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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Academy Award Winner Stromberg Directs "Maleficent"


Robert Stromberg, who won Oscars for production design for both “Avatar”and “Alice in Wonderland,” steps up to the plate to direct his first feature film, Disney’s “Maleficent.” About taking on the large-scale project, Stromberg says, “I think as an artist you’re always looking for the biggest canvas you can find and it was yet another big canvas to conquer. I thought it was intriguing and fascinating to take on something that was bigger than something I had already done; it was a challenge.”

Stromberg was excited about taking on directorial duties and creating a vision for the film. He says, “Luckily for me, there are a few big projects in the rearview mirror, so I was actually more excited than nervous about any of this, including working with Angelina Jolie. I’m the luckiest guy in the world to have the opportunity to do a project of this size, so why not take that and make the most beautiful thing that I can make out of it that the world might respond to in a new and exciting way?”

Stromberg feels that “Maleficent” gives audiences “an opportunity to find out the history of Maleficent and find out where she came from and what pushed her to the point where we all know her to be. So we get to not only see her when she was a child, but what she went through that drove her to the dark side.”

Director Stromberg and screenwriter Linda Woolverton were in agreement that they wanted to start off the story seeing Maleficent as a young child. “We actually get close to her right off the bat in the beginning of the film, and then we see how she meets Stefan,” says Stromberg. “Stefan and young Maleficent form a bond together early on in the film and so we get to see how that tragically widens over the film as they split and how they, over time, become enemies.”

With Angelina Jolie cast as Maleficent, Stromberg could not be happier. “Angelina Jolie is obviously perfect for the role,” comments Stromberg. “It’s the perfect marriage of actress and role in my opinion in a long time, and I think that ‘Maleficent’ will take us to a place where the audience will have fun seeing where she came from. There’s a lot of dark and a lot of light and there’s even humor in this film. There’s a little bit of something for everybody.”

Everyone familiar with Disney’s classic “Sleeping Beauty” knows what the animated Maleficent looked like, so getting the look right for the live-action film was important to both Stromberg and Angelina Jolie. “Angelina was really passionate about not only who the character was, but what the character looked like,” says Stromberg. “We worked together to come up with a character that wasn’t that stereotype image but was close enough that people would immediately know her to be Maleficent. We see Maleficent through different stages in her life and several types of looks up to the point where we see her as the iconic image that we all know.”

Stromberg set out to bring his vision and the magic touch of his designs to “Maleficent” and relates how he approached the task, saying, “The other projects that I've done have a certain look to them and what I wanted to do on this film is not only have an element of fantasy and a surreal quality, but also make ‘Maleficent’ a bit more grounded in reality. In my other films, I’ve always taken the surreal elements and made them the strongest points and in ‘Maleficent’ we’ve started with real and are augmenting after the fact. It’s a new look.”

Research for the look of the film involved looking at a lot of reference materials. “In this case, I looked at a lot of classic paintings done by artists in the 17th century and 18th century, like The Hudson River School artists who just went out and painted landscapes that they heightened a bit,” says Stromberg. “So that became interesting to me, to create this classic look that has mostly realism in it and see where we could push that. It’s actually turned out to be something that’s quite elegant and beautiful but yet you get the sense that there’s fantasy involved.”

It was also important to Stromberg as a director to have enough of the elements of the 1959 animated “Sleeping Beauty” so that people will not be disappointed. “It was important that those people who recognize and are fans of the original classic film feel that they can not only see it realized in a new light but also see the genesis of some of those things that they saw in the original film,”explains Stromberg. “So it’s a new spin on Maleficent but at the same time we’ve woven in enough elements that people will immediately recognize it to be from the original film Sleeping Beauty.”

On completing his first directing job, Stromberg remarks, “I personally had a great time working with the actors, just opening up a new door for myself in communication and how that relates to the timing of other things and how art crosses over into the performances. For the first time, I’ve seen all the colors on the palette and that makes me really happy.”

Robert Stromberg hopes “that people who see this film will be not only thoroughly entertained but also feel that they have been immersed in a world and in a story that they wanted to stay in.”
Opening across the Philippines on May 28 in 3D, 2D and IMAX 3D, “Maleficent”is distributed by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures International through Columbia Pictures.

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