Cruella is a tonic served with dark humour and outrageous fashion against a backdrop of seventies punk rock and revolution.
Cruella de Vil may have a reputation that precedes her but Disney’s latest reimagining of this infamous villainess digs deeper into her background to reveal what makes Cruella so evil. Cruella answers the question herself when she explains why it was impossible for her to be good.
Emma Stone clearly relishes playing a villain with devilish delight. Her portrayal of Cruella is a wild balancing act that ranges from being a fun-loving, free-spirited grifter to a homicidal maniac with impeccable taste.
If one wonders what flipped her switch, the storyline follows a natural progression of events that explains how her greatest supporter became her nemesis.
Set in the seventies it references the revolutionary spirit of the old guard being overthrown by the punk revolution. The producers use the opportunity to feature the style, fashion, and music of the seventies. Sometimes to hilarious effect, sometimes to pay homage.
Cruella is being likened to The Devil Wears Prada but that is like comparing retail to runway. The Devil Wears Prada was a whiney mess saved only by Meryl Streep’s cutting portrayal of Miranda Priestly. The only similarity between the two movies is about a downtrodden girl working for a bully in the fashion world. Cruella is a richer story with more expressive characters.
Cruella is Disney’s most colourful macaron laced with arsenic. It’s more strychnine than saccharine, and you will love every drop!
Cruella Production Notes
Academy Award® winner Emma Stone (“La La Land”) stars in Disney’s “Cruella,” an all-new live-action feature film about the rebellious early days of one of cinema’s most notorious—and notoriously fashionable—villains, the legendary Cruella de Vil. “Cruella,” which is set in 1970s London amid the punk rock revolution, follows a young grifter named Estella, a clever and creative girl determined to make a name for herself with her designs. She befriends a pair of young thieves who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they are able to build a life for themselves on the London streets. One day, Estella’s flair for fashion catches the eye of the Baroness von Hellman, a fashion legend who is devastatingly chic and terrifyingly haute, played by two-time Oscar® winner Emma Thompson (“Howards End,” “Sense and Sensibility”). But their relationship sets in motion a course of events and revelations that will cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the raucous, fashionable and revenge-bent Cruella.
“Cruella” stars Emma Stone, Emma Thompson, Joel Fry (“Yesterday”), Paul Walter Hauser (“I, Tonya”), Emily
Beecham (“Hail, Caesar!”), Kirby Howell-Baptiste (“The Good Place”) and Mark Strong (“1917”). The film is directed by Craig Gillespie (“I, Tonya”), with screenplay by Dana Fox (“Couples Retreat”) and Tony McNamara (Oscar® nominee for “The Favourite”), story by Aline Brosh McKenna (“The Devil Wears Prada”) and Kelly Marcel (“Saving Mr. Banks”) & Steve Zissis (“The Front Runner”) based upon the novel “The One Hundred and One Dalmatians” by Dodie Smith. “Cruella” is produced by Andrew Gunn (“Race to Witch Mountain”), Marc Platt (Oscar® nominee for “The Trial of the Chicago 7,” “La La Land” and “Bridge of Spies”) and Kristin Burr, p.g.a. (“Christopher Robin”), with Emma Stone, Michelle Wright (“Baby Driver”), Jared LeBoff (“The Girl on the Train”) and Glenn Close (“Albert Nobbs”) serving as executive producers.
Among the film’s distinguished creative team are director of photography Nicolas Karakatsanis, editor Tatiana Riegel and music supervisor Susan Jacobs, who previously collaborated with Gillespie on “I, Tonya”; production designer Fiona Crombie, hair and makeup designer Nadia Stacey and set decorator Alice Felton, who worked with Emma Stone on “The Favourite”; costume designer Jenny Beavan (two-time Oscar® winner for “Mad Max: Fury Road” and “A Room with a View”); visual effects supervisor Max Wood (“Suicide Squad”); and composer Nicholas Britell (“Moonlight”).
An Origin Story
First seen on the pages of Dodie Smith’s book in the 1950s—and brought to life on the big screen in Disney’s 1961 animated film “101 Dalmatians,” as well as Disney’s 1996 live-action remake and its 2000 sequel—the character of Cruella de Vil continues to fascinate and excite audiences today with her exuberance, camp sensibilities and quick wit.
Set in the vibrant punk era of ’70s London, Disney’s “Cruella” is an origin story, revealing the fascinating tale of how a gifted, nonconforming young girl evolved into the stylishly villainous Cruella de Vil. Estella (Tipper Seifert-Cleveland), full of energy and edge, and blessed with creativity, sees the world from a different perspective from those around her. Having suffered the loss of her mother very early on, and haunted by the experience, she hides her natural black-and-white hair with red dye but still feels like an outsider among her conformist schoolmates.
Estella follows her friends Horace (Joseph MacDonald) and Jasper (Ziggy Gardner) into an early life of crime on the streets, pulling con jobs, using her imagination and sewing skills to create a brilliant array of disguises. While Horace and Jasper are satisfied with surviving as grifters, she has aspirations for a better life as a fashion designer.
When she’s 25, opportunity finally knocks for Estella (Emma Stone) when Jasper (Joel Fry) gets her a job working at London’s most fashionable department store, Liberty, even though he and Horace (Paul Walter
Hauser) will miss having her take part in their criminal activities. Starting at the very bottom—cleaning the restrooms—she humbles herself until one night, when strong spirits weaken her self-control and allow her otherwise held-in-reserve creative instincts to take over. Fired the next morning, Estella is about to leave the store just as the world’s leading fashion designer, The Baroness (Emma Thompson), is making her entrance. Unimpressed by everything she sees, the one exception being Estella’s drunken window design, The Baroness recognizes the work of a budding talent with a potential for greatness and offers Estella a job. Accepting this invitation, Estella believes she has finally found the perfect mentor who will help her achieve everything she’s always desired.
Reveling in The Baroness’ praise and recognition of her talent, she happily inhales every whiff of fashion expertise and management style her new boss exudes, willingly keeping her rebellious, independent nature in check. But when Estella sees The Baroness wearing a necklace that once belonged to her mother and was promised to her, her perspective and her objective immediately change. With Jasper and Horace, she hatches a plan to retrieve the necklace while upstaging and distracting The Baroness at her impending Black and White Ball. Looking for something suitable to wear, she visits the vintage stores along Portobello Road, where she meets kindred spirit Artie (John McCrea), a young shopkeeper with the ideal dress.
Making a spectacular entrance at the Black and White Ball, she is not Estella but Cruella, in a blood red gown and a shock of black-and-white hair. The Baroness is desperate to know who this mystery guest is. Just as Horace and Jasper recover the necklace from The Baroness’ vault and are about to take off, the high-pitched shrill of a dog whistle summoning The Baroness’ dalmatians shatters Estella’s world. It’s almost exactly the same sound that has haunted her ever since the night she last saw her mother.
Suddenly, Estella knows what she—Cruella—must do. It’s no longer just about reclaiming her mother’s heirloom.
Now it’s about avenging her mother’s murder.
The Birth of a Villian
Having enjoyed tremendous success with its “Sleeping Beauty” live-action prequels that focused on the fairy tale’s antagonist, Maleficent, Disney was eager to explore origin stories of other malevolent characters from its library of animated classics. Along with Maleficent, one of its most memorable and intriguing villains was the coat-happy, dognapping Cruella de Vil, who was first voiced by Betty Lou Gerson in the animated original and then brought to larger-than-life, live-action magnificence by Glenn Close. But none of these versions presented any backstory to the character, except for her having once been a schoolmate of the dalmatians’ mistress, Anita Darling.
