The story of Snow White is a tale as old as time. The princess, known as the “fairest one of all,” has been recreated in books, film and television for years but her latest incarnation has done the unthinkable. It’s made her an action heroine. ScreenCrave recently spoke with screenwriter Evan Daugherty about the development of his big screen adaptation, Snow White and the Huntsman. The film explores the relationship between the title characters, and takes them on an extraordinary journey. So why the Huntsman and why now?
Find out in our interview…
Despite what we’ve heard, Daugherty laid the groundwork for Snow White and the Huntsman years ago. It all started while he was still a film student at NYU.
Evan Daugherty: I came up with the idea and wrote it when I was a junior in college… We had taken screenwriting class as part of the curriculum and I had written a couple of really not good scripts. And for some reason, [I had] this idea of telling the Snow White story, but telling it in a more muscular-action-adventure way with that Huntsman character as a big part of it. Somehow that clicked. And I wrote it really quickly at first. We’ve done a lot of different drafts over the years.
When it comes to rewriting a popular fairy tale, there’s so much material to choose from. So what gave Snow White the competitive edge? Daugherty reveals that the Huntsman was a major draw.
ED: I think at some point early on at NYU they were teaching us storytelling and one of the assignments we were given was to take an old myth and update it. And I didn’t do it with Snow White for the class I actually did it with an old Thor myth and updated it. I think probably something about that class and that idea stuck with me. In terms of Snow White, why Snow White specifically? It’s hard to say. I think a big part of it specifically with this one was the Huntsman character. No one had really exploited that character before.
As for his version of the relationship between the titular characters…
ED: The Huntsman kind of — he takes Snow White into the woods, he’s about to kill her but he has sort of a change of heart and he lets her go. And she runs off into the woods. I remember that Huntsman character and thought, that could be a really great sort of action hero character and it could be someone who could really join forces with Snow White and become a mentor for her on her journey to taking back her throne.
The Huntsman is someone most of us aren’t familiar with. And for good reason. He’s never been fully fleshed out. But this film gives him a backstory, which explains his actions. It shows how he ends up tracking Snow White in the first place.
ED: A lot of people think I just kind of made it up and pulled it out of a hat. In the original fairy tale there’s only a few main characters. There’s Snow White, her father who dies, her mother who dies, the Evil Queen, the Huntsman and the Seven Dwarfs. The Huntsman in the fairy tale is probably the smallest part. So a lot of people don’t remember him. But if you go back in there, it’s in the Disney version and the original Brothers Grimm.
The other male figure in the classic story is Prince Charming. But in Snow White and the Huntsman, his name is William and he’s no weeping willow. He cares for Snow and wants to save her but in the process, he gets a much-needed reality check.
ED: This prince is a character — Prince William, is very much obsessed with saving Snow White. He and Snow White were friends when they were much younger before they were separated when Queen Ravenna came to power. And ever since he’s been obsessed with trying to get her back — trying to rescue her. The prince comes to realize that by the end of the story Snow White doesn’t really need him to save her. She can save herself. Part of his arc is coming to accept that and understand that Snow White is a strong woman.
There are many characteristics we love seeing in movie heroines. And we asked Daugherty if there were specific traits that he wanted his version of Snow White to embody.
ED: You can see that visually and in terms of behavior, this is not the Snow White you’re familiar with. She does strap on armor at the end of the story. She swings a sword. So she becomes that warrior girl that is a trope that works so well in movies. With that said… clearly the butt-kicking female heroine is not necessarily new. We’ve seen that a lot before. You watch this movie, and you’ll see that it’s really about the changes that Snow White goes through internally. She does strap on armor and a sword at the end but she also really has to find her own inner strength and reclaim the throne and learn to be a complete person and especially learn to be a leader.
The Evil Queen is one of the most well known characters in fairy tale lore. Her reputation precedes her. That’s why they needed an actress strong enough to pull off both her ruthlessness and vanity. Cue Oscar-winner Charlize Theron.
ED: I do not think I could think of a better person to play the Evil Queen than Charlize Theron. She’s not only beautiful, and a big aspect of this queen character from the fairy tale and our movie is her obsession with beauty. But also [she's] able to have such a scary dark side, which we’ve seen in a number of movies. Particularly, the one she won an Academy Award for Monster, where she played [literally] a serial killer. There are maybe two, maybe three people who could have played it and I think Charlize was certainly the best of that lot.
Following the success of Alice in Wonderland, it seems as if fairy tales are all the rage. Therefore, Snow White and the Huntsman had impeccable timing. But Daugherty explained, his script was in the works way before Alice’s success.
ED: Certainly people have sort of accused me of riding the trends a little bit. Seeing that there was a fairy tale thing and writing Snow White. And one of the things I feel good about as I’ve mentioned, I wrote it I think in 2003. So this was so far before the trend. One earlier fairy tale trend happened also. [Back when] the Terry Gilliam Brothers Grimm movie came out. Which I was really excited about, but unfortunately didn’t really connect with people. So then, when I showed people the Huntsman, they were like, ‘Oh, I don’t know.’
Really, this movie owes an incredible amount to the success of Alice in Wonderland. It took an old — not technically a fairy tale but a children’s tale and spun it and revised it in a different way. It was very good timing. But it’s just funny how I can show a script to someone in 2006 and nobody gets it. Then go on to 2009 or 2010 and everybody gets it. It’s just kind of amusing the way the trends work in Hollywood.
Snow White and the Huntsman is currently playing in theaters everywhere.