CRUELLA Director Craig Gillespie Talks JOKER Comparisons, Stone vs. Thompson & The Film's Ending (Exclusive)

Disney's Cruella starring Emma Stone and Emma Thompson is finally here, and we were recently able to catch up with director Craig Gillespie to talk about one of the most wickedly fun films of the year!

After a long wait, Disney's Cruella is finally out tomorrow (or tonight if you're checking out a preview screening) on Disney+, and ahead of the release, we were able to sit down with director Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya; Million Dollar Arm) to talk about his most fun film to date. 

He shares his thoughts on those Joker comparisons as well as what it was like watching both Emma Stone and Emma Thompson square off at their most wonderfully wicked. We also talk about the killer soundtrack and why he's suddenly become so interested in telling stories about historically controversial characters.

Then, we venture into spoiler territory as he shares more about Mark Strong's mysterious role as John and the film's ending. 

Check out our full interview with director Craig Gillespie below, but be warned, there are some SPOILERS! 

Cruella hits theaters and arrives on Disney+ Premier Access on May 28.

ROHAN: While The Devil Wears Prada comparisons were somewhat expected after the first trailer, the first look was also compared to the Joker. What was your reaction to that?   

CRAIG: "I loved the Joker, they did an amazing job on that, so I was happy if they wanted to compare it, but I knew it’s so drastically different to that tonally. There were some people calling that were like ‘were you worried about that?’ and I was thinking as soon as the movie comes out, people are going to see that it’s its own thing and it’s not the worst thing in the world to be in the same sentence as the Joker, but I was a little surprised at how much it caught on.

The one thing it gave me, which I liked, was there were some dark things going on it and in this and obviously, it felt like there was a yearning for that from the audience.

ROHAN: Both Emma Stone and Emma Thompson are perfectly cast and are very clearly having a blast playing these roles. As a director, does that make your job easier when the actors are so engaged like that?

CRAIG: "They’re so amazing, the two of them. It was actually all born out of Tony McNamara’s writing as well, he’d written The Favourite with Emma, so they had this dialogue that was just so much fun, but they make it look easy because it’s not easy to be able to do that dance between the humor and the drama simultaneously within a scene and I was so excited with that whole combination because getting Tony to write it and knowing that these two amazing actresses had so much talent that they could do that dance within these scenes, which is tricky, it was really exciting. "

ROHAN: Historically, both Cruella de Vil and Tonya Harding have been regarded as villains or at least controversial figures, but your films have shown different sides to these characters - something I imagine you’ll do with Pamela Anderson, Tommy Lee, and Mike Tyson as well. What is it about these characters and their stories that has piqued your interest as a filmmaker?

CRAIG: "A lot of it’s honestly been generated by the scripts, just these brilliantly written scripts that I was immediately intrigued and curious about. Whether it’s heartfelt stories or this kind of story, I think there’s a sort of theme of mine, they always seem to be outsiders or misfits or misunderstood, whether its Lars, even with Finest Hours, he was sort of underestimated.

I always take these characters that are going against the odds, so that’s for whatever reason something I’m attracted to. In these cases, I do love taking the audience’s sort of expected notion of what they’re coming into, kind of a pre-judgment of what they’re going to get, and having them analyze that from a different perspective. To have them on this journey and have this empathy and understanding for why these people are doing some of the heinous things that they’re doing.

ROHAN: The music is really fantastic in this film. How did you go about conceiving the soundtrack? Did you have a list of tracks already picked out before filming or was that something you figured out after the film was shot?  

CRAIG: "No, no, no, I collect like hundreds of songs going into prep and things that just like inspire me, that think like the characters, that fit the tone of the film, and then as I’m shooting, I cut on the set, I sort of assemble stuff and I’m literally throwing tracks on it on the day and so when Emma Thompson gets out of the car at Liberty’s that day, I threw a couple of tracks on there, I threw The Doors on there, and it wasn’t what I was intellectually thinking at all, for her as a character, but just the foreboding nature of that intro, that song, it just felt omnipresent, it was almost like a tidal wave of doom coming through the doors there, that it never changed. We stuck with that till the end, so there’s probably a good half a dozen songs that were there the day we were shooting that never changed. "


ROHAN: I spoke with Mark Strong last week, who arguably has the most pivotal role in this film, and he was telling me how you reached out to him for the part of John, which doesn't require much from him in the first half. Can you tell me more about casting him and casting those kinds of roles in general?

CRAIG: "It’s funny, it’s a very hard thing for me to articulate. It’s very much a gut level and there are certain actors I see in the film and it’s very hard for me to sort of veer away from that once I’m locked into them because honestly the casting to me is the most stressful part of the process cause I’m dealing with this tone that’s so specific. I see actors that I know can do it and can do that dance and seeing his body of work, it’s enormous and he’s so talented, and so, if I don’t have those specific actors, it can really become a long journey trying to figure out what the puzzle is. 

So, in his case, I loved the idea that he’s played a lot of villains over the years, like in Sherlock Holmes and Kick-Ass, and so you think of him in a certain way and it’s a great misdirect for the audience to be like “Alright, so that’s the villain,” and suddenly he’s going to be her ally and he has this warmth and generosity about him that is another side of him that he’s so wonderful with. "

ROHAN: While the film does plant the seeds for 101 Dalmations, the Cruella we leave at the end of the film isn’t really the full-fledged villain from the animated movie. Have you already thought of a sequel that bridges the gap, or was the intention always to chart a new path for the character?  

CRAIG: "It’s funny, we had so much free reign. There’s no real backstory to Cruella other than her and Anita went to school together and that she was a furrier that wanted a certain fur coat. So, there’s a lot to fill in there in terms of backstory and I was presented with this whole concept of the fashion world and the ‘70s punk era, which was sort of such a luxurious backdrop to our story.

Working up to her as Cruella or this villain that we know of as Cruella, I loved the idea that we get to what the public perception in the film is that she’s a puppy killer, like that’s what’s reported in the papers and that’s what London society is left with at the end of the film when we’ve kind of come to the fully formed Cruella.

So, I think it is exciting to see now that she has all of this power and this social awareness, what’s going to happen with her, is that going to be her undoing? I always equated it to The Graduate moment on the bus when he gets the girl and it’s all like “Are they going to be happy now? Is this what they actually wanted?” They’ve been driving toward this goal the whole film and thing with her is that she’s been wanting to get here, it’s like what did she give up when she lost a part of her as Estella and she’s kind of in this gilded cage now, in the public eye. " 

Cruella hits theaters and arrives on Disney+ Premier Access on May 28

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