The live-action Cinderella movie has been a hit with audiences and critics alike. To date the movie has grossed over $180 million, and Cinderella is certified “Fresh” by Rottentomatoes.com. I’ll admit that the pretty dress and the promise of glitz in the movie trailer intrigued me when I first saw it, but I was worried that the movie would not live up to its potential. (I’m looking at you, Oz the Great and Powerful!) I’m happy to say that I agreed with every critic who raved about Cinderella, including Richard Roeper who said, “The world didn’t need yet another Cinderella story, but the one we got is one of the best versions ever put on film.”
I was even more surprised, and pleasantly so, when I spotted so much from other TV shows and movies I love in Cinderella. I’m always fascinated by casting choices, especially when they are actors or actresses I admire. So watching Cinderella is a treat for fans of fantasy/sci fi/superhero genres, too. Here’s why.
Nice Day for a White Wedding
The first and most obvious nerdy connection is that the Prince is played by Richard Madden, who also played Robb Stark on Game of Thrones. Richard Madden is a natural choice to play the handsome Prince Charming, because he already had crowds of British women swooning from his time on TV in England. (And plenty of American women after seeing him on Game of Thrones, I imagine.) He flashes his dazzling smile and wields his charm like a sword to great effect in Cinderella. Lucky for us there isn’t dagger or wolf’s head in sight. (The Red Wedding, once seen, can never be unseen.)
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Nonso Anozie is the second Game of Thrones connection in Cinderella. He plays the Captain, the Prince’s right hand man. He also played Xaro Xhoan Daxos, one of The Thirteen in Qarth. In Cinderella, he is a fair man, a gentle giant. But on Game of Thrones, he played a man who was cunning, devious, deceitful and murderous. Xaro met his end when Daenerys left him to die in his own locked vault, after she discovered that he had betrayed her in more ways than one. You don’t mess with the Khaleesi!
“Have Courage and Be Kind”
Those words are the last words of advice that Cinderella’s mother gives her before sloughing off her mortal coil. The beautiful blonde woman who spoke those words is also the beautiful brunette who commands an army of agents as Agent Peggy Carter in the Marvel-verse. Hayley Atwell plays Cinderella’s mother, a fairy tale mother if ever there was one. She is graceful, beautiful, wise and gentle. As Agent Carter in Marvel’s Agent Carter or Captain America: First Avenger, she’s tough as nails and smart as a whip. I’ve come to admire Hayley Atwell for her subtle portrayal of a strong woman in Marvel’s Agent Carter. I lit up like a tesseract when I recognized her in Cinderella.
Professor Grand Duke
Another Marvel connection to Cinderella is Stellan Skarsgård, who plays the Grand Duke. The Grand Duke in Cinderella isn’t evil, certainly not as evil as Cinderella’s stepmother. But he isn’t terribly compassionate, either. Stellan Skarsgård is good at putting on his skeptical face when the Prince describes the commoner he’s fallen in love with, just like he did as Professor Erik (with a k) Selvig in the Thor movies when Jane talks about her hunky Norse god. (He is also good at being a goofy, mind-controlled slave in Avengers.) Stellan Skarsgård provides yet another degree of connection to nerdy shows because he’s the father of Alexander Skarsgård, who played Eric (with a c) on True Blood.
Bibbity Bobbity Bellatrix!
Helena Bonham Carter is a very talented actress. She began her career playing very earnest characters in period pieces, like Howard’s End. As she got older, and more involved with her paramour Tim Burton (another nerdy connection!), her choices became more and more eccentric. Her wacky, off-center style worked well for her portrayal of Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter movies. In Cinderella, she’s just as wacky, but in a much sunnier way. She’s a bit of an absent-minded professor type who gets to wear a gloriously white ball gown, corset and all. (In my mind, it’s nice that she can seek redemption by treating Cinderella, a mother’s daughter, so well after treating Hermione and Ginny, someone else’s daughters, so horribly. But then, in my mind, fiction and reality sometimes meld.) Another fun fact? Decades ago, she broke up Emma Thompson (a fellow period piece actress) and Kenneth Branagh, the director of Cinderella. Speaking of which…
Once More Unto the Breach
Kenneth Branagh (Henry V) also provides a nerdy Cinderella connection. Like Helena Bonham Carter, he starred in the Harry Potter movies, playing Professor Gilderoy Lockhart. But his nerd cred reaches further than that, because he also directed the first Thor movie, in which Stellan Skarsgård was Erik Selvig (see above)!
A Palace Fit for a Duke
The final nerdy connection is especially exciting to me. In Cinderella, the Prince lives in a beautiful palace, of course. The real-life location used as the palace in the movie is Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England. Blenheim Palace has all sorts of its own historical connections, but its nerdy connection is that its park was the location used to film the scene in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix when James Potter cast the levicorpus spell on poor ol’ Severus Snape, which flipped him upside down. I had the immense pleasure of visiting not only Blenheim Palace, but also the very site of that humiliating scene, accompanied by my dear cousin. I am not ashamed to say we picked up twigs and took lots of photos of ourselves casting our own spells. Because that’s what nerds do!