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While Joachim Ronning’s Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil reassembles most of its core cast from the original for its new adventure, there is one notable bit of recasting. While Brenton Thwaites played love interest Prince Philip in the 2014 predecessor, the sequel sees that role now played by Harris Dickinson. It put the actor in a unique place on the set of the film, making discoveries about the character while everyone else was recalling their past performance – but interestingly one thing that Dickinson didn’t really do is go back and analyze what Thwaites did with the part.
This was a revelation I picked up during a recent interview I did with Harris Dickinson at the Los Angeles press day for Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil. Our conversation began with a discussion about where he started with the character, and I specifically asked him if part of his process saw him watch the original Maleficent and study how the character was previously played. He said no, and explained why:
I didn't because there was so much in the script on this one that I just sort of approached it as a new thing, just to try to not be too affected by anything. Because otherwise it can get a little tricky.
Harris Dickinson faced the same conflict that any artist faces when taking on a work previously established by a different artist, which is the struggle to honor what came before, while still maintaining enough creative freedom to leave your own personal stamp on a product. In playing the role of Prince Philip in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, Dickinson clearly more heavily favored the latter side of that equation.
Reflecting on the original Maleficent, it does make a fair amount of sense that the new actor would take the approach that he did, if not just because there really isn’t much to Prince Philip as a character in that movie. While he is certainly a principal player in the classic Sleeping Beauty story that audiences were well familiar with prior to the film, the Robert Stromberg-directed movie altered perspectives to reveal that he was much more of an ancillary figure in the story about the love between a mother (Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent) and daughter (Elle Fanning’s Aurora).
Maleficent: Mistress Of Evil definitely has much more for Prince Philip to do, starting with the fact that his proposal to Aurora is what kick-starts the movie’s plot. The couple’s pending nuptials puts the magical titular anti-hero in a room with Philips’ mother, the magical creature-hating Queen Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer), and it is a meeting that proves to be the fuse that lights the powder keg of war between faeries and humans.
While Philip has a more significant role to play in the movie, though, one thing that Harris Dickinson actually valued about the part is that he’s very much a supportive figure who abandons ego in the name of doing what’s right and helping those around him. Discussing what he appreciated about the character, the actor explained,
I liked his bravery. I liked that he wasn't sort of a traditional Disney prince; I liked that he wanted to sort of be open, and go against preset morals, and he wanted to enable Aurora to be the best she can be, and be powerful and be brave. So I think that was what was cool about it.