The film’s producers are Andrew Gunn, Marc Platt and Kristin Burr. Gunn—who recently produced “Sky High” and “Unhinged” along with a number of Disney hits including “Race to Witch Mountain,” “The Haunted Mansion” and “Freaky Friday” (2003)—explains, “Cruella de Vil is arguably the most iconic of the Disney villains because she is so deliciously evil. She is extravagant, fashionable, verbose, manipulating, conniving and quite clearly a little bit mad, all qualities in a character that you love to hate. She is sort of Disney’s Hannibal Lecter.
“What we wanted to explore,” he continues, “was why was she the way she was, what made her become Cruella de Vil. We tackled this like an origin story of a supervillain in a comic book: who was she as a child, where did she come from, etc. All that audiences really knew about Cruella was that she wanted to make a coat out of dalmatians, so early on we decided that, in order to give them something new, we would need to upend their expectations.”
The studio’s first and only choice to portray the title character was Emma Stone, who had recently received her first Oscar® nomination for her supporting role in “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” prior to the release of “La La Land,” for which she won an Academy Award® for best actress.
Emma Stone explains, “I met with the folks at Disney. They were playing around with the idea of an origin story of Cruella de Vil and wanted to know if I would be interested. There was a lot to figure out and to see if it made sense to tell a story about her. But the character’s so much fun and so intoxicating, they had an interest in finding what that story could be.”
Ultimately, thanks to the contributions of a number of creative minds, a plotline was constructed that revealed how an inventive child, Estella, became the revenge-bent Cruella, with the majority of the action taking place in 1970s London, a time of disruption in the music and fashion worlds due to the emerging punk movement. We see her metamorphosis from a scrappy, Dickensian orphan into a rebellious, resourceful, bold and ingenious antihero. Along the way, she learns who she really is and to be true to herself.
“‘Cruella’ has all of my favorite things in life: fashion, dogs and revenge,” says producer Kristin Burr. She recalls, “Early on, we decided to set the movie in ’70s London. It was so exciting, because it was our first live-action character based on animation that we were setting in the real world. (As opposed to fairy-tale land.) It was such an opportunity to push the envelope. London was the center of fashion and anarchy at the time. What a nice parallel to Cruella!”
“Cruella is one of the great villains in a tremendous array of Disney villains,” says three-time Academy Award®– nominated producer Marc Platt, who worked with Stone on “La La Land” and produced the best picture nominees “The Trial of the Chicago 7” and “Bridge of Spies.”
Platt adds, “So, when Emma called me and asked if I would consider producing this film, I was instantly interested. I thought,” he continues, “this is a fantastic marriage of actress to character. I can think of no other actress who could define the journey from Estella to Cruella as specifically and vividly as Emma Stone, who brings so much fun, so much edge, so much deliciousness and yet so much truthfulness to that character.”
Says Gunn, “For the role of Cruella, Emma Stone has a wonderful ability to play a nasty, selfish character, as she did in ‘The Favourite,’ and have an audience root for her. She can go from evil to heartbreaking in a matter of seconds. She is an actor that audiences want to come out on top at the end of the film. She has impeccable comic timing and truly inhabits the characters she creates, making each one distinct and memorable. We knew that she would create something riveting and timeless with Cruella.”
“Emma Stone,” says Burr, “is one of the best actors of her generation. She can do it all. Period. Who better to not only be deliciously evil but heartbreakingly sympathetic? And, she looks fab with black-and-white hair.”
Stone was especially delighted by the challenge of playing two sides of a character.
She says, “It’s been fantastic. How much of Cruella is in Estella, and how much of Estella is in Cruella? I think it’s interesting to think about whether Cruella is part of her, or the real her, or whether it’s some of the tragic events that shape her life, and shape Cruella. I think part of what the story is saying is, every human being has all of it within us, and we can access all these different parts, but different events do happen to us that can bring certain things out. I think it’s a series of events that have happened to her, and some of it is just kind of deep in there, and she’s accepting it rather than fighting it.”
Chosen to direct “Cruella” was Craig Gillespie, whose most recent film was the critically acclaimed “I, Tonya,” for which Allison Janney received an Academy Award® for best supporting actress, and which was nominated for best actress (Margot Robbie) and best editing.
Burr believes Gillespie was the perfect choice. “With ‘I, Tonya,’ he demonstrated he knew how to tell the story of a female antihero. His kinetic, energetic style gives the movie pop and makes it feel cool. Craig had a vision for this movie from our very first meeting.”
Gillespie recalls, “I got a call from [Disney head of production] Sean Bailey, and he said, ‘What do you think about Emma Stone playing Cruella?’ And then he threw in, set in 1970s London. And that combination, to me, was irresistible. He had me. I was immediately intrigued and delighted at the prospect. She’s such a phenomenal actress, and she has such range, and to be able to play with her in a landscape like this was so exciting.”
Says Gunn, “Craig had shown in ‘Lars and the Real Girl’ and ‘I, Tonya’ he has a way of bringing out the humanity in broken people. He goes to great lengths to create films where we understand people who do things that are outside the box of what is normal. Craig has a very subtle and off-center sense of humour that meshed perfectly for the off-kilter world of ‘Cruella.’”
Adds Platt, “With Craig we felt that he could bring the same verve and energy that he had brought to ‘I, Tonya’— his choices of music, the movement of the camera, his ability to direct great performances and play with the tone of the performance.”
Stone says, “I had seen quite a few of Craig’s films, and I was really excited to meet with him. On set he’s very funny in a dry and Australian way. He has an incredible amount of energy, and tons of ideas all the time, and I’ve had a lot of fun working with him.”
Of Gillespie, Burr says, “He’s a human 5-hour Energy, except it’s 24 hours. He’s always thinking of how the camera can help tell the story. He’s always trying to deepen the characters. And he loves music! While shooting, he would cut together scenes, add music and then show the crew. It was so fun and really revealed the energy of the film. It also kept the crew jazzed, as they knew they were making something exciting!”
Says Gillespie, “I loved this dance between the humour and the drama, and Emma [Stone] has such good instincts on both the comedic level and where to land the drama. And I can’t think of anybody that can do it better. She’s like our generation’s Lucille Ball, where she can do both. It’s this unbelievable delight as a director that there’s really nothing you can’t do with her. It was just a joy all the time.”
Says Stone, “It’s fun to see the origins of Cruella, and we’ve had fun exploring what makes a villain. How people can be affected by the events that have happened in their lives, or how they can choose to kind of crumble underneath the weight of something, or rise up above it and maybe, not always, take it to the best or most ‘moralistic’ place. It is all of those things, but in this kind of fun, Disney, over-the-top, you know, crazy way, that also happens to be full of great ’70s punk music.”
Platt says, “Audiences will be feasting on visual eye candy, London in the 1970s, extraordinary and creative fashion lines, and the energy and the fun and the edge of the music of that time.
“But there’s also a surprising emotional side to this film,” he says. “As fun as it is, as energetic as it is, as hilarious as it is, there are moments of great emotion, because you’re watching the evolution of a character who learns who she truly is, what her origins really were, and learns to be the person she’s meant to be. So, audiences will experience great performances, a great story, but also a lot of heart.”
Obsessed with the punk movement of the late 1970s, Gunn feels that the character of Cruella is representative of the rage of the youth culture at the time and a great opportunity to show how difficult it would have been to be a woman and a genius in a society that didn’t necessarily respect either. He believes that seeing young Cruella breaking the bonds of society and pushing back against its limitations feels particularly current.
He says, “I wanted to be able to create a character whose struggles my daughter would identify with.”
Estella’s life changes when her wild window display, the end result of drinking while working an all-nighter in the Liberty of London department store, impresses fashion queen The Baroness. Elegant, abrasive and wicked, The Baroness is the opposite of Estella in every way. Estella is cutting-edge—the future—whereas The Baroness, though highly successful, is slightly old-fashioned…but doesn’t realize it.
