I can’t say I was super excited for any of the three new Snow White movies in the pipeline, and after Red Riding Hood, I’m not exactly all-fired jazzed for another attempt to Twilight-ize a fairy tale. But the casting announcements of the dwarfs for Snow White and the Huntsman suddenly has my full interest and has my enthusiasm upped from “whatever” to “wow, yeah!”
Snow White and the Huntsman stars Kristen Stewart as Snow, Charlize Theron as the evil stepmother, and Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth as the huntsman (replacing Viggo Mortensen, who dropped out). It gives the story a more grown-up, emotionally complex spin, in which the huntsman sent to kill the exiled Snow White (as in the old fairy tale) has a change of heart due to the loss of his own beloved wife years before. Instead he begins to train Snow to fight and defeat the stepmother.
(As Erika wrote earlier this year, Huntsman is directly competing with The Brothers Grimm: Snow White, directed by The Cell and The Fall’s Tarsem Singh and starring Julia Roberts as the stepmother and The Social Network‘s Armie Hammer as the prince. Tarsem’s film is already shooting and will likely beat Huntsman to theaters. There’s also a long-in-development live-action Disney version, to be helmed by I Am Legend and Water for Elephants‘ Francis Lawrence. It’s a modern telling in which the Snow White character travels to China and meets up with martial-arts warriors in the dwarfs’ spot.)
This week the following casting deals were in various stages of completion for the dwarfs (Brits, all) who will shelter and aid Snow. (And mostly likely be “shrunk” down a la the hobbits and dwarfs in Lord of the Rings.) Instead of cute Disney nicknames, each of them is named after a Roman emperor–that right there is plenty geek-nip to a Roman history buff like me.
Caesar – Ian McShane The leader of the dwarfs will be played by the Great McShane (Deadwood, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), who we are thankfully seeing a lot more of on screen these days. For several years after Deadwood, McShane focused mostly on voice-over work in Coraline, Kung Fu Panda, and The Golden Compass, as well as the under-appreciated TV show Kings, but he’s on a dark, revisionist fairytale roll lately–he’s also playing the king in Bryan Singer’s Jack the Giant Killer.
Tiberius — Eddie Izzard One of my favorite comedians of all time will play the big bruiser of the dwarf gang. Izzard often pops up in supporting roles in movies like Mystery Men, Renegade, Ocean’s Twelve and Valkyrie, and does voice work this weekend in Cars 2.
Trajan — Ray Winstone Since 2000′s Sexy Beast (where he starred alongside McShane) Winstone’s been an instant-improvement to any film he does, including 2004′s King Arthur, The Departed, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, 44 Inch Chest (also with McShane), Edge of Darkness, and of course his brilliant starring role in The Proposition.
Constantine – Bob Hoskins The blind Constantine will be played by the Roger Rabbit and Hook co-star, who has also been returning to higher-profile screen roles lately, including supporting work in Made in Dagenham.
Claudius — Toby Jones Claudius the dwarf has been described as “timid” in the new film (a nod to Robert Graves’ classic novels and the brilliant 1976 BBC adaptation of I, Claudius?) and will be played by terrific character actor Jones. You might recognize Jones from Infamous (the “other” Truman Capote film), The Mist, or W., or from more recent work in The Rite and Your Highness. (Plus he’s the voice of Dobby in the Potter films.)
Hadrian — Eddie Marsan I’ve been singing Marsan’s praises in recent years, with fine turns in Happy-Go-Lucky, Me and Orson Welles (as John Houseman), Red Riding, The Disappearance of Alice Creed, and Sherlock Holmes. Snow White‘s Hadrian is (appropriately enough, if you know your Roman history) the twin brother of the dwarf Trajan.
Nero – Stephen Graham Yes, as the angriest of the new dwarfs, Graham has the least-known name, but trust me, you don’t get included in a cast this great unless they know you can hold up your end. Graham was absolutely tremendous in 2006′s very good, little-seen Brit indie This is England–he’s also done a ton of character-actor work in films like Gangs of New York, Snatch, Public Enemies (he was the crazed Baby Face Nelson), and recently in Season of the Witch and Pirates 4.