In his feature debut, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan brings a lighter tone, a lot of laughs, and even more badass ladies to The Huntsman: Winter’s War, the prequel to 2012’s Snow White and The Huntsman.
Though Troyan may be new to directing, he was certainly familiar with the world of The Huntsman. As an experienced VFX supervisor, Cedric helmed the creation of the stunning visuals for the first film, earning him an Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects. In Winter’s War, he explores a story hinted at in the original about the Huntsman’s great love and her tragic death.
With Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron returning to the fantastical world of The Huntsman and Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain joining in powerful new roles, Winter’s War is a must-see. In honor of the film’s release on Blu-ray and DVD today, Fangirlish spoke with director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan about the making of the movie, its impressive lineup of powerful women, and much more.
Read our exclusive interview with The Huntsman: Winter’s War director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan below:
The Huntsman is your feature directorial debut. How did that come about?
It came about out of the blue really, to be honest – a little bit like getting run over by a bus. It was not really on my radar at all. I had a great time doing Snow White and The Huntsman, and then I had a couple of other projects with Joe Ross. I love Joe – he’s like my godfather. I was always in touch with him, and I was aware of the project, but I was working on different movies with different studios that were going to be my first movie – that was never supposed to be my first movie.
Then all of a sudden, Joe called me up and was like, ‘Do you want to do this? We’re shooting in 12 weeks.’ I was like, ‘Alright, let’s do this.’ I think if it hadn’t been a world that I knew, that I kind of contributed to create on the first movie, and if it hadn’t been Joe, then I might have thought about it – but because it was that, I was like, ‘Yeah, okay. Let’s do this.’ Then all of a sudden, it became my first movie – and the other movies that were supposed to be my first movie are now not going to be.
How was your experience directing, and what did you find the most challenging or the most satisfying?
For me, the most satisfying was working with the cast. The most challenging is probably post-production, because the movie is shot and you’re cutting it, and it’s like a hindsight 20-20 type of moment. Everybody has their opinion on everything. When you’re shooting it, you’re like in the jungle doing it; then after, it’s great and there is no time to kind of wonder and say ‘Oh, but what about this? What about that?’ I think the most challenging part for me was definitely post-production, even though I’ve been doing it for twenty years. But I think the best part was being with the actors on set and shooting the scenes – that’s my favorite takeaway, for sure.
The film introduces Ravenna’s sister, Freya, who is another very complex character. What did Emily Blunt bring to the role?
When I talked to Emily the first time about the part, it was great. Emily is super nice and super relaxed and super funny – she puts you at ease. I was thinking like, ‘Okay, I’m gonna have Emily Blunt on the phone’ – and then as soon as she starts to speak, you’re already at ease. When I talked to her, I felt like we’d met already, which we hadn’t.
My pitch to her was a mix between Joan Crawford Mommy Dearest and Captain Nemo kind of a thing. She was super receptive, and she wanted to do something very different than what Charlize was doing. I think she wanted to take the part in a more quiet, internal kind of way, when Charlize was taking Ravenna into this kind of evil, relishing her badness. We were really in sync. The idea of the Joan Crawford Mommy Dearest, she really loved that: having this kind of bad mother – loving mother, but bad mother.
If you look at the way she plays with her eyes – the way she does those looks and the way she holds her hand and stuff like that, she brings all those small details. You might see it or not see it, but it’s just all that stuff and she becomes Freya. Freya is the Hans Christian Andersen Snow Queen-based character, so obviously you have to try to be somewhat close to that fairy tale character – but after that, it’s up for grabs, really.
The Huntsman has a lot of strong female characters, including the two queens we just mentioned. Can you talk a little bit about that and why that was important to you?
That’s something that is absolutely essential for me. My name is my wife’s name – Troyan is my wife’s name. There is a law in France that prevents women to keep their name – I mean now they changed it, I think – but when I was growing up, when they married, they had to take their husband’s name. I found that really unfair – I always did – and I thought to myself, ‘Well one day, I will take my wife’s name when I get married.’ That’s something that I always wanted to do.