Gunn says, “Without The Baroness, there wouldn’t have been a Cruella. All of The Baroness’ actions play a part in creating Cruella de Vil.”
To play the character most responsible for Estella becoming Cruella, the filmmakers chose two-time Academy Award®– winner Emma Thompson, whose role as The Baroness is just the latest addition to a career made up of memorable characters in superior films, from “Howards End” to “The Remains of the Day” to “In the Name of the Father” to “Sense and Sensibility” to “Saving Mr. Banks”—to name just a few.
Burr recalls, “I’ve been trying to get into business with Emma Thompson my entire career. I once was lucky enough to find myself on a hike with her. I pitched her ‘Cruella’ to write. She wasn’t available, but I kept thinking of her as we developed the character The Baroness. It’s proof that perseverance pays off. She exceeded all my expectations. She is hysterical, mean and looks so damn glamorous.”
Says Thompson, “The Baroness is the reason for Cruella, unfortunately. And that’s very sad, but it’s a wonderful idea to see why someone becomes what they’ve become. She’s the figure behind this extraordinary house of fashion, and so when Estella sees her, she’s overwhelmed and dazzled by her, but it doesn’t take long before she understands quite who she’s dealing with. The Baroness sees that Estella’s got talent, and then just takes it and uses it.”
She continues, “It’s very different to other characters I’ve played that have been living in the real world and who wear a lot of normal stuff. She’s not. She’s one of these people who I’ve never been, for whom the outward show is everything—there is nothing else. The Baroness is someone who wouldn’t be seen dead in a pair of old boots or a sweatpant. She’s put everything into this display. So, it’s fascinating to play.”
Gillespie says, “The Baroness really is the instigator of much of Cruella’s pain. But the fashion world is very much a man’s world in the 1970s, and in some ways she has to be fiercer in a way to offset that. She’s tough. You love and hate her. But as an audience member, you absolutely appreciate her.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of Emma Thompson, and she’s got such a career behind her,” continues Gillespie. “But, in a strange way, this is like a side of her that I hadn’t seen before. To see her playing this Baroness who is so formal and proper and rigid and intense and fierce, and all done with such restraint, it was a character that she was having a lot of fun with. But to see another thing in her arsenal that I wasn’t familiar with was just a delight. To see this character come to life and just grow and really be a scene-stealer.”
Says Gunn, “Emma Thompson brought a timeless elegance and a sense of class to The Baroness. She also found a measured, calm, ‘ice in her veins’ sense of evil to her character. I feel like she is sort of what would happen if you rolled Coco Chanel and Vladimir Putin together into one. Like every great villain, Emma is the hero of her own story. She feels completely justified in all the actions she takes. She would never accept the point of view that she is the bad guy, and Emma Thompson has away at times of making us understand why she is doing what she is doing.”
The relationship between these two fiercely independent characters and the rivalry they develop provide much of the drama and the humour in the film.
Gillespie says, “The scenes between the two of them, for those reasons, just crackled, because you’ve got two women that are very talented at what they do and have a lot of passion for their careers going head-to-head. And it was so much fun to watch.”
Says Thompson, “Our two leads are women who are working women and who are adversaries in their work, and you don’t see that very often, if at all.”
Gillespie explains, “Their ‘energies’ are very different. The Baroness is about restraint. She’s very poised. All her moves are very deliberate and short and sharp. And it was almost like less was more. Whereas Cruella is obviously a much larger character and more demonstrative, so you get those two clashing. But a lot of times it was Estella and The Baroness together, and Estella is kind of like our Lucille Ball of the movie—clumsy and stumbling through things and doing her best and unsure. So, it’s a whole different kind of energy when Estella deals with The Baroness.”
Adds Stone, “It’s interesting to see the dynamic change between Estella and The Baroness. She starts out more subservient and then becomes more of a threat, and it’s fun to watch that arc develop as they become more equal. It was very fun to get to explore that stuff with Emma, and to try to infuse little bits of her nature into the nature of Cruella.”
Estella’s transformation into Cruella is gradual. At first she tries to conform to what she’s been taught is the right way to behave in life, which is actually a conflict with who she is as a person. She doesn’t think within the lines, and she’s growing up in a world that wants her to behave within the lines and not question things and not challenge things. So, for a while, she goes against her instincts, and that’s where she really suffers the most.
It’s not until she leans into who she is as a person—the Cruella side of her—regardless of the repercussions, that she really starts to thrive. Her motivation, revenge, is dark and sinister. But her incredible talent propels her toward her destiny.
Gillespie explains, “There’s always the question of how cognizant she is of her actions. Is this a show or is this who she’s become? Emma [Stone] does an amazing job with playing with those facets until she finds her true self within there somewhere. There’s this very sort of complex dance that she’s doing with all kinds of shades with Cruella. There’s a point where, after just ‘playing Cruella,’ that she actually becomes Cruella.”
The Cast of Cruella
Supporting this battle of the two Emmas is an assortment of colourful characters portrayed by some truly gifted actors.
After Estella’s mother died, Jasper and Horace became her makeshift family, as well as partners in crime. Their family ties become strained later on when Cruella starts to take over and alienate these guys.
Burr explains, “Horace and Jasper are Cruella’s de-facto family and the heart of the movie. Jasper is so sweet and caring. He’s the only character who truly sees/knows Estella/Cruella. Horace is delightfully clueless and lovable.”
Says Stone, “It’s very sad, and you see why they need each other, long term, because they’re a real tripod. I don’t know what Cruella would be without Jasper and Horace.”
To play the adult Jasper and Horace, the filmmakers cast Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser, respectively. Fry is best known for his roles in Danny Boyle’s film “Yesterday” and HBO’s hit series “Game of Thrones,” while Hauser played the title character in Clint Eastwood’s “Richard Jewell” and starred as Shawn in Gillespie’s previous film, “I, Tonya.”
Gillespie says, “Jasper is really the heart of the film, and he’s sort of the touchstone for Cruella throughout the movie, where she’s going too far astray and he’ll call her on stuff. He’s kind of the straight guy against Horace. But you always need that straight guy, and it’s, sometimes it seems like the straight guy is the one that really makes it all rise. And having Joel being able to play with all the characters in the room and still keep it feeling grounded and heartfelt was beautiful to watch.”
Says Platt, “Their chemistry together is so marvellous.”
“Joel is one of the most talented actors I have ever worked with,” says Stone. “And I fell head over heels for Paul when I saw ‘I, Tonya,’” she continues. “I thought it was one of the funniest performances I’d ever seen. He’s just fantastic, and the stuff he makes up while we’re shooting in character is just so funny.”
Adds Burr, “Paul made us laugh out loud. He’s a master of a both a pratfall and a one-liner.”
Gillespie says, “The delightful thing with Paul, our having worked together before, is that he’s so spontaneous, you never know what we’re going to get. And I think it keeps everybody on their toes, and it keeps the scenes alive. That unpredictability and finding humour in the most unlikely places was a joy.”
“Horace and Jasper are kind of like Bert and Ernie,” says Hauser. About Fry, Hauser says, “Joel is one of those guys who doesn’t have to do that much to be really funny. I think that’s also a British thing. British humour can be minimalist and it’s uproariously funny, so I was really happy when I met Joel and started playing around and got a feel for what the chemistry could be.”
Fry says, “Working with Paul has been really easy. He’s genuinely a good guy, and I trust him lots and he’s just brilliant at improvising. He’s kind of fearless.”
