Collider: As you got to know her and work with her, what were the discoveries you made about Kristen Stewart, as an actress, especially with how people perceive her from the Twilight Saga movies?
SANDERS: I think what I realized is that she’s such a good actor that everyone thinks she’s Bella Swan. They believe that that’s her. Obviously, an actor is playing a role. She is nothing like Bella. And, I got on really well with Kristen. It was great. As I was writing stuff, she was there. We had a lot of conversations, seeing through her eyes. We really hard on developing that character together. I was just amazed at her talent, really. She’s incredibly good at her craft. She’s incredibly instinctive. She’s incredibly intuitive. She will overcome fear, like no one I’ve met, when it comes to it. She didn’t really want to ride a horse. She had a bad horse-riding accident, as a kid. When you’re riding fast on a horse, with 200 others soldiers on horses riding behind you, through surf on a beach, that’s terrifying. She really went there. She crafted the accent, and it’s flawless. She’s a stunning actor. I saw her first in Panic Room. Then, I saw her again in Into the Wild. I loved her in The Runaways. I loved her in Welcome to the Rileys. I think she’s going to be incredible in On the Road. She’s a great actor, and people just go, “Twilight girl,” which is a testament to her. She’s kept this pipeline of interesting projects going on the side, so she’s not just going to be that girl, forever more. She’s a great actor and she’s made incredibly shrewd decisions for someone who’s half my age.
Considering that, what were the challenges in ensuring that your film didn’t get distracted by the fact that this is the girl that so many people see as Bella Swan?
SANDERS: I’ve never seen the Twilight movies, so I didn’t really care that much. I met her, I really got on with her, she’s a great actor, and she was right for the character. That’s it. It was as simple as that, for me.
People haven’t gotten to see too much of her Snow White in the trailer footage thus far. Is that indicative of the movie, or are you just being really selective about how much you show?
SANDERS: No, she’s the lead. I’m not a marketing expert, but the way it’s positioned, I think we’re starting to bring her in, more and more. We don’t want to give too much away. We just want to say, “Here’s the bad person, and here’s someone who’s trying to get to her.” We’ve only done teaser trailers. The more stuff people see, the more they’ll see of her and the more they’ll be pretty blown away by what she did.
Will there be backstories for all of the other characters?
SANDERS: Yeah, all of them have very rich backstories. They’ve all suffered a great deal of loss. This queen took over a kingdom. She’s someone who’s suffered a lot of loss. She lost her family, she lost a tribe, and she found her way into this kingdom. Like a Trojan horse, she moves from kingdom to kingdom, hollowing them out from the inside. She’s like a siren who attracts these people to her beauty. The dwarves lost everything. They were down in the mines. They’re noble goldminers who see light in the darkness. When they came up from the mines, the world was blackened and they lost all the other people in their race. The Huntsman lost a wife. Snow White lost a kingdom, both her parents, and the love of the people. Everyone’s dealing with loss, in very different ways.
What was your first exposure to the story of Snow White, and when did you learn about the darker elements of the Grimm fairy tales?
SANDERS: I read that before I saw the Disney one. The Disney one is still pretty dark, even for Disney. It’s got, “Bring me the heart, the lungs and the liver.” It’s a brutal story. In the original, she eats the heart, the lungs and the liver, and then finds out that it’s a deer. And then, at the end, to really rub in her jealousy, Snow White invites her to the wedding and makes her dance a death in molten steel shoes. It’s a dark story. I don’t think we’ve shied away from the darkness, and Disney actually didn’t either. They just took a very different approach than we did, but the heart of the story is the same.
What does it add to the mythology to make this version of Snow White a warrior princess?
SANDERS: Warrior princess is something that’s external, rather than being internal to the character. She wears a suit of armor, but she’s not suddenly Bruce Lee’s adopted sister. She is wearing armor for protection, and she has to kill a queen. She’s not beheading people. She doesn’t suddenly acquire these skills. It’s very instinctual and defensive. She knows she has to kill someone, and that is abhorrent to her. That sword lies very uneasy in her hand.
How did Kristen Stewart take to the sword work?
SANDERS: I put that sword in her hand, as I would put it in any of your hands. If I told you someone was going to come through that door who had done something terrible to you and you had to kill them, I’m sure you’d fucking give them a good run for their money. That’s really how she fights. She’s no ninja or samurai. It’s purely reactive.
How did you go about finding Kristen Stewart’s British accent for the role?
SANDERS: If you’re amongst the forest and there’s knights in armor, all looking chivalrous behind you, and then Snow White says, “Is that, like, my castle?” So, it was important that she wasn’t Californian. To fit into the world, all of the characters have accents from that part of the world. Chris Hemsworth’s accent is Scottish, and Kristen’s accent is very royal English. She was really great at it, and she did the work. It’s easy to do an accent for a few minutes, but to be able to do it without thinking about it, so you can concentrate on the performance, is very hard. She worked with one of the best British dialect coaches. It’s hours of work, and she did the work so that she was flawless. She didn’t need to worry about it, and could get on with the performance.
The Hollywood Reporter: THR: Are you having to keep an eye on what people are responding to in Mirror, Mirror as you’re finalizing your film and maximizing what people might like?
