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Cruella Director Reveals What It's Really Like Working With Emma Stone And Emma Thompson - Exclusive

Creating a villain's origin story was a monumental task for "Cruella" director Craig Gillespie, considering he had the weight of two "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" movies weighing heavily on his shoulders with the classic animated and live-action versions of the tale. While "Cruella" only layers in a few essential elements of its predecessors — the villain's black-and-white hair, the high-fashion, and of course, Dalmatians — Gillespie knew that he had to employ actors who would make the story feel like it could logically end where "One Hundred and One Dalmatians" begins.

Lucky for the acclaimed "I, Tonya" filmmaker, he had a pair of Oscar-winning actors by the name of Emma — Stone and Thompson — to help him and screenwriter Tony McNamara put "Cruella" over the top. Stone plays Estella, a street orphan who grew up grifting her way through London before she got a shot at realizing her dream with a job at a high-fashion department store. By happy accident, Estella gets her work noticed by '70s fashion icon Baroness von Hellman (Thompson), who snatches up Estella to design for her, but exploits her talents.

Tired of getting used by her cold and conniving boss, Estella begins her transformation into Cruella de Vil to take away the fashion crown from the Baroness; actions that become more resolute when Cruella finds out that she's connected to a dark secret long-held by the evil fashion queen. Gillespie told Looper in an exclusive interview that he needed a performance from Stone that wasn't, like her character's hair, entirely black and white. The "La La Land" star delivered, and the director was astonished.

Gillespie helped fashion the performances of Stone and Thompson's complicated characters

"She had a very complicated performance to do because it's an evolution for her to become Cruella," director Craig Gillespie said of Emma Stone. "The first time we meet her as Cruella, she's doing a character at the black and white ball. She's not quite there yet, and then she goes through this emotional epiphany that informs her," Gillespie said. "She then sort of transforms into this other version of Cruella and eventually she becomes this sort of hybrid version of the character. So, she's constantly modulating her performance and what kind of Cruella she wants to be."

Thompson's role, on the other hand, requires more straight-up villainy, but her character required a specific balance, Gillespie said. "They're absolutely amazing to work with. I think they're the most generous actors in the sense of they know it's a tricky tone that we're going for," Gillespie revealed to Looper. "So, they would modulate their performances to figure out where that balance was, and it's something that we explored more at the beginning."

Since Gillespie begins cutting his films during principal photography, Thompson and Stone were able to collaborate with the director during shooting to fine-tune their portrayals. "Because I'm cutting as we go and I show them what we're working on, the characters get very defined very quickly," Gillespie said. "The thing that we found out was for the Baroness, less was more. So, it became about this very minute gestures, just an eyebrow or just the cock of a head that was so much power for her against Cruella — who's just kind of like this bag of energy and bundling around, and always like nonstop and very gregarious. So, having that juxtaposition worked amazingly well with the two of them."

Also starring Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, John McCrea, and Mark Strong, "Cruella" is playing in theaters nationwide and streaming on Disney+ with Premier Access.