Interview: Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman)

Interview: Rupert Sanders (Snow White and the Huntsman). By Simon Miraudo.

Commercial and short film director Rupert Sanders makes his feature debut with Snow White and the Huntsman, a gritty retelling of the Brothers Grimm legend with Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth as the title characters (we’ll let you guess who plays whom). It can be a risky move entrusting a $170 million budget to a first-timer, but Sanders earned the privilege on the back of his prior advertising work, particularly his stirring promo for Halo 3: ODST.

Check out our review of Snow White and the Huntsman here.

I spoke to Sanders about the difficulties of his first gig, how the release of Mirror Mirror earlier in the year “wasn’t a great thing,” and why a Halo movie hasn’t eventuated so far.

SM: Can you tell me a little bit about how the project was originally pitched to you?

RS: It wasn’t really pitched, per se. I was sent the script, I read the script, and I went back in with a small visual presentation and some ideas. The producers really liked that. They put me on the project, we worked on the script a bit more, and I worked on a bigger visual presentation. Then we went out to the studios and decided to sell it to Universal.

SM: This is your first feature film. It’s on a massive scale. Was there a moment, or a day on the set, where you thought, ‘This is my big first gig, and it’s not going well at all’?

RS: Luckily no. You know, we planned it well; we had a great team of people around me. It’s challenging going into a project of this scale knowing that nothing can go wrong. We had eight months before handing over the finished film, so there was no margin for error. It wasn’t just that it was a difficult film to make, but there was no way I could reshoot or do anything else at the end. So it was challenging, but luckily I had great people around me and we did it.

SM: Were there any copyright issues that the film faced? Is that why there were eight dwarves?

RS: No. The original Snow White story was written in the late 1700s, so there is no copyright. And ironically, Universal own the name ‘Snow White’ for some weird reason. So there were no copyright issues.

SM: We know now that there’s a big difference between your film and Tarsem’s Mirror Mirror. Was there a sense of competition on the set, or a bit of concern about having two Snow White films come out in the same year?

RS: Yeah, I mean I don’t think anyone was overjoyed by the fact, but they were sticking to their guns and saying, ‘We’re going to make it,’ and so there was tussling around about who was going to come out first. I come from a very competitive industry with commercials, and I know what other people can do. I was very relieved when I saw their first trailer, because I didn’t think it would be that. It wasn’t a great thing, and sure, they’ve eaten a bit of the market share, but ultimately we just got on and made our film.

SM: Producer Joe Roth has been talking about a trilogy for some time; even before the film came out. Following the opening weekend, it was revealed David Koepp had been hired to work on a sequel script. Whether you direct it or not – as I understand, that’s still in flux – is there anything you’d like to see specifically covered in a sequel?

RS: No, I mean, I’ve got a story that David Koepp’s writing at the moment. We’re keeping it under wraps; we don’t want to tell people something, and then it isn’t that. But it’s a great idea. David Koepp is probably the hardest man to get on the hook in Hollywood. We managed to get him on the hook, really, with this idea, and the fact he liked the first film.

SM: You made a name with the Halo trailer. Neill Blomkamp and Peter Jackson had a hard time making a Halo movie. Is that a task that you’d be interested in – even hypothetically – picking up?

RS: Yeah, I mean, hypothetically. I think the problem with Halo is there’s a lot of cooks in the kitchen. A lot of people are in it. They don’t need to make a film to make money. They make billions of dollars anyway. But I’d definitely entertain it. Hypothetically.

SM: Can you tell me a little bit about your upcoming projects, besides, potentially, Snow White? I understand you’re considering a sci-fi film about the Battle of Algiers.

RS: There’s a few things. You have to have a full development slate. Things that you think are going to go quickly end up taking years, and things you thought would take years go very quickly. I’m interested in doing something more contemporary and science fiction and more gritty and violent.

Snow White and the Huntsman is now showing in Australian cinemas.

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