“If she doesn’t scare you, no evil thing will,” or so claims the most famous tune featured in Disney’s 1961 animated feature 101 Dalmatians (which ranks #11 on the adjusted all-time U.S. box office list – see for yourself). The “she” in question is Cruella de Vil, the fur-loving villainess who smokes like a chimney and schemes to kill over a hundred puppies – in order to make what she believes would be the most marvelous of spotted coats.
Disney is planning to revisit the 101 Dalmatians property (based on Dodie Smith’s 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians), with a live-action movie based around its antagonist. This marks the second occasion on which the Mouse House has revisited this section of its animation vault – having previously adapted 101 Dalmatians into a live-action film in 1996 (which proved lucrative enough to warrant a sequel, 102 Dalmatians, four years later), starring multi-Oscar-nominee Glenn Close as the infamous fashionista with symmetrical black and white hairs.
THR is reporting that the project, titled Cruella, is being scripted by Aline Brosh McKenna, who also co-wrote the studio’s upcoming Cinderella live-action retelling from director Kenneth Branagh and starring Lily James and Cate Blanchett (which is currently in production). Of course, McKenna remains best-known for writing the film adaptation of Lauren Weisberger’s novel The Devil Wears Prada, which stars Meryl Streep (in – what else – an Oscar-nominated role) as the antagonist: an icy and cutthroat fashion magazine editor, loosely inspired by Vogue editor Anna Wintour.
In other words: it should be plain as day, with regard to why Disney has recruited McKenna to write the script for Cruella (Charlie Kaufman was a close second choice – kidding, folks… sadly).
This newly-established Disney trend – crafting movies based around the studio’s most iconic villainesses – began with the upcoming Maleficent (starring Angelina Jolie in the title role), which arrives in 2014. Screenwriter Linda Woolverton is reported to have envisioned the Sleeping Beauty revisionist film’s script along the lines of author Gregory Maguire’s re-appopriation of the Wicked Witch of the West character in the Wizard of Oz book, Wicked (for short) – wherein the infamous magic-caster serves as the protagonist – and thus, is cast in a more sympathetic light.
Will McKenna favor a similar approach in her Cruella script – bearing in mind that it’s difficult to imagine how Miss de Vil could be “misunderstood” - or, might she go with a reformation story, where Cruella either begins to abandon her vile ways (a la Despicable Me) or proves that she’s not so terrible (a la Devil Wears Prada)? Of course, Cruella may just be the antagonist in her own movie. That’s assuming that McKenna wasn’t hired to be more innovative and try to make Mis de Vil a dodgy, yet charismatic, baddie, along the lines of a (male) character like Captain Barbossa from the Pirates of the Caribbean movies (probably not the case, but still…)
Do you think Cruella can work as anything but the antagonist in a story? Are you interested in seeing a movie focused on her? Or were the 101 Dalmatians live-action films starring Glenn Close – including the sequel, where Cruella was psychologically-conditioned into giving up her evil ways – (more than) enough for you?
We’ll keep you posted on the status of Cruella as more information becomes available.