Disney has officially begun filming the live-action sequel to Maleficent, which is now formally titled Maleficent II. The original Maleficent was released in theaters in 2014 and stars Angelina Jolie as the eponymous horned fairy, opposite Elle Fanning as Sleeping Beauty herself, Princess Aurora. Maleficent, unlike the Mouse House's 1959 animated Sleeping Beauty film, paints the titular villain in a far more sympathetic light, portraying her as more of a victim of circumstance who turns evil after suffering a horrific betrayal at the hands of her childhood sweetheart - Aurora's own father, King Stefan (Sharlto Copley).
Since King Stefan, in classic Disney villain fashion, fell to his death at the end of Maleficent, Copley won't be reprising his role in the sequel. Jolie and Fanning are both back, however, and are joined in Maleficent II by big name actors like Michelle Pfeffier as Queen Ingrith, a new addition to the story. Also joining the Maleficent ensemble in the followup is Jolie's Salt costar and Doctor Strange veteran Chiwetel Ejiofor as a character whose name remains under-wraps for the time being, but is rumored to be a romantic foil for Jolie's (formerly?) dark fairy in the film.
The Mouse House has confirmed that Maleficent II is now in production at the UK's Pinewood Studios, with a cast that includes Deadpool's Ed Skrein (who is reportedly playing the movie's villain), as well as the aforementioned actors. Other now-confirmed cast members for the sequel include Robert Lindsay (Galavant) and Harris Dickinson (Trust) as Prince Phillip, a role that was previously played by Brenton Thwaites in the first Maleficent. Also reprising their Maleficent roles in the sequel are Sam Riley as Diaval, as well as Imelda Staunton, Lesley Manville, and Juno Temple as the pixies Knotgrass, Flittle, and Thistlwit, respectively. You can check out the synopsis for Maleficent II below, followed by the first official set photo:
A fantasy adventure that picks up several years after “Maleficent,” in which audiences learned of the events that hardened the heart of Disney’s most notorious villain and drove her to curse a baby Princess Aurora, “Maleficent II” continues to explore the complex relationship between the horned fairy and the soon to be Queen, as they form new alliances and face new adversaries in their struggle to protect the moors and the magical creatures that reside within.
Maleficent screenwriter Linda Woolverton also came back to cowrite the sequel with Transparent series writers Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster (who also played Francis on the Amazon comedy/drama series). Meanwhile, Joachim Rønning will be calling the shots on his own this time around, having previously worked with director Espen Sandberg on the acclaimed indie drama Kon-Tiki and multiple episodes of Netflix's Marco Polo series. The pair made the jump to the world of big-budget moviemaking last year, with their efforts on Disney's sequel Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales.
Although critics were overall lukewarm on the original Maleficent four years ago, the film grossed an impressive $758 million in theaters worldwide and was praised for attempting to reimagine the Sleeping Beauty story as a more progressive fairy tale parable about such heavy subjects as sexual assault and emotional trauma. It will be interesting to see how Maleficent II builds on those themes; not only because the story will be fully original this time around, but also because the sequel is coming out in the post-#MeToo era of Hollywood, where discussions about these issues are very much in the spotlight. For that same reason, now might well prove to be the perfect time for the horned fairy to make her return to the big screen.
We will let you know when Maleficent II gets an official release date.
Source: Walt Disney Pictures