Catherine, the only mother young Estella has ever known, teaches her to try to conform and behave properly, despite Estella’s natural tendency to rebel. Before she dies and leaves Estella a young orphan, she passes along a necklace Estella treasures. To play Catherine, the filmmakers cast Emily Beecham, who appeared in “Berlin, I Love You” and the Coen Brothers’ “Hail, Caesar!” as well as starring in the television series “Into the Badlands” and “The Village.”
Anita, Estella’s former schoolmate who becomes a photojournalist at the tabloid publication Tattletale, is played by Kirby Howell-Baptiste, who appeared in the film “A Dog’s Purpose” and has been part of the casts of such long-running television series as “Why Women Kill,” “The Good Place,” “Veronica Mars,” “Barry” and “Killing Eve.”
About her character, Howell-Baptiste says, “We first meet Anita at one of The Baronesses’ balls, and she’s a reporter, a sort of young up-and-comer. She’s very ambitious and smart. What’s lovely is that all the women are very intelligent. The Baroness is the baddie, and then you have Estella, who also has this slightly dark side, and I think Anita falls right in between where she kind of understands them both but isn’t the same as either of them.”
Mark Strong—best known for his roles in “1917,” “Miss Sloane,” “Kingsman: The Secret Service,” “The Imitation Game,” “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” along with the television series “Temple,” “The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance” and “Deep State”—plays John the Valet. Mysterious and tight-lipped, John is a highly trusted member of The Baroness’ entourage.
Strong says, “You’re never really quite sure who he is or what his agenda is because essentially he’s quite a silent character. But then you discover something very interesting about him, and that was the thing that made me want to play him.”
“Mark was my first choice for the valet,” says Gillespie. “He does so much with so little, and there’s a lot of times in the first half of the movie that, it’s just a glance, it’s just a little look. That he could give us so much with that, that was a delight to have. And then, in the other occasions, we got to improvise with him and Emma Thompson. And every time they’re together, that dynamic was always beautiful to watch.”
As young Estella, the filmmakers cast Tipper Seifert-Cleveland, best known to TV audiences for her roles in “Game of Thrones,” “Krypton,” “Call the Midwife” and “Doc Martin.”
Gillespie recalls, “When we found Tipper, she came into the audition, and I knew that she was the one. She just had this spark in her and this defiance and confidence that were perfect in establishing the character in a very short amount of time at the beginning of the film.”
Kayvan Novak (“What We Do in the Shadows,” “Men in Black: International,” “Four Lions,” “Syriana”) plays Roger, The Baroness’ lawyer.
John McCrea, who created the role of aspiring drag queen Jamie in the hit London stage musical “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” is Artie, the owner of a vintage Portobello Road clothing store who comes into Estella’s life at a vital moment.
Stone says, “Artie is just this really gorgeous, smart, creative, brilliant person, who Estella meets by just going into his shop, and becomes a very important part of sort of creating Cruella. And it’s John McCrea, he’s brilliant, and I’m a big fan of his.”
Gillespie adds, “He brought so much to that role and made it feel fresh and original. And he really owned it, and that was beautiful to see.”
Creating Cruella’s Looks
Regarding the below-the-line talent assembled for “Cruella,” Gillespie says, “We hired production heads that were absolutely brilliant. And everybody was given the freedom to really go for it and take the blinders off and do what was right for the period and the characters. It was just ‘let’s do what’s right for this film.’ And we got to really make something unique.”
Among those the filmmakers hired were director of photography Nicolas Karakatsanis, Academy Award®– nominated editor Tatiana Riegel and music supervisor Susan Jacobs, all of whom worked with Gillespie on “I, Tonya.”
One unusual decision regarding the cinematography was that Gillespie and Karakatsanis decided to shoot in two different formats. For Estella/Cruella’s world, they used 35 and added a bit of film grain for a grittier, more ’70s feel, and for the more refined, controlled world of The Baroness, they used 65, which was much more formal and rigid with its lines.
Gillespie noted that “65 is a much bigger chip, and it really gives you more information. It feels a little more lush. We really tried to give them their own distinct looks.”
An enormous amount of thought and effort went into creating the various “looks” of “Cruella.” 1970s London was a very specific period in which there was a culture clash in society and in the fashion scene between the establishment and movements outside of the establishment. There was the highly privileged, patrician, aboveground world that encompassed legendary names like Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy and later Mary Quant, who was responsible for the mod look, which is represented in the film by The House of Baroness and all her Regent’s Park trappings.
But the “squatters” in Notting Hill spawned the punk movement, in which coming from the other side of the tracks, the lower classes, was a badge of honor for self-trained, inventive aspiring designers with unique, distinctive styles, like Vivienne Westwood and, later, Alexander McQueen, on whom Estella is modelled.
The clash between these two worlds provides the context for Cruella’s story.
The importance of costumes to “Cruella” cannot be overstated. For this monumental undertaking, the filmmakers chose two-time Academy Award®–winning costume designer Jenny Beavan, who had previously worked with Emma Thompson on both “Howards End” and “The Remains of the Day.”
Beavan says, “I read the script, and it was really fun and feisty. I met Craig, and I did give it quite a lot of thought because I realized the scale of it, and then I thought, let’s have a go.” The huge scope of the production sparked Beavan’s imagination. “I quite like a challenge,” she says.
“Fashion was omnipresent in this film,” says Gillespie. “We had such a tall order with this show that I couldn’t think of anybody more appropriate for it. And she absolutely nailed it. It was astonishing because she came in with not much time, and the amount of outfits that she had to figure out. And each outfit really had to be a statement.”
Platt says, “Jenny had to create a language and a grammar for both of these characters, not only what each of them wore but the actual lines of fashion that they each created, and it is unique and mesmerizing and intensely creative.”
Beavan assembled an expert team to design, create and source the spectacular costumes.
She says,” I was heading it, and there was Sarah Young, Sheara Abrahams, and Sally Turner, all credited as costume designers. They all took different areas. We could never have done it otherwise. Then we had a team of buyers who were also out finding stuff, plus all the cutters. It was enormous—but joyous.”
Beavan adds, “This is the biggest thing I’ve ever done. The amount of looks for Emma Stone is more than I’ve ever done. She had a total of 47 costume changes, and Emma Thompson had a total of 33. Even Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser each had 30 costumes.”
“Jenny Beavan is my hero,” says Burr. “Everyone who knows me knows that I love fashion, and I had extremely high expectations. Jenny took this gigantic movie on with every ounce of her being. Fashion is a big character in
this film, and she rocks because of Jenny and her team Sarah, Sheara and Sally. People will go to see it just for the clothes! And they should go multiple times to make sure they see them all.”
The film features three major galas that required costuming—The Baroness’ Marie Antoinette Ball that Estella witnesses as a 12-year-old girl, her Black-and-White Ball (where Cruella shows up in a blood-red dress from Artie’s thrift shop with a computer-generated flaming white cape), and her Charity Gala where Estella has sent all the guests black dresses and black-and-white wigs so she can hide in plain sight, as well as a series of red-carpet events where Cruella upstages The Baroness by arriving by motorcycle in a glittering black leather jumpsuit with tire-tread shoulders, a dress that engulfs The Baroness’ car, a garbage-truck dress with a 40-foot train made from The Baroness’ 1967 collection of gowns, and a dalmatian-inspired coat. (Please note: No animals were harmed during the making of this film. See “The Dogs of ‘Cruella’” for more details.)
Beavan says Estella’s look was inspired by a photograph of German punk rock/New Wave singer Nina Hagen. Beavan says, “I think she’s sitting cross-legged, and she has a slightly oversized fluffy jumper on and very ordinary soft trousers. You get the sense that Estella would have gone to vintage stores in London’s Brick Lane when it was a rag market.”
