Primary school pupils interview Cinderella star Lily James: ‘My handpainted dress caught fire on set’

Charlotte Shaw, left, and Ivy Nicholls, centre, interview Lily James at Brecknock Primary School. Pi

Charlotte Shaw, left, and Ivy Nicholls, centre, interview Lily James at Brecknock Primary School. Picture: Don McGibbon - Credit: Archant

Youngsters Ivy Nicholls and Charlotte Shaw, nine, didn’t shy away from asking Hollywood star Lily James tough questions as they quizzed her at Brecknock Primary School for their school newsletter.


Ms James praised the Kentish Town pupils for asking her questions she’d “never been asked before”.

The Ham&High can report part of the gruelling exchange below.

CS: What’s been your favourite film to shoot?

LJ: It was Cinderella because it was a total fairytale. Everyday I walked on set, it was insane, it was like they’d opened the picture book and just created it for real. I had real mice I talked to on set, I looked a bit insane, and there was massive white horses and my fairy godmother and all this CGI went on afterwards to create the magic but even on the day, it was like a dream come true. I felt like I was 11 again, really being a princess.

CS: What was your favourite film costume?

LJ: I’ve had quite a few good costumes because I’ve done quite a lot of period dramas, going back in time and wearing what women used to wear, which is exciting. But my favourite outfit was Cinderella’s wedding dress because it had this huge train and this massive veil. It was all pearl silk, but they hand painted all these flowers onto the bottom, in the embellishment, and I think it took them weeks and weeks. I, one day, stood very near like a little heater, and the bottom of my dress caught fire. They had to re-do a whole panel and re-hand paint these flowers. It was a bit worrying.

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IN: How did you feel when you were cast as Cinderella?

LJ: I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t expect to get it. I was very surprised, and I was so happy because I auditioned for six months, so a long time I was waiting on tenterhooks to find out if I was going to get it, and I did. It was a wonderful moment.

CS: How has your life changed since filming Cinderella?

LJ: There are two sides of it. One side hasn’t changed at all because I still do all the same things I used to do, and have my friends, and my normal life. But then on the other side, I’m doing a lot more work, and acting, and more high profile jobs, which means that side of my life has changed quite a lot.

IN: What’s your favourite part of being an actress?

LJ: Good question! My favourite part is when you are in a scene or in a story with a group of other actors, and you’re rehearsing, and just for a minute, it comes alive and you feel so joined to the other actors, creating this moment and telling this story. It can feel quite magical. You forget yourself and become another character, and emotions and feelings come out and it feels really freeing and exhilarating.

IN: Do you prefer being in the spotlight or having a side part?

LJ: That’s a good question too! Sometimes the interesting parts are on the side. There’s pros to both because when you’re in the spotlight, there’s a lot of pressure, and that can be quite overwhelming, like when you’re working hard for an exam or you have teachers telling you what to do. It can all become overwhelming, but the benefit afterwards is always the greater when you push through. But then the side parts you can have more fun and be more inventive.

CS: Who was your role model as a child?

LJ: My role model as a child was probably my grandma [Helen Horton] because she was an actress as well. She was American and very glamorous and very kind. I really looked up to her as a kid. She used to have all these black and white photos in her house, they were headshots, like this old movie star, and I always looked up to her.

IN: Who was the best person to work with on set?

LJ: You know what, my favourite people to work with on set are usually the hair and make up people. Each morning you spend hours in this make up trailer and it takes ages to put on your wig, and your hair, and your make up. When I did Cinderella, we used to just watch Disney films on my make up artist’s iPad and just gossip and be silly. They make you laugh so they’re probably my favourite people. These are great questions!

IN: Were you in any school plays when you were a child?

LJ: I was. I was Mrs Beaver in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, that was a real highlight for me. I was Captain Cook in Captain Cook The Sailor. I did Oliver, and played Oliver. I think I just sang the song, actually, Where Is Love. Arabian Nights... I did lots of school plays.

CS: Who’s been your favourite director to work with?

LJ: I’ve had a lot of good directors, I’ve been lucky, because an actor is only as good as the director because they’re the ones who weave together the story and draw the character out of you. My director who did Cinderella with me, Kenneth Branagh, and also I’m working on [West End play] Romeo and Juliet with him now, so I’ve worked with him twice. He’s very special.