Interesting: Lily James, who plays rebellious flapper Lady Rose on Downton Abbey, has been cast as Cinderella in Disney's new live-action flick based on the age-old tale.
According to The Hollywood Reporter:
Kenneth Branagh will direct, with Cate Blanchett playing the evil stepmother.
Cool. Um, you know, it sucks to always be this person, but: Why does she have to be blonde and white? The original animated Cinderella hit theaters in 1950, and Cinderella was blonde, as was 1959's Sleeping Beauty. But years passed and the Disney princesses got more diverse-looking: Brunette Belle in 1991; olive-skinned Princess Jasmine in 1992; technically-not-a-princess-but-still-a-role-model Mulan in 1998.
When I was a kid, I watched a version of Cinderella called Cindy; it featured an all-black cast and took place in Harlem. I was already familiar with the story, and the themes — abuse from "evil" family members, going from riches to rags and back again, romance, the concept of a fairy godmother — translate well into all kinds of scenarios.
One of the best versions of Cinderella ever made was the Disney-produced Rodgers and Hammerstein version in 1997, starring Brandy. An African-American princess? With a white stepmother and a Filipino prince? Why the fuck not? It's a fairy tale. (In the same vein, Nickelodeon produced a version called Rags, which had an interracial romance between Max Schneider and Keke Palmer. That interpretation was also a gender-swap, in which the boy is has an evil stepfather and the girl is a wealthy, prominent person.) I'm also a big fan of Ever After with Drew Barrymore, in which Cinderella is whittled down to just a historical romance: No magic.
I'm sure Kenneth Branaugh knows what he's doing; obviously Cate Blanchette will excel at the evil stepmother role and Lily James seems fun from her flapper-ish scenes on Downton. And who knows? Maybe this new version will be set in the 1920s. But since this story has been told a million times — there are Egyptian, Caribbean, Chinese, Korean and Mexican Cinderellas, among others — wouldn't it be nice to see something new? As in not the traditional "classic" Euro-centric blonde?