Burr adds, “Estella starts out as a bit punkish, but her main aesthetic is that she recycles certain articles of clothing and makes it into different articles of clothing. She starts out edgier and gets very chic and sophisticated.”
Says Beavan, “It was important to me for Cruella to be black, white, gray and red.”
Stone recalls, “To first see the entire look of Cruella together, I have to admit I took a lot of pictures. It was a very narcissistic day. Which is perfect for Cruella.”
The Baroness, on the other hand, is slightly old-fashioned, with thick taffetas and silks and duchess satins, and lots of turbans, with a colour palette of mostly warm browns and golds, since Cruella’s ultimately would be black and white.
Beavan says, “The Baroness I saw very clearly. Very sculptural. Dior-influenced.”
Thompson explains, “We sort of channel the old screen divas, from Joan Crawford to Elizabeth Taylor.”
Says Stone, “The sheer luck of a movie like this is that the costumes do a lot of the work for you as an actor. Once you put those things on, you feel like Cruella de Vil.” She adds, “Jenny has created something really special.”
Completing the looks were the makeup and hair designs by BAFTA Award winner Nadia Stacey, whose tall order included designing 152 wigs for the Marie Antoinette Ball and 88 wigs for The Baroness’ Viking Gala Charity Ball.
Of Stacey, Burr says, “Nadia nailed the looks for the first moment we met. She got that we were going for a punk vibe but also wanted it to be elegant and outrageous and unique and memorable. People will be copying her looks on costumes for years to come.”
For Stacey, the biggest challenge was making Cruella look different enough from Estella so that The Baroness wouldn’t know it was the same person. Says Stacey, “As it turns out, the looks have been so big for Cruella, that actually, that—that’s fine. I always wanted to create a look for Estella—and my reference a lot of the time was Debbie Harry. I had this real sort of kind of understated look, but very kind of cool, slightly edgy punky seventies. And then, for Cruella, it was just kind of a go-for-it. The looks became huge every time we see her, and also to have someone that’s so into fashion and playing with her looks all the time, I felt like she would also do that with her hair and makeup. She would change that every time.”
Says Gillespie, “I was constantly blown away by Nadia’s work. She really pushed in the best way to go beyond what you would expect Cruella would look like, with her black-and-white hair. There are times where Cruella’s makeup is harsher where it fits her character and what she’s doing and times when it’s a little softer when she’s becoming a little more nuanced. And all of that was beautifully done.”
Stacey says, “With The Baroness, we wanted to make sure that she was immaculate. Perfect. Nothing out of place. Everything is thought out in her look. We wanted the silhouette to always look the same. Something always kind of scraped back, the hair’s back off the face, and there’s a kind of severity about it, a hardness to it.”
She adds, “Women get a look, and then they sort of stick with that. Her hairdo and her look would have been more in the fifties. It has a kind of Audrey Hepburn sort of feel about it.”
Creating the Physical World of Cruella
“Cruella” was filmed at Shepperton Studios outside London and on locations in central London and a number of locations in the UK.
To create the physical world of “Cruella,” production designer Fiona Crombie and set decorator Alice Felton, who were nominated for an Academy Award® for “The Favourite,” starring Emma Stone, were hired to repeat their duties on “Cruella.”
As with the costumes, their biggest challenge was the sheer volume. There were 96 official dress sets but, with changes, the production team dressed about 130 sets.
Because the shots were generally wide, there was no cutting corners. It was important to Crombie that they never let anything slip. To her, the dog groomer’s shop had to be as detailed and interesting as Hellman Hall.
They were responsible for transforming five stages and the backlot at Shepperton Studios into sets for The Lair, the ramshackle den and home to Estella and the gang from childhood into adulthood; The House of Baroness, the headquarters of The Baroness’ fashion empire; and the intricately detailed flats for John the Valet and Roger, The Baroness’ lawyer. Shepperton was also the location for the spectacular high-ceiled, chandeliered set for the Hellman Hall ballroom and the recreation of the iconic Liberty of London department store, complete with shop fronts and period cars.
Says Burr, “Dana Fox, Jess Virtue and I were all obsessed with the store Liberty. Best store in London. What a fun opportunity to be able to write in your favorite store and then get to shoot there!”
While it would have been ideal to be able to shoot the entire Liberty sequence on the actual location, the amount of time needed to transform the existing store made it impossible. So, for the interior sequences, Crombie had it 3D-scanned so the entire thing could be built on a stage.
She says, “To be able to tell the story of it as a seventies store, we had to make our version, which, in the story, it’s the pinnacle, you know. It’s a place that Estella sees as the most fashionable store in London, where she would be privileged to work. We wanted to immediately have the audience see it and think, ‘What an incredible store.’”
For The House of Baroness, the design team went to the Dior exhibition, which set decorator Felton cites as a major influence. She explains, “And then Yves Saint Laurent, Christian Dior, Galliano. There’s a wealth of visual imagery. The idea is that The Baroness is absolutely controlling of her environment. There is nothing in that room that she doesn’t know is there. Everything in there is supplied by her for the people that work for her. And, like its owner, it’s all tidy and organized.”
Felton adds, “We needed to sell the idea that this space is where the most beautiful designs in London are being made. That this is a believable space. That was really important to us.”
Says Crombie, “In contrast, we also looked at [Alexander] McQueen and his workspace for inspiration for creating the world of Estella and a looser sort of environment for her. There’s some really beautiful photography of his preparation for a show, like drop sheets on the ground and a much more improvised approach.”
Crombie provides an example of the kind of thinking involved in designing these spaces. “We made The Baroness’ warehouse split-level, so she can look down and see the workspace and always be observing what’s happening in her workshop.”
And because so much of The Baroness eventually would rub off on Cruella, “We did a very similar thing in Cruella’s lair. We had a hole in the floor, again, so Cruella could look down.”
For Roger’s flat, with Gillespie’s blessing, Crombie and Felton took their inspiration directly from the animated “101 Dalmatians” and recreated it as a homage to the original.
The company then shot at 44 locations in London over 40 days, including five days to dress 20 sets to transform the shops along Portobello Road, where Estella meets Artie; Englefield House and Estate in Berkshire for the exteriors of The Baroness’ country house, Hellman Hall; RAF Halton for the exteriors of The Baroness’ London home, Ipswitch Manor; Westminster in central London right next to The Mall for The House of Baroness’ exterior; and an old cement headquarters in Aldermaston for Anita’s Tattletale offices, along with the Naval College in Greenwich for the red-carpet sequences, parks and various driving scenes. Many of the locations needed to be practically transformed from present-day to late 1970s, and a great deal of the “aerial” footage of London had to be computer-generated since so much has changed in the past 40 years.
Crombie says, “I did my own referencing and research and came up with ideas and tried to embed the film in London in particular. I don’t come from London, and so it’s been lovely for me to really investigate the city and the history of it and to come up with ways of representing it and things that were interesting and new for me that I hadn’t really thought about before.”
Englefield was chosen for Hellman Hall for a variety of reasons. First, when placed on a cliffside, as in the film, it still sustains its presence with its terrace perfectly placed. It’s got a great, very square graphic shape in the landscape, while at the same time has an Elizabethan, gothic, monolithic and ominous feeling, which was important to Gillespie. The beautifully maintained, immaculate garden reflected the order and precision demanded by The Baroness.
As it turns out, the visual effects team headed by Max Wood ended up replacing around two-thirds of the building, adding an extra floor and completely changing its roofline, all to match director Gillespie’s vision of Hellman Hall. The aerial shots of the house with crashing waves below were also mostly computer-generated.
Regarding the Aldermaston location, Crombie very much wanted some contemporary architectural beats in the film to balance the number of stately homes and grand environments. She believed it was important to reflect the ’70s timeframe as much as possible, which Aldermaston’s sloping roof and “biscuity pebble” exterior immediately signal.