Sanders: Not really. I think the best thing you do is you get on and you make your film and you market your film to the strengths of that film – as though there was no other film. I think Mirror, Mirror has been great because it’s been talked about a lot and both of our projects have been talked about a lot, but I think obviously they’re different films and we’re obviously aimed at a very different target audience. It’s made by two people with very different tastes, and ours is ours and theirs is theirs – it’s like chalk and cheese.
THR: Talk about the tone that you were specifically interested in for Snow White and the Huntsman.
Sanders: I think as a filmmaker, if you don’t make something from the heart and something to your tastes, then you’re doing a disservice to your material. I did the film because I found myself in those pages and I found something that I loved, and so I made the film that I was excited to make, and I made the film for my audience. And I think that you have to make a film for yourself and hope that when people see it they get excited by it. And it’s a big medieval, knights-in-shining-armor, tattered battle flags, castles with trebuchets and arrows in the neck – a big, gritty action-packed adventure with a lot of kind of magic and magical realism and symbolism and it’s a very rich tapestry. We created a big bible going into it of the world, and how the world looked and felt, and so it was a big journey creatively to amass that kind of material.
THR: How tough was it to balance a sense of classicism and then a heroine that audiences would think was not a victim but was instead empowered?
Sanders: Because she leads by example – she’s a leader, not a follower. She’s actually, ironically, the victim; everyone in the film has suffered a great loss, and she’s the one who’s dealing with the loss in a reactive way. Everyone else has shied away into alcohol or becoming highwaymen like the dwarves have, or the queen is basically taking life from everyone else. She’s suffered the loss of her kingdom, and the loss of her parents, and she’s going back to get it. She’s the only one who’s not a vulnerable victim, ultimately.
THR: What in terms of the iconography of the Snow White story did you want to either avoid or reinvent to give it a new identity for your film?
Sanders: I think that ironically Snow White is one of the best-known fairy tales, but actually it’s been told very few times successfully. I think everyone talks about the Disney version which was , so 60 years later we’re allowed to make another version of it. But I went back to those symbols, like the drops of blood, the mirror, the sense of loss, the sense of jealousy, the poison apple, the kiss of a love, and all of those things are in there. And to me, you have to go back to that source material because that’s what people want to see – and you have to tell it in a way that feels right for your tastes. I didn’t sit down and go “well, what would people want to see,” I thought, what would be a cool mirror man, and how would that work? How would the character learn from it and how would we learn about the character through those interactions with the mirror? So everything in the film comes from the narrative and blossoms out into the story; there’s no kind of ‘we’ll slap loads of CGI on it and hope that something great comes of it’.
Screenrant: People were very skeptical when Kristen Stewart was initially cast in this film. But now seeing the trailer and all the footage, you really get why she’s perfect casting.
RS: “Yeah, I think we were looking for someone who was obviously a great actor first and foremost but also someone who’s incredibly physical. Everyone thinks she is Bella from Twilight. I think she’s such a good actor that she encompassed that role so well that people think that’s how she is. When you meet Kristen, she’s so far away from that character. I’d first seen her in ‘Into the Wild’ and I was really blown away. I remembered that she was the girl from ‘Panic Room,’ ‘Welcome to the Rileys,’ ‘The Runaways,’ and now ‘On the Road.’ She’s one those actors who does these smaller films and then she does these big movies and she’s really managed her career so well in that way. She’s incredibly spirited and very kind of wild and also she’s got this kind of this alchemy to her. You’re not quite sure what it is about her but on screen she’s just incredible. And when you see her act you realize why she is such a huge movie star and why she’s going to continue to get bigger.”
Hero Complex: NC: And Kristen Stewart is your Snow White.
RS: She’s quite stunning. She’s really good. First thing I saw her in was probably “Panic Room,” and then I saw her in “The Runaways” and “Into the Wild.” She’s an incredibly talented actor. I think a lot of people think that she’s Bella Swan because she played that part so well, and she really epitomized that character from the books. She was really strict with herself that she’d wear brown contacts, which is hard to act with those things in, because so much is coming from the eyes, but that’s what Bella Swan had. She’s very serious about what she does, and she’s incredibly gifted, and she’s incredibly intuitive, and she’ll just try different things. It was great to work with her. She’s a very one-of-a-kind actor.
io9: From the look of the trailer, it feels like this movie should be called Evil Queen not Snow White. How much is Kristen Stewart in this film?
RS: She’s in it, ironically, more than the Evil Queen. I think when you market a film you have to kind of create something that people grab on to, a very simple story line. Our film has so many characters we chose one thing that people would understand and that’s the villain. And I think you will see, as the marketing gets closer, you’ll see more of Kristen woven into that.
So you have eight dwarves instead of seven, what’s the eighth dwarf’s name?
RS: The eight dwarf’s name is Gus, who is played by Brian Gleeson, who’s Brendan Gleeson’s son. He’s really the one who Snow White bonds with the most. He’s a lovable character. They’re a real band of roguish villains, the dwarves. They were also incredibly funny. It was great to work with those guys. They’re as funny on the screen as they are off-screen.