Cruella Director Craig Gillespie On Building a Complex Main Character

When Disney announced that they were doing a 101 Dalmations prequel-ish movie about Cruella DeVil, there was a lot of trepidation from audiences, to put it lightly. This was a villain whose main motivation was the desire to skin puppies for a coat. Is there a backstory that could ever justify something like that? It turns out that there really isn't, and the trick that director Craig Gillespie did when we asked him about creating a character like this as your main character.

"Yeah, it's always tricky as you're dealing with such a heightened character," he explained. "So we have to humanize it, but I want to be able to give her empathy. I'm not going to condone what she's doing. And I actually love that conflict to the audience that they think they can see that she's doing bad things and heinous things. And I sort of like the adage of "good people can do bad things." So I like I want to take the audience on that journey that they can understand maybe what she's doing. They might not agree with it. But you see her as a more fully formed person, and the pain and conflict are motivating her. I find it much more interesting to be in that sort of a gray area and wait where the audience has to ask themselves where they stand on certain things."

Cruella Director Craig Gillespie On Building a Complex Main Character
Director Craig Gillespie on set of Disney's live-action CRUELLA. Photo by Laurie Sparham. © 2021 Disney Enterprises, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

When it comes to the makeup and costume design of Cruella, there is a lot of black and white for rather obvious reasons. However, there is also a fair amount of red splashed in the movie as well. It's not just the red dress which there is a plot reason for existing, but Cruella's red lips and the color red pops up in some of the dresses and Estella's hair. We got the chance to ask Gillespie about the presence of red among all the black and white.

"From a character standpoint, you don't have a lot of options because she's doing a black and white ball," he said. "Yeah, they want to make a statement. There's nothing stronger than red. Yeah. So that was and obviously, that's our first introduction to Cruella as a character. And then there are moments like it; I like that you pick it up; it's sort of like it's the black and white motif relevant with that red lipstick. I like it just gave us the license to incorporate that in other aspects of her clothing. And to me, her signature became black, white, and red in a way. And so there are moments where that pops up, particularly when she's really trying to make a statement like, in some of the photobombing segments, she gets up in that red dress on top of the car. It's almost like that extra bit of adrenaline that you can pop into a scene with that. Yes. I think that black leather that she wears is that is kind of what I really think of for Cruella."

"Academy Award® winner Emma Stone ("La La Land") stars in Disney's "Cruella," an all-new live-action feature film about the rebellious early days of one of cinemas most notorious – and notoriously fashionable – villains, the legendary Cruella de Vil. "Cruella," which is set in 1970s London amidst the punk rock revolution, follows a young grifter named Estella, a clever and creative girl determined to make a name for herself with her designs. She befriends a pair of young thieves who appreciate her appetite for mischief, and together they are able to build a life for themselves on the London streets. One day, Estella's flair for fashion catches the eye of the Baroness von Hellman, a fashion legend who is devastatingly chic and terrifyingly haute, played by two-time Oscar® winner Emma Thompson ("Howards End," "Sense & Sensibility"). But their relationship sets in motion a course of events and revelations that will cause Estella to embrace her wicked side and become the raucous, fashionable, and revenge-bent Cruella."

Cruella is directed by Craig Gillespie with a screenplay by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara, from a story by Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel, and Steve Zissis. It stars Emma Stone as the titular character, with Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, and Mark Strong. It will be released on May 28, 2021, in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access.


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About Kaitlyn Booth

Kaitlyn is the Editor-in-Chief at Bleeding Cool. She loves movies, television, and comics. She's a member of the UFCA and the GALECA. Feminist. Writer. Nerd. Follow her on twitter @katiesmovies and @safaiagem on instagram. She's also a co-host at The Nerd Dome Podcast. Listen to it at
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