Crombie explains, “It just gives a different flavour to the landscape of the film. From the Valet’s flat to Tattletale to Portobello Road, there’s a scope. You’re not just getting one flavour the whole time.”
Producer Gunn lauds Crombie’s production design as “completely outstanding. She had to try to find a line between an authentic London of the late 1970s but find a way to put it off-kilter. Her use of colour and the angles in her designs can always tell us whether we are in a space occupied by The Baroness or Cruella. Jasper and Horace’s flat, The Baroness’ design space, even Liberty of London are beautiful and ingenious spaces.”
Set decorator Felton adds, “We’ve had so many challenges but so many brilliant sets to create. Each of The Baroness’ parties had to be different. Each time, we imagined she had this amazing party planner. We would think, ‘What would the party planner have done?’”
Says Gillespie, “At every turn, Fiona and Alice absolutely blew me away. And not just the actual design but the attention to detail and the workmanship in terms of the floors and the walls and just the floral arrangements that you see.”
Burr says, “Fiona’s sets were truly on another level. Everyone would be the new favourite. There’s such detail. They informed the story, the setting and the characters. It’s always a sign that you have a great production designer when no one wants to break down the sets at wrap.”
Crombie says, “Across the film I’m so thrilled with the high level of craftsmanship because the Lair’s peeling paint is as important to me as the marble finishes in Hellman Hall.”
Creating the Music of Cruella
To compose the instrumental score for “Cruella,” the filmmakers selected the much-in-demand Nicholas Britell, who received Academy Award® nominations for his work on “Moonlight” and “If Beale Street Could Talk” and an Emmy® for his main title theme for the HBO series “Succession,” and whose additional credits include Netflix’s “The King,” “Vice” and “The Big Short.”
To supplement Britell’s contributions, they engaged music producer Susan Jacobs, who had collaborated with Gillespie on “I, Tonya,” to incorporate songs from the period, since it was an especially explosive time in music with the emergence of punk and artists such as The Clash and Blondie, along with more traditional rock and pop artists. Producer Gunn says, “The music in the movie is almost a character in and of itself. Craig found a way to infuse the movie with amazing rock and roll, that is allowed to play and yet the lyrics never fight with the dialogue. The music injects the movie with energy and a sense of rebellion.”
Adds Platt, “Craig uses the music to inform our story, to push our narrative forward, to create feelings, to evoke emotions.”
Says Gillespie, “There was a wealth of music going on at that time. I knew there would be a lot of music in this. It just conveys the setting of where we are and the time period, coming into some of these scenes—the attitude and nature. I also just love music and songs when it comes to juxtaposition. It’s very much a Scorsese thing you’d see where you’re putting songs against scenes that you don’t expect, and it takes you to a different level.”
He continues, “With a sense of playfulness, we used ‘I Get Ideas’ and ‘Perhaps, Perhaps’ for The Baroness that go against her sinister nature. And when Estella’s character is seen drinking when she’s supposed to be working at Liberty of London at night, I thought it would be fun to use Nancy Sinatra.”
“It’s literally all over the map,” he concludes, “ranging from Doris Day to The Doors to Queen.”
The Dogs of Cruella
While dalmatians and other dogs are present in the film, Cruella doesn’t share the same motivations as her animated counterpart. In this film, the character Cruella does not in any way harm animals.
The canine cast of “Cruella” includes a small number of animal actors, and several scenes featuring dogs that were accomplished using visual effects. Most of the animals in the film were rescues (most notably Buddy, the “hero” dog who was found on the street); the others
came from the trainers’ loving homes. All rescue dogs were adopted into permanent loving homes.
Continuing Disney’s successful history of producing canine tales, the production team worked closely with reputable animal trainers to ensure each dog was well cared for and trained prior to filming.
All scenes that included animals were closely monitored by the American Humane Society.
As is consistent with Disney production policy, no animal fur was used in the making of the film.
Much of the footage of the dogs in the final film was in fact computer-generated effects devised by visual effects supervisor Max Wood and his team, who created fully CG versions of all three of The Baroness’ dalmatians as well as Buddy and Wink. They were all used more extensively than first envisaged and also for some highly detailed closeups. Wood is especially pleased with the slow-motion shots of the dalmatians jumping to catch Estella at the party, in which the dogs are fully CG, including the slo-mo drool. He also points out the scene at the grooming shop where they replaced the live-action shots of the dalmatians’ heads growling and then chasing Wink out of the shop.
As a homage to “101 Dalmatians,” the filmmakers wanted to include a scene of Cruella manically driving the enormous vehicle that inspires her name. But since Estella doesn’t have a car—according to Emma Stone, she doesn’t even know how to drive—they first needed a scene to show how Cruella acquires the car. So, we see her leaving a party and needing to make a quick getaway. She sees a bronze Panther De Ville parked on the street nearby and hotwires and steals it, which leads to a live-action version of the iconic scene with her driving and becoming Cruella de Vil.
All the vehicles used in the film were sourced by the U.K. outfit Dream Cars, which relished the task. For Cruella’s car, the stunt coordinator originally asked for “two, maybe three Panthers,” which was impossible, as the cars no longer exist. So, Dream Cars created two cars based on the 1980 Panther De Ville, one painted bronze (Gillespie and Crombie’s favourite), the other painted black and white, which could be wrapped in bronze (and, when new, rumoured to have belonged to ex-heavyweight champion boxer Smokin’ Joe Frazier); this way, they would have both the “before” and “after” car available for shooting at any given time.
The original Panther drivetrains were replaced with warmed-over 5.7 litre/350 cubic inch small-block Chevy crate motors and Turbo 350 transmissions to ensure they would reliably perform on set. To transform the Panther De Ville into the Cruella de Vil car required adding a carriage roof, replacing the wheels with replica IndyCar Magnesium wheels and tall tires and, of course, adding the elegant, polished handmade license plates.
Dream Cars made additional sets of all components out of fiberglass strengthened with Kevlar and fitted with a tubular frame around the perimeter, just in case they needed them. All their planning and execution worked faultlessly, even under the kind of time pressure that included one 36-hour turnaround to turn the bronze car all outfitted for stunts into Cruella’s black-and-white “hero” car.
About the Cast of Cruella
Academy Award®–winning actress EMMA STONE (Estella/Cruella and Executive Producer) has claimed her role as one of Hollywood’s most versatile and sought-after actresses working today, having captivated the industry’s attention with her award-winning work in many of the most notable films of the past decade.
In 2018 Stone was seen in Yorgos Lanthimos’ “The Favourite” alongside Rachel Weisz, Olivia Colman and Nicholas Hoult. Her performance earned her several nominations, including for an Academy Award®, a Golden Globe® Award, a Screen Actors Guild Award® and a British Academy of Film and Television Award.
In 2017 Stone won the Academy Award® for best actress for her role in Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land.” She was also recognized with the Screen Actors Guild Award® for outstanding performance by a female actor in a leading role, a Golden Globe® for best actress – motion picture musical or comedy, a British Academy Film Award for best actress in a leading role, and best actress at the Venice International Film Festival for her work in the film. She was honoured along with costar Ryan Gosling with the Santa Barbara Film Festival’s outstanding performers of the year award and received the Palm Springs International Film Festival’s Vanguard Award with Gosling and Chazelle.
She was most recently seen in the sequel to DreamWorks Animation’s “The Croods” alongside Ryan Reynolds, Nicolas Cage and Peter Dinklage. “The Croods: A New Age” became a huge box-office success despite the pandemic and went on to be nominated for a Golden Globe® Award for the best-animated feature film.
