Lily James on Auditioning for ‘Cinderella’ and the Hardest Scenes She Had to Shoot

Lily James as Cinderella

“The good thing is wearing something like that sort of changes how you stand and it gives you a sense of grace that you can use to your advantage as an actor” – Lily James on wearing corsets


Lily James is about to make her big screen debut in Disney’s live action Cinderella, set to open on March 13 but the actress, best known for her role as Lady Rose in Downton Abbey, revealed that she didn’t originally audition for the central role at all.

“I actually went in to read for Anastasia, one of her stepsisters,” James told The Daily News. “Then while I was there, the casting director said, ‘You should read for Cinderella. So I did.”

The role of Anastasia eventually went to Holliday Grainger, while Drizella, the second stepsister will be played by James’ fellow Downton star, Sophie McShera.

It’s now hard to imagine the casting any other way. James certainly has the style, grace and elegance needed to portray the rags to riches beauty, and the actress insists no CGI was used to achieve her tiny waist; it’s all down to rather painful corsets.

“Corsets are always tight, that’s just what they are,” she explains. “I feel for women of the past. I’m so glad that’s not what we have to wear now.”

It seems as though there is no pain, no gain, but James went on to say that the corsets for Cinderella were nothing compared with what she’s used to, and it all adds to the character.

“My ‘20’s dresses on Downton Abbey are even tighter. The good thing is wearing something like that sort of changes how you stand and it gives you a sense of grace that you can use to your advantage as an actor.”

After all the trouble of getting the corset on in the first place, there then comes the very real problem of being able to eat and drink while wearing it. James revealed that she had to work hard to be able to get it off so she could eat her lunch, and she also had to remember not to drink too much soda so she didn’t burp in Richard Madden’s face all afternoon.

Cinderella, directed by Kenneth Branagh, will bring audiences a retelling of the classic Disney animated tale,  which we all know has a happy ever after ending, but the film also brings its fair share of heartache throughout, not least when Cinderella, or Ella as she is properly called, has to bid tearful farewells to both her parents.

After losing her own father in 2008, James found that “Filming those scenes was really hard,” and she often broke down on set. Luckily she also added that her onscreen father, Ben Chaplin, was able to make her laugh with his constant joking around between takes.

“I think often that happens as an actor,” James says. “You end up having to do stuff that really traces your own life and heart.”

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