Lily James opens up about inner beauty and strength in new Cinderella film

In the new live-action retelling of Cinderella, Lily James's titular character lives by the motto: "Be kind and have courage." It's advice given to the young Ella by her mother early on in the film, and Lily revealed on Thursday why she believes the character of Cinderella remains so iconic, and key, for young girls today.

"[It's] the strength that can come from within, the dignified strength and grace - and also, she finds such joy and happiness in her life despite her situation, even if it is just talking to little Gus Gus.

"When I read the script, I was bowled over by how it was a faithful retelling of the fairy-tale without any tricks or twists. It felt really strong and [she was] a girl I wanted to be, and felt inspired to play."


The stars of Cinderella at the London premiere

Kenneth Branagh, the director behind critically acclaimed films Thor and Much Ado About Nothing, was approached by Disney to direct the new take on the fairy-tale classic, and admitted: "When I told people that I was perhaps going to do the film, I got a tremendous reaction from lots of parents and a great variety of children that made me feel the story was very personal to people, whatever they’re age."

Lily, the star of ITV drama Downton Abbey takes on her first major leading role with Cinderella, and the message of inner strength is one that Kenneth also believes in.

"It’s a different kind of empowerment, but it is empowerment", he said. "She makes different choices even if those choices are to be thoughtful and considerate. It’s the notion of considering those actions."

"When I auditioned there was a breakdown of the character", Lily revealed. "There was one line, that she had generosity of spirit - I felt like that is something as a kid my dad would say those words."

Lily James as Cinderella with Cate Blanchett as the evil step-mother

She added: "It spoke to me and I wanted that idea of this character having such warmth, and an open heart, and she lives in the moment, all these qualities are amazing. I suppose you always have to draw on yourself."

The message of the film is one that the cast and crew were keen to focus on during the press conference. When talk turned to the controversy surrounding Lily's waist size, costume designer and Oscar winner Sandy Powell had strong words.


"Lily’s dress is an optical illusion.

"The diameter of the skirt is about two metres and it had the width [on the shoulder] so it does make the waist look small."

Kenneth Branagh, Lily James, and Richard Madden

The film's producer Allison Shearmur added: "I think it’s gotten a lot of attention but it's paying attention to the opposite of the theme of the movie, which is your sense of beauty and strength on the inside. What’s interesting is the conversation has been about the outside, when this is a movie about the inside...

"My 12-year-old thought the dress was pretty but what she took away was the priority of the kindness."

Audiences still gravitate towards magic and fairy-tales at the cinema, and Kenneth suggested that Cinderella "allows for you to think about [magic]".

"We contained our magic to the essential single visit of the fairy godmother to allow for the idea of the internal transformations that can occur without extra help", he said, before adding: "but it’s nice to think that the universe in some form will come to help you out."