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Stellan Skarsgard is considering getting in deeper with Disney. The Swedish star who has played Bootstrap Bill in Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean movies and Dr. Erik Selvig in Thor and The Avengers is currently in talks to join the studio's live-action re-imagination of Cinderella. THR reports that should he sign on, Skarsgard would play the grand duke, an adviser to the king who "just may have ulterior motives." (Imagine Skarsgard cackling, "Mwah ha ha!")
With the mention of a duplicitous royal adviser, this is the first role that has broken from the established characters from the animated 1950 release. All the other parts cast thus far have been pretty expected, though the actors cast offered some surprises. There was a long line of ingénues considered for the lead role of Cinderella from Saoirse Ronan, Alicia Vikander, and Gabriella Wilde, to Emma Watson, Bella Heathcoate, and Margot Robbie. But in the end, director Kenneth Branagh selected Downton Abbey's Lily James for the part of the bullied orphan turned fairy tale princess.
The lovely Cate Blanchett was cast to play the wicked stepmother who makes Cinderella's life hell. Filling the roles of the typically ugly stepsisters is another Downtown Abbey alum Sophie McShera, and The Borgias' Holliday Grainger. The part of the fairy godmother is going to Branagh's recurring co-star Helena Bonham Carter, who shared the screen with him in Paul Greengrass's Theory of Flight, Oliver Parker's Othello, and the Branagh-directed Frankenstein. Lastly, the role of the handsome prince classically known as Charming went to the former King of the North, Richard Madden of Game of Thrones. Basically, it's a strong cast already, but Skarsgard would definitely be a welcomed addition. Whether he's playing an earnest good guy or a seething baddie, he never seems to turn in anything but on-point performances. Here's hoping he signs on soon.
Despite being pretty public about their casting for the film, Disney has been tight-lipped about what will set this live-action Cinderella apart from those that precede it. Before the film was handed to Branagh, it was in the hands of Never Let Me Go and One Hour Photo helmer Mark Romanek. However, early this year he walked away from the project when Disney execs worried his take on the tale would be too dark for their audiences. Details on what would have made his version too dark haven't been released, but presumably Branagh's take will be a bit brighter. With a screenplay by Aline Brosh McKenna (27 Dresses, The Devil Wears Prada) and Chris Weitz (About a Boy) we expect something bittersweet but bubbly.
For now we're forced to read between the lines. While press releases have described Blanchett's stepmother as wicked, they've sidestepped calling the stepsisters "ugly" or the prince "charming." While McShera's best known for playing the homely Daisy on Downtown, she's not an unattractive woman, and Grainger is downright striking. So perhaps their ugliness will be internal only. For his part, maybe Madden's prince will be more broody (a la Robb Stark) and less charming? Unfortunately, we may have a while to wait on further specifics as Disney's Cinderella isn't set to hit theaters until March 13th, 2015. But maybe some scraps of the new storyline will fall when the shoot begins in London this fall.