rob Marshall and this cast and Sondheim (that made it work). The role is just gravy on top of gravy and Cinderella’s defining quality in this is, to me, bravery, because she has known nothing but neglect her entire life, and then when she’s presented with a different situation, she overthinks it and she is too logical, she doesn’t listen to her heart, she wants to listen to her head.
  • Rob was very interested in having a modern sensibility for these characters and I think that’s a very modern thing that women do. We cannot listen to our guts, we have to look at everything from every angle and overthink everything. And then for her to allow herself to go into this better situation (with Prince Charming), realize that it’s completely fake, the prince is so vacuous and it’s all just a façade, and then when she finds herself in a situation where her community is undergoing this great tragedy, it’s then that she can focus and say, “This isn’t want I want. I want something real, and I don’t know what that is yet, but I’m willing to forego this safe situation to find out what that is, even though I don’t know what will happen next.”

Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) slaves away.Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) slaves away.Courtesy of Disney

Q: That makes her interesting. Chris, everybody’s talking about your line, “I was raised to be charming, not sincere.” How does that define the character of the prince?

  • Chris: Well, I think it’s a distillation of precisely who the man is. There are a couple characters in this that I think are taken from the pages of the storybook and remain pretty two dimensional, even if they’re given the chance to be interesting and complex and that’s my character, and I think Christine Baranski’s character, the (wicked) stepmother. (The prince is) a guy that knows he’s being watched, he knows he is preening, every movement is kind of thought out beforehand.
  • His journey has nothing to do with these other people that he’s so driven to be with like the Baker’s wife or Cinderella. It’s all about this kind of inner desire to be seen, and to play out this story that has probably been playing out generation after generation. He’s just like an LP that keeps on running itself back. In the one moment that he’s given the opportunity to see what his effect has on Cinderella, where she says, “Well, look at me, I mean, look what’s happened” and he thinks about it for a second, you can see that it does hurt him, and he does have a moment of inner reflection but then chooses to get back on the horse and again play out the two dimensional story that he has been playing out for generations.

Prince Charming (Chris Pine) searches for CinderellaPrince Charming (Chris Pine) searches for Cinderella

Q: So was he fun to play?

  • Chris: I had a lot of fun playing a guy with big hair and a tan, and just loving himself. It was a joy (he laughs).
  • Emily: I actually was thinking Chris Pine was not very well ‘cause I was only used to seeing him with a fantastic suntan, so when I saw him yesterday, I was like, “My God, Chris looks a bit unwell, you know? (He laughs).

Baker's wife (Emily Blunt) meets Jack of Beanstalk fameBaker's wife (Emily Blunt) meets Jack of Beanstalk fame

Q: Emily, your character, the baker’s wife makes a wish that is very costly. How does that affect your character?

  • Emily: Well, it probably affects her in the most dramatic and tragic way because she realizes too late all of the morally questionable things that she’s done to get her wish. She’s had this fling with the prince, and is now conflicted after that. She comes to the realization at the end of that song, “Moments in the Woods”, that what she’s always had is this amazing, really profound long lasting relationship with her baker and that is really the thing that she treasures, But it all comes too late, and so I think she is the most tragic character. She probably is the most questionably moral character in (the film).

Baker's wife (Emily Blunt) lost in the woodsBaker's wife (Emily Blunt) lost in the woodsCourtesy of Disney

Q: Why do you think she kissed the prince?

  • Emily: I mean, it’s Prince Charming, you know what I mean? Rob and I talked about this, it’s like she’s a Midwestern housewife who’s never left her town and reads “People” magazine every day and George Clooney knocks on the door and goes, “Do you want to make out?”  She would say yes.

The baker and his wife (Emily Blunt)The baker and his wife (Emily Blunt)

Q: Emily and Anna, what Disney princess would you like to be if you had the chance?

  • Emily: I would be Princess Jasmine, because I’ve always wanted a pet tiger. So I’m gonna go for that.
  • Anna: I’m gonna go Ariel, ‘cause I get a pet flounder and crab!

Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and her prince (Chris Pine)Cinderella (Anna Kendrick) and her prince (Chris Pine)Courtesy of Disney

Q: Good choices! Anna and Chris, how do you think fairytales apply, or maybe they don’t apply, to the craziness of modern day dating and relationships?

  • Anna: I think that this film has something very mature and modern to say about separation. When Cinderella and the prince have this conversation, a lot of people say that this isn’t your everyday Cinderella and she kicking him to the curb and while that’s sort of true, the fact that it’s done with so much civility and compassion (is cool). My parents set an amazing example for me because they divorced when I was 15 and we had Thanksgiving dinner together. I know that that’s not always the case.
  • That scene meant so much to me because I feel love for people that I have loved, and I think that’s so beautiful, and I think that’s such an important lesson for children that, people can have disagreements but it doesn’t mean one is bad and one is good. And I feel so grateful to my family for setting this amazing example within separation, and I hope that that scene is a reflection of that.
  • Chris:  I think obviously we tell each other stories in life so we can understand the world better and there’s catharsis and we understand what a hero could be and what the hero’s journey as a human being is all about. But unfortunately, I think sometimes those stories too can be very prohibitive and confining, and this idea that, especially in Western literature like “Tristan and Isolde”, and “Romeo and Juliet”, there’s some kind of all-encompassing burning passionate love that will never die out unless you both die. That is so depressing and not real.
  • Here you have the prince living out this storybook life all the time, in a completely non-relational manner, with a woman that he’s apparently in love with, I think it’s very telling that, in this relationship, there’s not one conversation until the last moment where they break up. I mean, if you look at the film. It’s just these little eighth page things of looking up gazingly, fervently at one another, and it doesn’t mean anything.
  • And I think the beautiful thing about it is that here’s a woman that chooses to get out of the story of “Romeo and Juliet” and “Tristan and Isolde”. She’s like, “Check it out, I don’t want you, ‘cause you’re lame, and you don’t listen to me”. But actually in that final moment he does listen and I think it’s very telling for the prince that he says, “Is this what you want?” He’s finally being very respectful and the boundaries are very clear.
  • Anna: It’s the first time he asks anyone a question in the whole movie.
  • Chris: Yeah, but I think there’s this (theme) in literature that somehow we’re not whole unless we have another, which, I don’t think is fair to the uniqueness and wonderfulness of the individual. It’s that we can complement one another greatly, but we are not the source of each other’s happiness.

Cinderella runs from the princeCinderella runs from the prince

Q: Good point. Except for Anna who has been in musicals, how did knowing you were going to be singing a lot affect you?

  • Emily: Well, I was very reluctant to audition for this, and Rob did audition all of us, as he should and I was scared to go in but Rob said, “I want actors who can kind of sing, not the other way around.” And I was like, okay. So I had a couple of singing lessons and I learnt it and I went in and just like everybody else, I auditioned and he was amazing and gave it to me, and I’m grateful, very grateful. It’s the best part I’ve ever been given actually, so once I got over my own fear of singing in front of other people, it turned out to be such an exhilarating and impassioned sort of experience. You realize how joyful it is to sing and to be around music
  • Chris: I was the only person I think that didn’t know what “Into the Woods” was, so my agent called me, he said, “Do you want to audition for “Into the Woods”, the musical?” I said, well, that’s great. It had Meryl Streep and Rob Marshall. And I was like, “yeah, count me in!” And I had a night to prepare a song to go sing in Rob Marshall’s living room, and then I made the mistake of going online and Googling what I was getting into, and then it dawned on me the kind of magnitude (the musical) had.
  • Cinema is a visual medium, as is theater, but I feel like the directors in theater understand because they spend so much time with us poor, vulnerable actors before we get on stage that they understand how much warmth actors need. But singing just for myself and my soap dish was terrifying. Rob was lovely and we spent a lot of time talking about singing and then the piano was brought out, and we had great fun. It is just a blast, you know? And that’s what I remember seeing on Meryl (Streep’s) face (Meryl plays the witch from Rapunzel), that above and beyond everything, it is hard work but what we do is joyful, it was a great thing.

Into The Woods PosterInto The Woods PosterCourtesy of Disney

Into The Woods is in theaters Christmas Day!

 

 

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