In Fall 2019 Stone starred in “Zombieland: Double Tap,” opposite Woody Harrelson, Jesse Eisenberg and Abigail Breslin. The film was a sequel to Ruben Fleischer’s 2009 adventure comedy classic.
In Fall 2018 Stone both starred in and executive produced the Netflix series “Maniac,” opposite Jonah Hill. The series, which is based on a Norwegian series, marked Stone’s regular TV debut as well as her first production credit. “Maniac” earned Stone a Producers Guild Award nomination as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award® nomination for outstanding performance by a female actor in a television movie or limited series.
In 2017 Stone starred as Billie Jean King in “Battle of the Sexes,” opposite Steve Carell’s Bobby Riggs. She was nominated for a Golden Globe® for best actress – motion picture musical or comedy for her performance.
Stone’s additional film credits include the critically acclaimed “Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance),” which won the award for outstanding performance by a cast in a motion picture at the SAG Awards®, best film at the Independent Spirit Awards, and best picture at the Academy Awards®. Her performance landed her an Academy Award nomination for best-supporting actress as well as Golden Globe®, SAG and Independent Spirit nominations.
She has also appeared in Woody Allen’s “Irrational Man”; Cameron Crowe’s “Aloha”; Woody Allen’s “Magic in the Moonlight”; the superhero franchise “The Amazing Spider-Man,” in which she starred in the first two films; the Oscar®-nominated animated film “The Croods”; the period drama “Gangster Squad”; “Easy A,” which earned her a Golden Globe® nomination and an MTV Movie Award for best comedic performance; the award-winning drama “The Help”; the romantic comedy “Crazy, Stupid, Love”; “Friends with Benefits”; the independent drama “Paper Man”; the animated comedy “Marmaduke”; the hit comedy “Zombieland”; the romantic comedy “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past”; the hit comedy “The House Bunny”; “The Rocker”; and the Judd Apatow comedy “Superbad.”
In 2014 Stone made her Broadway debut playing the iconic Sally Bowles in Sam Mendes and Rob Marshall’s production of “Cabaret.” The New York Times said, “Emma Stone is scintillating in an irresistible Broadway debut. Her Sally is wild, fierce and heartbreaking—someone you’re unlikely to forget. She provides a very good reason to revisit ‘Cabaret.’”
When she’s not filming, Stone is an advocate for Stand Up To Cancer (SU2C), a groundbreaking initiative created to accelerate innovative cancer research that will get new therapies to patients quickly and save lives now. Laura Ziskin, the late producer of “The Amazing Spider-Man,” started the organization and got Stone involved.
In addition to SU2C, Stone serves on the board of the Child Mind Institute, a nonprofit dedicated to transforming the lives of children and families struggling with mental health and learning disorders. Stone is also an ambassador for Gilda’s Club New York City. Named for the late comedian and original cast member of “Saturday Night Live,” Gilda Radner, Gilda’s Club offers a place where people dealing with cancer can join together to build social and emotional support. Stone has become an active member in the Gilda’s Club community and continues to do so by engaging with its younger departments for children and teens.
Stone is also currently the face of Louis Vuitton and serves as an ambassador for the luxury brand.
A native of Arizona, Emma currently resides in between New York and Los Angeles.
EMMA THOMPSON (The Baroness) is one of the world’s most critically lauded and respected talents for her versatility in acting as well as screenwriting. She is the sole artist thus far to have received an Academy Award® for both acting (“Howards End”) and screenwriting (“Sense and Sensibility”).
In June of 2018 she was appointed a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
This year she is shooting three feature films back-to-back: “What’s Love Got to Do With It?,” starring Lily James and Shazad Latif, directed by Shekhar Kapur from a screenplay by Jemima Khan; “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande,” co-starring Daryl McCormack, based on the original screenplay by British Comedy Award winner Katy Brand for director Sophie Hyde; and the film adaptation of Tim Minchin’s hit stage musical “Matilda,” based on the Roald Dahl classic novel, in which she will play the dreaded school headmistress Trunchbull, for director Matthew Warchus.
Thompson’s film credits begin with “The Tall Guy,” her feature debut in 1988. They include the aforementioned “Howards End” and “Sense and Sensibility” (for which she also received a best actress Oscar® nomination), “The Remains of the Day” (Oscar nomination), “In the Name of the Father” (Oscar nomination), “Last Christmas” (for which she was also co-screenwriter and producer), “Late Night,” “The Children Act,” “Love Actually,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” “The Meyerowitz Stories,” Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” “Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix,” “Henry V,” “Dead Again,” “Peter’s Friends,” “Much Ado About Nothing,” “Junior,” “Carrington,” “The Winter Guest,” “Primary Colors,” “Stranger Than Fiction,” Last Chance Harvey,” “The Love Punch,” “Brave” and two of the “Men in Black” sequels.
Thompson starred as the title character in “Nanny McPhee” and “Nanny McPhee Returns,” for both of which she also wrote the screenplay, based on Christianna Brand’s Nurse Matilda stories and was an executive producer on the latter. She is currently developing a stage musical based on the character.
Television credits include the BBC One/HBO six-part Russell T. Davies series “Years and Years”; HBO’s “Wit” (2001 Golden Globe® nomination) and “Angels in America” (2004 SAG Award®, Emmy® nomination), both for director Mike Nichols; “The Song of Lunch” for BBC Two (2012 Emmy® nomination); “Walking the Dog”; “Alfresco”; and the eponymous BBC series “Thompson.”
Stage credits include the New York Philharmonic’s staged production of Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” opposite Bryn Terfel, which they reprised at the London Coliseum with the English National Orchestra; “Me and My Girl,” first at Leicester and then London’s West End; and “Look Back in Anger” at the Lyric Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue.
Thompson was commissioned to write the 24th, 25th and 26th tales in the existing collection of “Peter Rabbit” stories beginning in 2014, the only author since Beatrix Potter to do so.
Thompson is president of the Helen Bamber Foundation, a UK-based human rights organization formed in April 2005 to help rebuild the lives of, and inspire new self-esteem in, survivors of gross human rights violations. On behalf of the foundation, Thompson co-curated “Journey,” an interactive art installation that used seven transport containers to illustrate the brutal and harrowing experiences of women sold into the sex trade. Thompson and “Journey” travelled to London, Vienna, Madrid, New York and the Netherlands for exhibitions and interviews.
In 2014 Thompson joined Greenpeace on its Save the Arctic campaign, and she continues as an active supporter of Greenpeace. She is a supporter of the UK-based Food Foundation and Child Hunger. She is also an ambassador for the international development agency ActionAid, and has spoken out publicly about her support for the work the NGO is doing, in particular, in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic that continues to sweep across Africa. She has been affiliated with the organization since 2000 and thus far has visited ActionAid projects in Uganda, Ethiopia, Mozambique, South Africa, Liberia and Myanmar. She is a patron of the Refugee Council and also patron of Edinburgh College’s Performing Arts Studio of Scotland.
Thompson was born in London to Eric Thompson, a theatre director and writer, and Phyllida Law, an actress. While at Cambridge, she was a member of the Footlights comedy troupe, alongside contemporaries Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry. She is married to actor Greg Wise, and they have a daughter, Gaia Wise, and a son, Tindyebwa Agaba Wise.
JOEL FRY (Jasper) most recently had a lead role in Ben Wheatley’s latest feature, “In the Earth,” which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Other recent work includes the Netflix feature “Love Wedding Repeat,” Danny Boyle’s “Yesterday” with Lily James and Himesh Patel, and Simon Amstell’s “Benjamin.” Recent TV credits include “Requiem,” “W1A” and “Game of Thrones.”
