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Richard Madden: Disney’s Prince Charming

Mar 10, 2015

By: Lynn Barker

Handsome Richard Madden, who played Robb Stark on TV’s “Game of Thrones”, was chosen to play Cinderella’s prince charming who never had a real name before. For the new production he is given the nickname “Kit”, which is what his dad the King calls him. This prince is a way more developed character than in the animated or other versions of the fairy tale. We sense that he loves his people, worships his dad and is determined to be a regular guy while learning to rule a nation. Very admirable!

Richard Madden as the princeRichard Madden as the princeCourtesy of Disney

Richard, who is paired in real life with “Dr. Who” star Jenna Coleman, says that he had great chemistry with his “Cindy” Lilly James even after stepping all over her and ripping her huge ball gown in their dancing scenes. Get to know this handsome and upbeat actor.

Q: Had you met Lily before? What was it like preparing for this with her?

  • Richard: I didn’t know her before. We had about five or six days of rehearsal before we started filming. I actually had talked and walked through a lot of the scene with (Director/actor) Kenneth (Branagh). I think it was just clever casting on Ken’s part. He cast well. Between me and Ken and Lily, there was great chemistry, which is why we are working together again next year. Lily and I are going to be in “Romeo & Juliet” (as a theater play) on the West End in London, with Ken directing.

May I have this dance?May I have this dance?Courtesy of Disney

Q: Very cool! So do you feel more like Kit than Prince Charming?

  • Richard: Yeah, I feel like he’s just a normal guy in a very weird situation.

Q: How was it working with great actor Derek Jacobi, who plays your father, the king? Theirs is a loving relationship.

  • Richard: He’s just a stunning actor to be around. He’s funny. I wanted to kind of build a relationship where there was a sense of humor between these two. And Derek’s got a sense of humor, which is why we could play around and improvise, and did. When you’re on set with an actor like Derek Jacobi, it’s not hard to tell the truth. You look in his eyes and he’s so open and creative and ready to play.

Kit worries that his father is illKit worries that his father is illCourtesy of Disney

Q: How was being on set with Lily and you are both on horses when you meet?

  • Richard: You have to throw your trust into these things. It is weird when you’re there on the first day with someone and you’re on this massive Hollywood movie set. Lily and I just kind of grabbed onto each other and went, “OK, we’re both in this together. Let’s get on with it.” Luckily she’s lovely and kind and a wonderful actress, so we got on well. The first scene was that one in the forest, where we meet. So there were lots of parallels going on there.

Q: How was it riding the horse especially in that scene?

  • Richard: I love working with horses. I really do. I wanted to kind of not be thinking about it on the day we shot the scene in the woods. Obviously, I’ve trained to ride horses for “Game of Thrones.”  In this, because that scene is so important, Ken and I talked a lot about making that choreography between the Cinderella’s horse and my horse significant. Lily and I are trying to control these beasts beneath us, which is more than a little symbolic. So beforehand, I practiced dressage and jumps and stuff like that. It was really cool in terms of my training for this.
  • Lily couldn’t ride before we started filming this. So there are lots of parallels. There’s me trying to calm Lily’s horse and I tried to help guide her through that, the same as the prince is doing.

Meeting in the woodsMeeting in the woodsCourtesy of Disney

Q: How did you prepare for the big dance scene at the ball, especially maneuvering around her massive ball gown?

  • Richard: There are three people in this relationship (Cinderella, the prince and the giant gown)!  It wasn’t fun. I’m not a naturally gifted dancer and I don’t enjoy it. I didn’t go to any of those classes in drama school. I was like, “I’m not going to learn to dance! I don’t need to dance!”  And then, instantly, I regretted it. I trained three or four days a week for about two-and-a-half months, before they let me near the real dress. I did destroy two practice dresses completely. They were just ripped to shreds. It was like cats got hold of them (everyone laughs).
  • Again, like the horseback riding, I wanted to focus in that scene on the acting with Lily on the day (we shot the ballroom dance) instead of focusing on what I was doing with my feet. So, we just trained really hard to make that happen.

Maneuvering around the huge dressManeuvering around the huge dressCourtesy of Disney

Q: Does being a part of the “Game of Thrones” phenomenon prepare you in a way to be a part of a Disney phenomenon? Will that experience help you deal with the fans?

  • Richard: They’re quite different demographics.  It’s kind of weird. You kind of hope they don’t watch your other work. I don’t know if it prepares you. It’s just good to be a part of different things. There’s a lot in this film that is suitable for adults as well as kids. It’s not just a kids’ movie.

Q: How were your costumes a tool to get the performance you wanted? He wears some snappy outfits.

