Cruella has Emma Stone set to take a little darker turn than we’ve seen from the actress in the past. Often occupying the bubbly and upbeat role in her movies, this latest film is set to take Stone in a decidedly different direction. While not going fully “psycho” as she suggests in the trailer, this is a Disney film, after all, her latest film will bring her into the villain category for sure. That’s because Stone is playing Estella de Vil who becomes much more infamous when she takes on her more popular name, Cruella. Let’s dive into what we know about this latest film and how it lines up with takes on the character we’ve seen in the past.
WHO IS CRUELLA DE VIL?
The character of Cruella De Vil was first introduced back in 1956 in Dodie Smith’s novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. She’s a pampered and wealthy heiress who has an incredible mean streak. The earliest versions of the character were meant to be over-the-top evil, sinisterly bad in almost every aspect. The character became much more well known when Disney adapted an animated movie in 1961, the iconic 101 Dalmatians.
The original story has Cruella De Vil as the antagonist, pursuing the aforementioned dogs because she wants to be able to sell their fur. While she comes off as rich, the character in the past has very much needed the money. She’s a comically evil character, well beyond the scope of reality and trending closer to a version of the devil than an actual human. In this way, it’s interesting to have Emma Stone take on the part. She doesn’t exactly come across as the evil type.
Emma Stone won’t be the first live-action take on the character. That came with Glen Close playing the part back in 1996 in 101 Dalmatians. She then followed it up with 102 Dalmatians. Both were geared to a younger crowd. She went evil for sure, but not as far as we might see in this new version.
WHERE ARE THE DALMATIANS?
The Emma Stone version of the character will this time be the sole focus of the film. In the past, Cruella was merely the antagonist in her quest to secure the fur of a little over 100 puppies. This film looks like it will be much more of an origin story for the character, seeing her possible rise through the social scene and also her descent into what looks like madness. From the trailer, we can see that Stone’s Cruella is something of an outcast and almost definitely crazy in her quest to fully embrace the madness. The character has much the same look as the iconic versions but is a little less put together so to speak. Check out the trailer for Cruella:
In Cruella, the character has more humble beginnings. We can see even from this brief glimpse that de Vil isn’t an heiress at all, but rather someone looking to totally reinvent herself in order to fit in with the elite. It doesn’t look like it goes according to her deranged plan and the rest appears to be a downward spiral. Sure, there are nods in the trailer to the dalmatians, but they look to be secondary stories at best. Some have even said that this version has much more the feel of The Joker than it does a Disney film. It honestly doesn’t feel all that far off with what we see. There’s, for sure, a maniacal side at play.
Now, they are still labeling Cruella and dark comedy so I don’t think we get all the way down into the abyss with the character. Considering the Disney name attached, they’ve likely left some room for the kids to take part. But there’s no doubt this latest film is much darker than anything we’ve seen in the past.
THE REST OF THE CAST
Emma Stone is clearly the lead in this film and there are many parts of the trailer that appear to have her as the sole focus. That’s what can happen when we watch a character’s isolation become part of the core storyline. But there are other big-time names taking part in the film. Emma Thompson will play Baroness Von Helman who appears to be this movie’s quasi-antagonist. She is Cruella’s employer who mistreats Stone’s character and whom the latter seeks revenge against.
Along with Emma Stone and Emma Thompson, are Joel Frye and Paul Walter Hauser playing the brothers Jasper and Horace Badun. They act as Cruella’s henchmen in the film. And there’s also Mark Strong joining the cast as Boris, one of Von Helman’s employees.
THE CRUELLA DIRECTOR
Craig Gillespie will helm Cruella. He’s worked on other Disney films before including Million Dollar Arm and The Finest Hours. Both were moderately well-received, each sitting in the 60% range on Rotten Tomatoes. They were rather low-stakes movies geared towards a more mature Disney crowd. This will be the case with his latest as well. Cruella doesn’t look like a kid’s movie by any means, but will instead offer a different and more twisted look at an iconic character. Gillespie also directed Mr. Woodcock, Lars and the Real Girl, and I, Tonya. This is a solid resume for the director with a number of very different films under his belt.
Cruella was originally supposed to hit theaters in December of last year. But like almost everything else in 2020, it was delayed because of pandemic-related closings and regulations. That pushed the timeline back to early this summer. The movie is set to release simultaneously on streaming via Disney+ and in theaters on May 28, 2021.
No doubt this latest live-action version of Cruella de Vil will be much, much different than what we’ve seen in the past. The trailer has let on as much. Whether there are more comedic elements remains to be seen. But Emma Stone’s take is sure to set it apart from other movies and signals a totally different path for the Disney character going forward. It’s interesting to see the studio push its characters in new directions like this, offering twists on the old versions. We’ll take and look forward to what a new story brings.