Writer/director Kay Cannon (Pitch Perfect, Blockers) has re-envisioned Cinderella as a modern musical with a heroine at its center who has ambitions of a career in a world that just wants her to find a prince to marry. Ella (pop music superstar Camila Cabello) wants to design beautiful ball gowns while her stepmother (Tony Award winner Idina Menzel) unsympathetically attempts to squash her dreams, until her fairy godmother Fab G (Billy Porter) shows up to help boost the confidence she already has in her heart.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, which you can both watch and read, Pierce Brosnan (who plays King Rowan, the father of the prince that captures Cinderella’s heart) talked about getting to watch the movie with his granddaughter, the appeal of playing this character, how COVID temporarily derailed the production, his king’s style, and why he insisted on getting to sing a song. He also talked about what made him want to be a part of Black Adam as Dr. Fate, and why it’s important to have at least three good scenes in a project.
Collider: Thank you for talking to me about this. I had so much fun watching it.
PIERCE BROSNAN: How delightful. Well, I had so much fun making, so thank you very much. I’m really pleased to hear that. Kay Cannon did such a great job, embroidering such a story and taking a story, which is really a very ancient story. Before Disney, there was Cinderella and it was really a story of repression. To find this wonderful actress/singer/entertainer in Camila [Cabello] was just joyful to watch. And then, to hear the reaction from the members of the press, it’s really heartwarming. I saw it with my granddaughter who’s six, and she loved it. She’s just beginning to figure out that grandpa is in the movies.
When you were approached about playing a king in Cinderella, what was your initial reaction to that?
BROSNAN: I’m an actor and I’ve been asked to play many roles, and there’s always a surprise factor. I was flattered because the script was so good and the company of actors, the ensemble, was so rich, from Billy Porter as the fairy godmother and Idina Menzel, who is a powerhouse on Broadway. And then, of course, Minnie Driver plays the queen. She and I are old pals, and that was a delight. So, I felt very comfortable. I felt confident. And it allowed me to go back to London. I love being able to go back to London because I have family there and friends. And Kay just was so effervescent. She brought such a passion to each day’s work.
We started last year in February, and then came the COVID, and it came in slowly. We were in Blackpool, doing the ballroom sequence. There’s a magnificent ballroom in Blackpool. And on that Friday they said, “That’s it, we’re closing it down.” I hightailed it back here, to the north shore of Hawaii, and I thought that was it. I thought, “Well, that’s over.” But then, five months later, we went back, and thank God we did. We went back under the restrictions of COVID. You get tested every day, you wear masks, you take the masks off, you do the scene, you sing, and you put the mask back on. It was a challenge.
As I said, the story of Cinderella is a very ancient story, but in the hands of Kay and the company, they really have created something which is empowering and beautiful and exhilarating for young women, young people, and anyone. It’s seamlessly embroidered with the songs that are familiar, by great stars and great singers. You don’t quite catch it, and then you go, “Oh, my God, that was Madonna. That was Queen.” It’s a compliment that the narrative flowed into the songs so effortlessly.
How did you feel about your king’s style, from his wardrobe to his crown to the very specific facial hair that he had? Were there conversations about his look?
BROSNAN: There was a little bit of a hiccup with the beard. I grew the beard and I wanted to have a beard. I wanted to have this elegant D’Artagnan beard, but the studio didn’t like it. I liked it. We had a little backwards and forwards, and the beard stayed. I just thought it very appropriate that he should have a beard. I was looking at all of my art documentaries on kings and there were bears. The costumes were magnificent. Each one was just a revelation. Every day, you’d go to work and someone would be in this magnificent costume.
What was it like to wear the crown? Do you feel different when you have to put a crown on?
BROSNAN: No, not really. It was a very beautiful clown. Actually, I woke up the other day and I thought, “What happened to the crown?” I was going to keep the crown. Maybe I could still get the crown from the company, but highly unlikely. There’s such a flamboyance. The costumes give you such a regal posture and elegance, so the work came effortlessly, really. Because of Kay Cannon and because of the ensemble of actors, they make you real. When you’re working with good actors and good sincerity and passion and spontaneity, all you have to do is sit back and relax and listen, say your lines clearly, and simply get off the stage without bumping into furniture.
