Chart-topping star Camila Cabello on making a Cinderella story fit for Gen Z

Singer Camila Cabello makes her big screen debut in a new version of the classic tale and tells Laura Harding why some old stories need a new perspective...

Camila Cabello as Cinderella and Nicholas Galitzine as Prince Robert in Cinderella
By Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor

CINDERELLA is a tale as classic as they come, a story we all grew up with, and told countless times on screen.

But the new version aims to do something different, using modern music, a diverse and inclusive cast led by music superstar Camila Cabello, and a new take on the story to make it feel bang up to date.

Gone is the Cinderella sitting hopelessly in the kitchen, waiting to be rescued. Instead we have a Cinderella who is an aspiring dressmaker with big dreams for her future.

And gone is the old lady fairy godmother, instead we have the Fab G, a sassy ballgown-wearing confidante played by Pose star Billy Porter.

“I think what attracted all of us to the film is it's just badass,” enthuses Cabello.

“She's a rebel dreamer and every character is different; my character is totally different and she's kind of like a feminist before her time; the prince is different in that he is the more vulnerable one and is inspired by her, the godmother is different, everybody plays their character in a non-traditional way that challenges the old fairy tale.”

Written and directed by Kay Cannon, the filmmaker behind the Pitch Perfect movies, the film includes covers of classic songs by musicians such as Madonna, Gabrielle and The White Stripes, and gives a new texture to old characters who might have been given short shrift in the past.

Cinderella's stepmother, played by Frozen star Idina Menzel, 50, is no longer a one-dimensional villain and has her own story, as do her stepsisters.

“I think we feel a sense of pride to be able to revisit such a classic story and give it a little update, tweak it a little bit,” says Menzel, best known for voicing Elsa in the Disney juggernaut Frozen.

“I think that's important. And maybe that's why it's nice to revive these stories and to see how they're faring through the years.

“And when we need, as a society, to take a look and to readjust how these stories are being told – not just keep telling them because they're these timeless stories.

“They're not necessarily timeless, they need to listen to the challenges and struggles of people and how they feel. And so the inclusivity and the diversity and the unapologetic feminism, I think, is something that Camila and I, and everyone in the film, feel really proud to represent.

“We have to work diligently, all of us, to see things through a new lens, because our younger generations are doing the hard work, they're leading us in a way that we haven't been led before, so we can't let them down.

“People want to see themselves in these projects, in these films and these stories, the representation is important. And it's not OK for the princess to just want to be saved by the prince and go join a rich kingdom, she has desires and dreams.

“That may feel a little old fashioned right now, but if you bring it into 2021 it's about your identity, who you want to be. Not having to apologise for anything. And I think that's exciting.”

Cuban-born Cabello, 23, whose mega hits include Havana, Never Be The Same and Senorita – her duet with boyfriend Shawn Mendes – commands a huge fan base of young people, as well as more than 55 million Instagram followers, agrees.

“I think that this generation, and young people now, are kind of dismantling so many of the systems that have existed for a long time and challenging them and being like, ‘Well, does this work for everybody? Is this healthy? Does this represent everybody? Does this make everybody feel validated and seen and heard?'” she says.

“And I think that that's what Kay did with this script. It's like, what are the things that are joyful and great about these old fairy tales, but what are the things that are not serving women and not serving people in general? And how can we, like, update them?”

The film boasts a cast that includes comedians Romesh Ranganathan, James Acaster and James Corden as the mice, Nicholas Galitzine as the prince and Ben Bailey Smith as the town crier, while the king and queen are played by Pierce Brosnan and Minnie Driver.

Cannon, who was previously a producer on 30 Rock and directed the comedy Blockers, said she was determined to create a fairytale that was as inclusive as possible, while also nodding to the old guard.

“I wanted it to feel completely multicultural, and yet I wanted to feel like the kingdom was ruled by this very traditional royal family, the traditional king, who isn't quite there yet, but the kingdom is actually much more progressive,” the filmmaker says.

“They're sort of waiting for this change; they're wanting to break out, they're on the precipice of doing something amazing, and having a lot of change, but the king and the powers that be aren't there.

“Going with Pierce Brosnan and Minnie Driver as your king and queen, and then seeing how the king changes his perspective, was sort of my way of doing that storytelling and of kind of going, ‘What's really happening in the real world?'”

The film was a huge undertaking not just for Cannon but for Cabello, who makes her acting debut, while also belting out timeless hits such as Material Girl and Somebody To Love.

She admits it was an “overwhelming prospect,” but one she was happy to embrace.

“I got really incredibly fortunate and stupidly lucky to be able to play Cinderella in this debut film opportunity for me. So obviously I just wanted to do it well, because I'm so passionate about the project and the script.

“I just really cared about it and just tried to do everything with the most heart and soul that I could – and that's all you can really do. Everything else is kind of out of my control.”

Cinderella is out now on Amazon Prime Video.

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