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Press Conference: ‘Cruella’ Aims To Tell A Not-So Black And White Tale Of Disney’s Notoriously Fashionable Villainess

Disney’s Cruella is now upon us, and it promises to be quite the fashionable entry to this years slate of films.

Geeks of Color was kindly invited to attend the virtual press conference hosted by Grae Drake where director and co-writer Craig Gillespie, production designer Fiona Crombie, hair and makeup designer Nadia Stacey, and costume designer Jenny Beavan chatted about to recreation and reinterpretation of Disney’s villianess fashionista.

Emma Stone as Cruella in Disney’s live-action Cruella. (Courtesy of Laurie Sparham/Disney)

Craig Gillespie hoped to craft a narrative that wasn’t so black and white.

Gillespie:  Villains are always so fun to portray, because you just have more license to do things that aren’t quite appropriate or push the boundaries, and create these larger-than-life characters.  

And it was really important to me that this was not black and white.  Obviously no pun intended there with Cruella.  But I wanted there to be this gray area and be able to empathize with the choices that she was making.  And the-and the situations that she was responding to. I wanted to do it in a way that was really fun.

Emma Stone as Cruella in Disney’s live-action Cruella. (Courtesy of Laurie Sparham/Disney)

Nadia Stacey described the process of creating the duality of Cruella through her hair and makeup.

Stacey: I think the biggest thing for me is that hair and makeup in this, which has never come off in a film before for me is that it’s kinda used as a tool of deception.  You know, she’s got to disguise herself from the Baroness. And so when we first see Estella, it needs to be believable that she’s a girl that’s growing up in the time in London and then she’s creating this persona in Cruella.

When she first starts arriving to these red carpet moments, there’s a kind of mask-like quality in all the makeups as well, ’cause she has to disguise herself.  So, I needed the difference to be huge between the two looks. I needed to keep Estella quite simple so that we had a somewhere big to go for Cruella.

Jenny Beavan found Cruella’s look from the script and in Glenn Close’s version.

Beavan: I think she comes out of the script, actually. The story.  Because we know where she ends up, about 15 years later as, you know, Glenn Close, obviously.  So that was definitely, in my mind, it had to just be possible that this character could become that character. 

I think the inspirations were various because she’s so diverse in all her different looks. People have spoken of punk things.  I just looked at so much stuff.  And then out of it, you kind of pull what appears to be the narrative thread.  So of course I looked at Westwood and McQueen and Galliano, and BodyMap, and sort of dug into my past at Biba and, you know, just trying to really find all those funny things that we loved.

Jenny Beavan revealed that modern fashion also influenced Cruella’s look.

Beavan: I also wanted to do a homage slightly to this modern thing where we are now, thank God, reusing stuff, and making. That’s the whole red dress thing, which she makes out of a dress she finds in the, in Artie’s (John McCrea) vintage store.

Emma Thompson as the Baroness in Disney’s live-action Cruella. (Courtesy of Laurie Sparham/Disney)

The inspiration behind the “garbage ball gown”.

Gillespie: I was trying to do something that was from character and really dynamic.  I knew they were gonna be very quick little pops. It was how the world was gonna see Cruella.  And, uh, somebody came up with this idea of, you know, of just the idea of her turning up with a trash truck.  It felt like a very appropriately aggressive thing for Cruella to do. It came from a place where they were always scamming.  It was something they could get their hands on. Iit just sort of grew out of that.  

I was looking for ways to make it be visually impactful.

Beavan on creating the Baroness and storytelling through costumes.

Beavan:  That’s the fun of the job.  I always say, in case people get the wrong impression, I’m not a fashion designer, I’m a storyteller with clothes.  In fact, in my real life, I have no interest in clothes. I just love telling stories with them.  So for me, that was just brilliant.  I mean, there with these beautifully written characters that you could just get your teeth into.  The Baroness is actually terribly clear once you get into that mindset of, you know, who she is and where her influences came from and-and her current situation.

And it was obviously a slight Dior, Balenciaga.  I mean, all those great sorts of ’50s, ’60s, um, fashion designers.  And she’s a very good designer.  She’s just slightly past her sell-by date. She became clear in working with Jane Law, we just found a style for her and it was obviously asymmetric and very fitted–you know, very snobbish I think I’d call it.

Cruella arrives in theatres and on Disney+ (with premier access) on May 28th.

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