I love the scene that you have when you ride up on the horse and you’re in the armor, and you’re singing and professing your love to Minnie Driver’s character. Was it fun to have a little bit of humor like that as well and to have this king not be so perfect?
BROSNAN: I asked for a song. I said, “Come on, Kay. You seen my work. You’ve seen the magnificent voice of Oh Mama. Just that alone, we’re shortchanging ourselves and the world by not having me sing.” Anyway, she gets the joke. I got the joke. And so, she came up with this ridiculous a capella nonsense song because he’s such an egocentric, narcissistic, silly king. It’s all about him really wanting to kill the sea monster and wed his son to the next door neighbor of royalty, so he can get the land and, consequently, hurts his wife ad really is not very pleasant. And so, she banishes him from the bedroom and that’s how that scene came about. He’s a knight in shining armor, trying to get off the horse. When I was singing to Minnie, a fly came into the shot. It was one of those moments.
Could you ever have imagined, at any point in your career, that you’d be playing this king, singing and dancing, and performing a Jennifer Lopez song?
BROSNAN: Yes, absolutely, 100%. That’s why I’m an actor. I want to do everything. You want to play kings and you want to play queens. You want to play everything. I went to drama academy, which was very method-orientated, and I was led to believe that I could play anything. I’ve played many great roles. And then, there were times when I went to the board to see who I was playing, thinking I was going to be the leads, and I’d look down the list and I was playing the waiter or the messenger. How do you play the messenger and how do you still carry that within your heart, as an actor? You want to be a leading man all your life, but there comes a time to just move over and get on with the character work. At this point in my life, I’m revelling in playing the king in Cinderella, or Will Ferrell’s father in Eurovision, or Dr. Fate in Black Adam. So, it’s all going to plan.
At the time that you were James Bond, that was really the height of action films, and now there’s this whole world of comic book and superhero movies, and you’re a part of that with Black Adam. What was it about that project that made you want to be a part of that world and what’s it like to be in a big action movie like that now?
BROSNAN: It’s exhilarating. I had the most magnificent time and with Jaume Collet-Serra, who’s the director of Black Adam and the most recent film with Dwayne Johnson, Jungle Cruise. I’ve always joked with my boys about playing Dumbledore because I grew a beard. I’ve been growing beards and facial hair and it’s gray. I’m going gray and you have to let them know you’re coming, so to speak. You’ll hopefully grow into your years, as an older actor, and find work for yourself, as the wizard or the sorcerer or the king. You try to find the most interesting work for yourself, and sometimes you have choices and sometimes you don’t have choices. So, that’s where you find me and how you find me. It’s constant work, constant doing, and constant showing up.
When it came to doing something like a big comic book/superhero movie, did you also feel like you still have some freedom to really make the character your own in a situation like that?
BROSNAN: Oh, very much so. It’s an ensemble piece, Black Adam. You have Dwayne, who’s at the pinnacle of his fame and fortune and success and popularity. He is magnificent as Black Adam. We are the Justice Society and there’s four of us, so we became a strong quartet of actors. The writing was very good. There was just enough beats. You just want three good beats. If you have three good scenes to hang your hat and your heart on, then you can make something of your days. For me, Black Adam had that, and Cinderella had it, in its own specific way.
And those are both directors who have very clear visions with the kind of stories they’re telling and seem like they really enjoy playing in the world that they’re creating.
BROSNAN: Yeah, they do. Jaume Collet-Serra and Kay Cannon have that wonderful spontaneity, which creates a tangible, visceral feeling and electricity on the set that we’re making the movie and it’s not set in stone, but these are the parameters. You play the scene out as written, and then you just play with it. With Jaume on Black Adam, I could say, “What about this line? What about that line?” He had a very good ear and sensitivity. And likewise, Kay really is in every frame of this film. Her creativity and her interaction with Camila, who’s a young actress and a young woman with a huge responsibility and undertaking to play this iconic character, Cinderella, and that working relationship was evident, every day. It was like a sister, a mother or an aunt. Consequently, you have that joyfulness and that immediacy of sincerity on the screen.
Cinderella is available to stream at Amazon Prime Video.
Porter also talks about singing “Shining Star.”
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Pierce Brosnan on Cinderella, Black Adam, and Dwayne Johnson’s Performance