  • Richard: I had conversations with (costume designer) Sandy Powell when we started because I wanted to retain masculinity for this prince. Some of these Disney princes can be wet or fop-ish, and that ties into the costumes a lot. Sometimes they’re just decadent and extravagant costumes.  So I said to Sandy, “How can we do all that but keep it masculine?”
  • When I saw my outfit for the ball for the first time, it was white, covered in sequins and glitter, and I turned to Sandy and said, “Uh, we talked about this!” But, actually, it is masculine still. It’s empowering and it makes you feel regal. It helps your posture.
  • That green jacket that I’m wearing when you first see me on screen, it’s cut so that it sits properly while I’m on the horse. The riding boots don’t just look good; they’re really brilliant for riding. Same with the trousers. They’re great for being on a horse because of how you sit. So we kind of got something practical out of it. That helps you build a character. It helps your breath and the way you stand.

Dressed for the ballDressed for the ballCourtesy of Disney

Q: And they look good!  Did you look at the prince’s movements in the Disney animated version of “Cinderella?”

  • Richard: Yeah. We kind of looked back over history to see what a prince would have done in a situation like the ball and interacting with other people. It’s interesting, because with royals, these days, you never see them leaning on one leg but they often have to stand for hours and hours talking to people. There’s subtle things that they do. There were these little details that we put into it that you might not see but it’s a way to create a fleshed-out character and make him a bit more real. I had to get rid of my swagger and learn how to walk properly.

Q: Your prince is a fully-fleshed out character that we want to end up with Cinderella. Did you work on that?

  • Richard: With Cinderella, she’s a wonderful woman, and the audience is with her throughout the film. So I had to find a way to create a guy who is worthy of her affections. And that was difficult. I was trying to get rid of that old-fashioned view of things. I loved the old animated version; it’s great. But I think that concept of a woman with a terrible life who needs a man to come rescue her doesn’t apply and isn’t something that we should be teaching kids.

We're falling in loveWe're falling in loveCourtesy of Disney

Q: Totally agree.

  • Richard: Yeah, so this was more interesting because I had to make a character that’s worthy of her heart and affections. He has to be someone with a sense of humor and I wanted to make him aware of his own privilege and have compassion for everyone around him. That was really exciting for me because you don’t see the prince like that in the animated version. You don’t even know his name. So Chris Weitz (the writer) and Ken started from scratch on this and built someone who was more fun and a bit more real.
  • There were only two or three scenes with him in the old animated version. When I was a kid, I watched all these Disney films and it’s the first time you learn about death and love and grief and good and bad and how to behave, but you didn’t get that from the prince in the animated version. But in this version, I got to create a character that, hopefully, you’ll have some young boys watching that will want to be quite like him. If that happens, it will be sort of a good thing because the prince has a pretty good grasp on how to behave.

Q: Do you like doing epic scale productions like this?

  • Richard: More and more so. You have the fear, initially, because it’s a huge production. But also, you have a lot of time to do stuff. You have time to play and it’s not as rapid fire as smaller productions are. We shoot 10 episodes of “Game of Thrones” in the same amount of time it took to make this movie. So we have less time to prepare to do our jobs.  That said, on this we didn’t have a lot of fake walls or CGI. That really was a massive ballroom set, with 2,000 lit candles during that scene and 600 extras. When you put all that into it, it kind of makes my job a lot easier. I’m kind of actually in the middle of it. So, the big scale was very helpful.

Richard on horseback in Game of ThronesRichard on horseback in Game of ThronesCourtesy of HBO

Q: What was your favorite iconic moment to recreate?

  • Richard: Despite all my moaning about it, the ballroom scene was my favorite. Just doing that waltz with Lily in that dress was special.

Q: What was your takeaway from working with Cate Blanchett?

  • Richard: There’s a reason why Cate is a massive movie star, and it’s not just because she’s really a good actor, but it’s also because of the way she conducts herself. She’s compassionate and has an awareness of every person around her. That’s kind of refreshing. She has a physical grace. It’s how she holds her body and how she moves on set. At the end, as her character (the stepmother) opens the door to us arriving on horseback, she does it in a massive, sweeping way. She tilts her head and has this kind of grace,

Q: What’s coming up besides “Romeo & Juliet?”

  • Richard: I finished a film in December with Idris Elba, called “Bastille Day,” which is kind of a modern-day thing. It’s great because I’m in jeans and a t-shirt, for a change. It’s an action-y, thriller-y “French Connection”-type thing, hopefully with a bit of humor in it. It’s good, because I’m playing someone who’s not royal. He doesn’t have a good moral compass. He’s a pickpocket, street rat, which is totally different from anything else I’ve done.

Cinderella PosterCinderella PosterCourtesy of Disney

Cinderella is in theaters March 13th!