PAUL WALTER HAUSER (Horace) was recently seen in Netflix’s “Da 5 Bloods,” starring opposite Chadwick Boseman, Delroy Lindo and Jean Reno. In December 2019 he starred in the titular role in Clint Eastwood’s “Richard Jewell” for Warner Bros. It was recently announced he will star in Apple TV+’s upcoming series “In with the Devil” alongside Taron Egerton. The series is a six-hour adaptation of a true-crime memoir by James Keene.
He will next be seen in STX’s pandemic-themed thriller “Songbird” as well as the comedy “Queenpins.”
Hauser is widely known for his scene-stealing performance as Shawn Eckhardt in Craig Gillespie’s “I, Tonya.” Following that film’s success, he landed another breakout role in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” which earned a statue at the 2019 Oscars®. The comedy feature “Late Night,” in which he starred, sold to Amazon in a record-breaking domestic sale at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival.
He currently resides in Los Angeles.
The multi-award-winning and nominated actress EMILY BEECHAM (Catherine/Maid) won the prestigious Palme d’Or best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival, becoming the third British woman in the festival’s history to be recognized. Her film, the “artfully unnerving, austerely hypnotic horror movie” (Variety) “Little Joe,” was in competition, directed by Jessica Hausner, also starring Ben Whishaw and produced by the award-winning French/British company Le Bureau.
Beecham’s upcoming projects include the Emily Mortimer–penned BBC series adapted from Nancy Mitford’s celebrated novel “The Pursuit of Love,” opposite Lily James; “Emily,” Frances O’Connor’s directorial debut about the early life of “Wuthering Heights” author Emily Brontë, with Emma Mackey, Joe Alwyn and Fionn Whitehead; “The Outside Room,” opposite Lashana Lynch and Vanessa Redgrave; and the leading role opposite Jamie Dornan in “Cry from the Sea,” directed by Vic Sarin and penned by Irish screenwriter Ciaran Creagh.
Her previous credits include “Daphne,” for which she was universally lauded for her leading role and subsequently won the best performance in a British feature film award at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, and was nominated for best actress at the British Independent Film Awards and best newcomer at the Empire Film Awards; along with “The Calling,” the story of a university student who leaves her course to become a nun, for which she won best actress at the London Independent Film Festival for her portrayal of Joanna. Further credits include the Oscar®-nominated “Hail, Caesar!”; the post-apocalyptic thriller “28 Weeks Later”; the sci-fi action film “Outside the Wire”; “Sulphur and White”; and “Berlin, I Love You,” the latest installment of the “Cities of Love” anthology.
For television, Beecham has taken key roles in some of our best-loved and most acclaimed dramas, including “Tess of the D’Urbervilles,” “The Musketeers” and “The Village” for the BBC; Jimmy McGovern’s “The Street” and “Unforgiven” for ITV; and as the popular Widow in the AMC series “Into the Badlands,” voted one of the Best TV Shows of 2017 by Variety.
MARK STRONG (John the Valet) most recently starred in the smash hit “Shazam!” for DC/Warner Bros., as well as in the Sky miniseries “Temple.” Strong played the iconic character Merlin in Matthew Vaughn’s blockbuster “Kingsman” films. On stage, he participated in David Hare’s “The Red Barn” at The National Theatre and in the celebrated production of Arthur Miller’s “A View From the Bridge” in the West End, for which he received both an Olivier Award and a Critics’ Circle Award for best actor. Strong has also starred in the acclaimed films “Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy,” “Zero Dark Thirty,” “Sherlock Holmes,” “The Imitation Game,” “Kick-Ass,” “Robin Hood,” “Syriana,” “Miss Sloane” and “1917.”
KAYVAN NOVAK (Roger) is an award-winning British Iranian actor and voice artist. Novak is currently shooting season 3 of the FX hit comedy “What We Do in the Shadows” for creator Taika Waititi, where he stars as Nandor.
He was last seen in “Men in Black: International,” where he played three different characters for director F. Gary Gray. Previously, Novak won the best comedy performance at 2011’s British Comedy Awards for his role in Chris Morris’ “Four Lions” and appeared in the Academy Award®–winning film “Syriana” alongside Matt Damon and George Clooney. He starred opposite Nick Frost and Chris O’Dowd in James Griffiths’ “Cuban Fury.” He was last heard voicing Dino alongside Tom Hiddleston and Eddie Redmayne in “Early Man.” Additionally, Novak is the creator and star of the famous British prank show “Fonejacker,” which was nominated for best comedy program at the BAFTA Awards and won the BAFTA for best comedy program in 2008.
KIRBY HOWELL-BAPTISTE (Anita) is a rising actress from London who is best known for her memorable roles in “Killing Eve,” “The Good Place,” “Barry,” “Why Women Kill” and “Veronica Mars.”
In 2021 Howell-Baptiste can be seen starring in several exciting film projects. She is currently appearing in Saban Films’ dark romantic comedy “Happily,” starring Joel McHale and Kerry Bishé. Later this year, Howell-Baptiste will star in the STX Films comedy “Queenpins,” a two-hander with Kristen Bell and Howell-Baptiste in co-leading roles. She will also be seen in the independent feature “Silent Night” with Keira Knightley and Lily-Rose Depp.
On television, Howell-Baptiste played a recurring role in NBC’s “The Good Place,” opposite Kristen Bell and Ted Danson. In 2019 she starred with Lucy Liu and Ginnifer Goodwin in the CBS All Access anthology series “Why Women Kill.” In 2018 Howell-Baptiste appeared in the first season of “Killing Eve,” opposite Sandra Oh and Jodie Comer. Additionally, she played a recurring role in the Bill Hader–leading series “Barry.” Howell-Baptiste’s previous television credits include “Veronica Mars,” “Infinity Train,” “Love,” “Downward Dog,” “House of Lies” and “Comedy Bang! Bang!”
Howell-Baptiste is currently based in Los Angeles.
TIPPER SEIFERT-CLEVELAND (Young Estella) has, at 13, already built up an enviable résumé. She was cast by Nina Gold in both “Game of Thrones” and “The Little Stranger” (director Lenny Abrahamson). Prior to “Game of Thrones,” Tipper was the regular character Ona in “Krypton” from Warner Bros./Syfy. Tipper’s first roles included playing Alexandra Dockerill over several episodes of the hugely popular “Call the Midwife” and also Astrid Trappett in “Doc Martin.” Tipper plays the lead role of Emily in “Emily and the Magical Journey,” her first film lead with a U.S. accent.
JOHN MCCREA (Artie) is perhaps best known for his titular role in the British musical “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” written by Tom MacRae and directed by Jonathan Butterell, for which he received an Olivier Award nomination for best actor in a musical and won a What’s On Stage Award for best actor in a musical and a Critics’ Circle Award for most promising newcomer. Since leaving the West End, McCrea has worked on some of the most exciting British television, including BBC Two’s “Giri/Haji,” BBC One’s “Dracula,” the feature film “God’s Own Country” and the upcoming film “She Will.”
ZIGGY GARDNER (Young Jasper) was born and raised in Manchester, England, by an English mother and a Jamaican father. He began acting classes at the age of 9 and has loved the performing arts ever since. When Ziggy is not on a set, he can be found reading comic books or watching sitcoms. He is also an avid gamer and anime fan and a keen collector of minifigures.
Ziggy has been lucky enough to previously work with a local director on a music video and a commercial, but “Cruella” is his first feature film.
JOSEPH MACDONALD (Young Horace) is 15 years old and is from North London. Previous roles include Randy in the short film “Teeth and Pills,” Small Boy in the West End musical “Billy Elliot” and Tiny Tim in “A Christmas Carol” at the Young Actors Theatre in Islington. Joe has also featured in numerous commercials.