Since her debut in 1961’s One Hundred and One Dalmatians, Cruella de Vil has been one of Disney’s most iconic villains. Her maniacal desire to use dogs’ skins for her own fashion creations makes her seem especially, well, cruel. The character was so popular, de Vil was the center of one of Disney’s first live-action remakes, with 1996’s 101 Dalmatians and the sequel, 2000’s 102 Dalmatians, with Glenn Close playing the terrifying fashionista. Now, Cruella de Vil is receiving a villain’s origins story of sorts, with Emma Stone as the title character.
Cruella updates the One Hundred and One Dalmatians character from the 1956 Dodie Smith book and the 1961 animated classic by setting this new take on the character in 1970s London. Emma Stone plays the young fashion designer Estella de Vil, and the film looks to show how Estella became Cruella. After the success of Joker, the comparisons between Cruella and the Joaquin Phoenix are easy to make, as we watch Cruella degrade into a monster.
In fact, some of the quotes we hear from Emma Stone’s Cruella almost sound like they could belong in Joker. When we’re first introduced to Cruella, as she walks across a busy street without a care, she states, “From the very beginning, I realized I saw the world differently from everyone else.” She says that some people worried she was a psycho, and by the end of the trailer, she mentions that she was “born brilliant, born bad, and a little bit mad.”
Cruella is from director Craig Gillespie, who also directed Margot Robbie in I, Tonya, and Cruella certainly has the feel of that film as well. I, Tonya focused on disgraced figure skater Tonya Harding, and gave her story new light that might not have been considered for those who saw Harding as nothing more than a villain. Gillespie also has a history with Disney, having directed both The Finest Hours and Million Dollar Arm for the studio, in addition to 2011’s Fright Night, and 2007’s Mr. Woodcock and Lars and the Real Girl. Because of what Gillespie did with I, Tonya, it sort of makes him the perfect choice for Emma Stone’s Cruella.
But Emma Stone isn’t the only character from One Hundred and One Dalmatians coming to life in this live-action adaptation. In the animated film, Anita Radcliffe, one half of the couple who owned the Dalmatians, took pity on Cruella because they went to school together. Anita will be brought to life by 28 Weeks Later’s Emily Beecham. Cruella also has two lackeys, Jasper and Horace, played by Joel Fry and I, Tonya and Richard Jewell actor Paul Walter Hauser, respectively. Cruella will also star Emma Thompson, Mark Strong, and The Good Place’s Kirby Howell-Baptiste.
The previous Cruella, Glenn Close, is serving as an executive producer on Cruella, as the film has been in development for over a decade now. But given how integral Close was to what made that original adaptation so great, she certainly gave Emma Stone her approval for this latest take. Cruella was originally planned for release on December 23, 2020, but will not be released in theaters on May 28, 2021.