Disney is taking the success of director Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland ($1 billion worldwide gross in theaters) and Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful ($415 million in less than a month) to heart, which accounts for the Mouse House pushing ahead with more contemporary live-action retellings of beloved fairy tales - beginning with Cinderella, as directed by Kenneth Branagh (Thor) and featuring Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett (The Hobbit) in the iconic evil stepmother role.
Amanda Seyfried (Les Misérables) was rumored to play the famous diamond-in-the-rough princess a few years ago, while Emma Watson (a.k.a. Hermoine in Harry Potter) passed on the opportunity just last month. Hence, Branagh and Disney are testing three other actresses for the role this week, in addition to assembling a list of prime candidates for the male lead (ie. the handsome prince).
The latest report from Deadline reveals that Branagh and Disney are considering lesser-knowns who could put their name on the map by playing Cinderella, much like Mia Wasikowska benefitted from portraying Alice in Burton's film. So far that list of potential actresses includes Bella Heathcoate (who played dual roles in Burton's Dark Shadows movie), Lily James (Secret Diary of a Call Girl, Downton Abby) and Margot Robbie, a costar on the canceled Pan Am TV show and Martin Scorsese's upcoming The Wolf of Wall Street.
Meanwhile, the one actor revealed to be wanted for the prince role so far is Richard Madden, best known for playing Robb "King in the North" Stark on HBO's Game of Thrones. He would be a fine choice for the role, given his combination of acting chops, built-in fanbase and experience playing royalty (of a sort) in period fare. Not to mention, Madden would be a good match for the prince role in either the more grounded fairy tale context (a la Snow White and the Huntsman) or something comparatively shiny and clean like Jack the Giant Slayer.
Speaking of Jack: director Bryan Singer's expensive retelling looks to become the biggest financial bomb of 2013. However, Cinderella is quite unlikely to suffer a similar fate, if only because the budget shouldn't wind up anywhere near Jack's $200 million; plus, Branagh is far more in his element here than Singer was on his fairy tale project. Disney heads probably aren't worried about fairy tale movie fatigue either, seeing how the studio has made that genre its bread and butter for decades now - and should continue to find identical success with its upcoming live-action re-imaginings, like Cinderella and next year's Maleficent.
Cinderella is expected to begin filming later this year, for a 2014 release. We'll keep you updated as more information is released.