The Ways Emma Stone's Cruella Breaks From The Disney Movie Mold, According To The Director

Disney’s live-action re-imaginings of classic animated movies give filmmakers a chance to offer a new kind of vision to the memorable characters we’ve grown up knowing and loving… or in Cruella’s case, hating. Over the years, we’ve seen Jon Favreau make some insane technical achievements with the CGI world of The Jungle Book and The Lion King, watched Tim Burton bring new life into Wonderland and Dumbo, and Bill Condon make a “time as old as time” new again in Beauty and the Beast. With Cruella, director Craig Gillespie made a movie that’s not typical for the studio.

When CinemaBlend spoke to the filmmaker about Cruella, Craig Gillespie shared his take on adapting the Disney villain in ‘70s London amidst the fashion punk scene and the character’s impending love for puppy fur. In his words:

Often, and not in a negative way, when sitting down with our heads of department, [I’d say] that we’re not making a Disney movie. I love Disney films, but we get to do an antihero villain movie, which kind of opens things up and I would say, just think about it as a story we're making of this woman and what’s best for that. So we really went for it.

As the director explained, he didn’t set out to make a classic Disney movie, and that certainly does show through the movie. While the PG-13 movie is great fun and certainly tells the story of Cruella de Vil, it doesn’t do so in a way that we’ve seen live-action movies of its kind before.

A great primer for Cruella for more mature audiences will be Craig Gillespie’s 2017 movie I, Tonya, which was an unhinged take on ice skating champion Tonya Harding’s controversial story. Interestingly enough, the two films feel like sister projects in a sense. Craig Gillespie shared how influential his previous movie was on Cruella de Vil’s origin movie:

I would not have made the same movie. I, Tonya sort of opened up a lot of things for me in a sense of when I shot I, Tonya I was kind of fearless and I really just stuck to my convictions and what I felt would work for the film. I really took some chances with it and changed a lot of things and broke some rules like breaking the fourth wall. There’s a lot of stuff going on and I wanted to keep that freedom with Cruella. I brought my DP from I, Tonya, Nicolas Karakatsanis, who did an amazing job and there’s a lot of spontaneity to how we shoot and a lot of times the camera is always moving and can look in any direction and the actors have freedom to move. And I wanted to have a lot of music in it, so I had to design the camera moves, knowing that we’re going to have it in certain places. I wanted all that energy that we had in I, Tonya. So I brought in a lot of that to this.

Craig Gillespie really took with him a lot of the exciting stylings he brought to Margot Robbie’s Oscar-nominated role for Cruella, having recently finished I, Tonya when he stepped onto the Disney movie. The director certainly had his own specific ideas for the character going into the movie, and it created a version of the 101 Dalmatians character that we’ve never seen before.

And as Craig Gillespie also told CinemaBlend, he actually decided not to watch the Glenn Close version before or while making Cruella to make sure he was creating something new. In other words, if you're going out to theaters or planning on streaming Cruella this weekend, don’t expect something you’d typically see from the studio or in the live-action realm.

A lot of this could be because Cruella is set in the fashion world and doesn’t have the same ties to magic or fairytale that other movies in the Disney family do. Check out what critics are saying about Cruella and check out the movie in theaters and Disney+ Premier Access on May 28.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.