Julia Roberts is beyond devilishly good as the Evil Queen in director Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror. The Snow White tale gets a live action treatment that is a visual stunner. Would you expect anything less from the helmer who brought us Immortals and The Cell?
Roberts is sitting at the Casa del Mar hotel in Santa Monica and talking to Movie Fanatic about the experience of making Mirror Mirror, how the legend of Snow White has room for many incarnations, working with that prince of a person Armie Hammer and how those elaborate costumes helped her get into character.
Movie Fanatic: We’ve spoken to numerous actors who say that playing the villain is great joy. Did you find it was true?
Julia Roberts: Well, it was fun to play this villain because there aren’t any real rules of syntax or reality that apply to her. So, I could kind of do anything and just go off the rails in any direction at any time and it would make sense to me. So in that regard it was a lot of fun. You don’t have to worry too much about the reality of, "Would a person really do this?"
Movie Fanatic: How do you go about reinterpreting an iconic story like Snow White? And does it concern you that there is another film coming soon about the same heroine (Snow White and the Huntsman)?
Julia Roberts: You don’t. It’s just about changing the tone of it or just giving it a different relationship to it. I don’t look particularly good in big purple eye shadow with a Dracula collar [laughs]. We wanted to go a different route with the Evil Queen’s look. I think people like variations on things. It’s funny that people are making such a big deal that there are two as though there has never been two movies with similar topics ever coming up at the same time. When I think of movies really as Noah’s Ark, they come two by two. It’s just how it happens. Energetically, we get wrapped up in each other’s space. It doesn’t seem surprising or upsetting to me.
Movie Fanatic: Are fairy tales something you thought about doing in your film career?
Julia Roberts: No, nor did I have any interest in this one really until Tarsem lured me in his luring way and looking at the script and realized there was really something here. But just the one sentence pitch of it on the phone -- "Hey, they’re doing this Snow White adaptation" -- that didn’t grab my attention.
Movie Fanatic: Do you have a favorite fairy tale that you read to your kids?
Julia Roberts: They have a lot of fairy tale books. They have such great illustrations, some of the old ones, and with proper parental editing when reading, they’re quite lovely before bed.
I don’t really have a favorite fairy tale.
Movie Fanatic: The costumes look amazing, but they appear to be a little cumbersome. Did you relish or rage against the costumes for your Evil Queen?
Julia Roberts: Well, they’re stunning and I really think they are such an integral part of the film and the characters. It’s the same as having these amazing sets being in these kinds of clothes. They were completely original and authentic to what we were trying to accomplish. And, as Tarsem would say, in these great, huge spaces, we needed to fill them in every way and physically really dominate these spaces. So they had to be quite architectural and, in that, not terribly cozy [laughs]. But that’s not really the point!
Movie Fanatic: What a talent we’re getting to see with Armie Hammer’s turns in J. Edgar and The Social Network. How did you find the young actor?
Julia Roberts: He's good on the chin, that one, because you just look way up -- he's so big [laughs]. He's gone off to another movie now (The Lone Ranger), so I don't think we should give him too much attention [laughs]. But, he's so wonderful. He's a lovely guy, and he really brought a very clever dimension, I thought, to Prince Charming. Because he really could've just stood there and just talked and it would've been terrific. He wanted to really be clever about it and put a lot of consideration into it. I thought he made some great choices, and he's really professional. He always had some really clever thing that he was bringing to it, and that made it very entertaining to watch that whole thing unfold.
Movie Fanatic: Do you have your own people who give honest advice like your mirror does in Mirror Mirror?
Julia Roberts: Well, I always want to hear the truth, whatever it is. I've always felt that way. I have an amazing family and great group of friends, and that's what I expect from them and rely on. I think they do the same for me. And it's also what I look for in a great working relationship -- people that will be honest and will be very plain speaking and not beat around the bush. They will just say, "This is what we need and this is what works and this is what doesn't." That's the best of life right there.
Movie Fanatic: Have you ever come across any actresses in your career who are like a real life Evil Queen?
Julia Roberts: Yes, but I wouldn't limit it to just actresses [laughs].