I just feel like we need more. We’re living in a world that’s been heavily dominated by men for a very long time, and every time a woman goes up the ladder, I’m always super stoked. I hope that we can see more of that. I’m drawn more by female characters, I think. I’m more interested in their stories and how they’re gonna go through what they have to go through. I’ve found that the female character has a broader spectrum to explore. We need more stories that involve girls and women.
I think women and men should be on the same level in any kind of shape and form and way. That was one of the big things for me, was Sara does not need to be saved by Eric. That was a big thing for me. When I took on the project, I was like, ‘She does not need to be saved by Eric. She can save herself.’ And that was a big thing for Jessica [Chastain] also. She is a massive feminist, and I think that’s why we get along so well. Chris [Hemsworth] is a big feminist, too, and he was totally on-board with that. He was like, ‘Yeah, no, she doesn’t need to be saved. Why would she?’
Is there any particular moment or scene that you are most proud of from the film?
I have my favorite scenes, for sure. It’s hard to say this more than that, because they all have different difficulties attached to them or rewards attached to them. What am I the most proud of… That’s a tough one, you know? That I made it through? [laughs] I think the most proud that I am is I think everybody really enjoyed making this movie. I’m really proud of that – from cast to crew, everybody really enjoyed making this movie.
There were scenes that were really difficult to make because the world was a little bit against us – the weather was against us, the location was against us – and we pulled it together in a very successful scene. I would say that the Freya coming in to get the mirror in the Sanctuary with her army was by far the most difficult scene that we had to shoot because everything was playing against us – everything. I was just wondering if I was gonna be able to actually finish the scene. We were all trying to make this happen, and it actually ended up being a really good scene in the movie – when she arrives on her polar bear, which is not a polar bear. I think I’m pretty happy with that one, because when I saw it finished, I was like, ‘Oh god, that was worth it – to go through all the pain of the rain and the sun and the rain and the sun and the airport and the camera doesn’t work.’ I’m pretty happy with that one.
What do you hope viewers take away from this film?
The reason why we did this film is just so people have fun. I guess some people were expecting some kind of broody, noir kind of dark thing and whatever, and that’s not really what we wanted. We wanted to make a Saturday night fantasy romp for girls – mainly for girls, so you can go and just have fun and have a good time. That’s why the tone is very different from the first movie. That’s why it’s a lot lighter; that’s why there is humor. I think that was the idea – trying to make the Saturday night popcorn fairy tale romp. If you go there and you have fun and you have a good time and you get a couple of laughs, then that’s what I intended.
What’s next for you?
I have a couple of projects that are in development right now, and hopefully one that will reunite me with one of my Huntsman cast members. We’ve been trying to work together again, with Chris and Jessica and this and that. I would love to work with any one of those guys again, so we’ve been looking at projects that we could do together, and hopefully I have a project that can come through with one of them right now, which is really cool.
About the Film
If it’s the Snow White tale you’re looking for, discover the story that came before in The Huntsman: Winter’s War, coming to Digital HD on August 2, 2016 and 4K Ultra HDTM, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand on August 23, 2016, from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The Huntsman: Winter’s War on Blu-ray and DVD includes an all-new extended edition of the epic action-adventure, plus exclusive bonus features that reveal the movie’s behind-the-scenes secrets.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War stars Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road, Monster) as the evil Queen Ravenna, who betrays her good sister Freya (Emily Blunt: Sicario, Edge of Tomorrow) with an unforgivable act, freezing Freya’s heart to love and unleashing in her an icy power she never knew she possessed. Retreating to a kingdom far to the north, Freya raises an army of Huntsmen as her protectors, with the only rule that no two of them should ever fall in love. As a war for domination escalates between the two queens, the hero standing between good and evil is Freya’s most elite Huntsman, Eric (Chris Hemsworth: Thor, Star Trek Into Darkness). Alongside fellow warrior Sara (Jessica Chastain: The Martian,The Help) — the only woman who has ever captured his heart — Eric must help Freya vanquish her sister or Ravenna’s wickedness will rule for eternity.