With Cruella, Disney once again reaches into its expansive vault and recontextualizes the origins of one of its iconic villains. The film releases this Friday, May 28th, with audiences being able to see it on the big screen or in the comfort of their own home by ordering it on Disney+ with Premier Access.

The Beat was fortunate to be able to attend the press conference for the upcoming film. There, its cast, director, and designers delved into the behind-the-scenes process of Cruella detailing how they turned the titular character’s journey to dastardly deviant into something delightful for audiences.

The plot follows Estella (Emma Stone) a scrappy and resourceful woman hoping to be a fashion designer and living in 1970s London with her partners in crime Horace (Paul Walter Hauser) and Jasper (Joel Fry). She gets the attention of the esteemed designer Baroness von Hellman (Emma Thompson) and is quickly hired by her. As the two interact a winding dynamic starts to form, and Estella begins a journey into becoming the infamous Cruella de Vil.

Cruella Poster
Credit: Disney

Stepping into a Villain’s Stylish Shoes

Whether you first experienced Cruella de Vil through the One Hundred and One Dalmatians Disney animated classic or the 1996 live-action version, one constant element of the character is that she’s always synonymous with evil.

When it came to telling Cruella’s story, director Craig Gillespie said that making a movie in which your protagonist is known for villain-like tendencies is fun to portray as it allows one to do things that are not as appropriate or push boundaries.

He elaborated that with the movie he wanted audiences to be able to see where Cruella was coming from throughout the story.

“It was really important to me that this was not black and white; obviously, no pun intended there with Cruella,” Gillespie said. “But, I wanted there to be this gray area and [viewers to] be able to empathize with the choices that she was making and the situations that she was responding to. I wanted to do it in a way that was really fun.”

De Vil’s in the Details

Cruella de Vil is a canonically fashionable character, and fans can rest assured that everything about the character visually, including the other characters and the settings they are in, looks gorgeous. This is all due to the film’s incredibly killer team who helped bring these elements to life.

Cruella Featured Image
Emma Stone as Cruella in Disney’s live-action CRUELLA. Photo by Laurie Sparham. © 2021 Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Nadia Stacey is the film’s hair and makeup designer who helped style Cruella’s iconic black and white wig for Emma Stone’s performance. For some time during the production, Stacey only had two black and white wigs available but was able to continuously retool them for different looks for the character.

“I kind of kept using these wigs and then changing them. When [Cruella] has a bulb with the fringe, the fringe is a separate piece,” Stacey said. “I change things, take things off, [and] add things to. Which kind of all works with who she is.”

Costume designer Jenny Beavan considered the story and script heavily when getting inspiration for designing the elaborate and jaw-dropping costumes for characters Cruella de Vil and Baroness von Hellman.

Cruella Design
Behind the scenes of Disney’s live-action CRUELLA. Photo by Laurie Sparham. © 2021 Disney Enterprises Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“That’s the fun of the job. I always say, in case people get the wrong impression, I’m not a fashion designer. I’m a storyteller with clothes,” Beavan said. “In fact, in my real life, I have no interest in clothes. I just love telling stories with them. So, for me, that was just brilliant. I mean, there with these beautifully written characters that you could just get your teeth into.”

For production designer Fiona Crombie the ambition of the film gave her experiences she’d never been able to have in her career so far; knowing director Craig Gillespie was going to show a lot of the production in-camera meant the team had to be detailed. “We were gonna see absolutely everything,” Crombie said. “That meant that every corner and every single-you know, we just needed to have every little piece of detail in place.”

Embracing the Dark Side

In Cruella, the talented Emma Stone gets to show off her range as an actor as Estella’s self-contained personality gives way and she reemerges as the eccentric Cruella de Vil. Stone reflected on her character’s duality when asked what side of her character she’d want to be more like in real life.

“Estella is sweet, but she’s not fully embodied. So, I would say there is something about Cruella that’s pretty enticing because she just kind of is who she is,” Stone said. “She’s in full acceptance and autonomy there. So, I am kind of interested in that Cruella world. But, you know, that said, she does some things that I don’t think I would necessarily cross.  But to be honest, I kind of prefer Cruella.”

Co-star Emma Thompson found a similar appeal exploring her character Baroness von Hellman, who has a stone-like harshness which she imbues on other characters.

Emma Thompson Look
(L-R): Mark Strong as John the Valet and Emma Thompson as the Baroness in Disney’s live-action CRUELLA. Photo by Laurie Sparham. © 2021 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

“Like [Emma], I am very interested in the dark side of a female character, because they’re so rarely allowed to be dark,” Thompson said. “You know, we’re all supposed to nice and good, aren’t we?… So whilst, I wouldn’t necessarily walk that path, her commitment to her own creativity is rather admirable, and difficult probably.”

Cruella comes out this Friday, May 28th, to theaters and on Disney+ with Premiere Access.