Rupert Sanders On Dark Snow White and the Huntsman, 'Twilight Girl' Kristen Stewart, and Tarsem’s Mirror, Mirror

It may be indicative of Snow White and the Huntsman director Rupert Sanders’ fearlessness – or his newness, this being his feature debut – that, after presenting much-anticipated footage to fans yesterday at WonderCon, he nonchalantly dropped the vivid phrase “dwarf gangbangs” into a discussion about his dark (and yes, likely PG-13) allegorical fairytale actioner. (Now that’s how you get the attention of a certain demographic.) For the record, there are no such scenarios in June's action-packed SWATH, but there were many more revelations and key insights to be had into Sanders’ take on the age-old tale, which stars Twilight’s Kristen Stewart and debuts two months after that other Snow White movie dances into theaters.

Sanders spoke with journalists Saturday at WonderCon, where Stewart made a surprise appearance at the SWATH panel. Herewith, find a Movieline 9 rundown of highlights from his wide-ranging thoughts on ths film, its dark elements, Stewart's non-Twilight career, Tarsem's Mirror, Mirror, and more.

"I couldn’t get a small film, ironically,"said Sanders, who made his name directing shorts and commercials, most notably for Halo 3. "It’s much harder to get a small film off the ground than it is to get a big film off the ground, but the high stakes gamble on the roulette table is that if it doesn’t fall on your color you’re in a small prison in Burbank for the rest of your moviemaking days. Hopefully, that won’t happen."

His first experience in a studio feature gig was, he says, surprisingly hands-off. "It was a high stakes risk both for myself and for the studio, who very kindly wrote a very large check to get it done, and they weren’t there whipping me into line which was great. I was really expecting to be shuttered in but they trusted what we were doing and they let us go, which is all you can really ask for on a shoot with a studio."

As for the once-in-progress big screen adaptation of Halo, which stalled a few years back? "No one called me!"

The director was impressed with Stewart on the strengths of her other films, dating back to Panic Room, and says it's her other work that will help her eventually overcome audience's dominant association of her with Twilight. "I saw her first in Panic Room and I saw her again in Into the Wild," he recalled. "I loved her in The Runaways, I loved her in Welcome to the Rileys. I think she’s going to be incredible in On the Road.

"She’s a great actor and people just go ‘Twilight girl, Twilight girl,’ which is testament to her. She’s kept this interesting pipeline of projects going on the side so she’s not just going to be that girl forevermore. She’s a great actor and she’s made incredibly shrewd decisions for someone who’s half my age. I’d never seen the Twilights so I didn’t really care that much. I met her, I really got on with her, she’s a great actor, she was right for the character. That’s it. It’s as simple as that for me."

Sanders knows his film and his star will be fighting to counteract the specter of Twilight. "I think what I realized is that she’s such a good actor that everyone thinks she’s Bella Swan. They believe that that’s her, and obviously an actor is playing a role – she is nothing like Bella."

"She was there as I was writing stuff, we would have conversations seeing through her eyes, we really worked hard on developing that character together and I was just amazed at her talent. She’s incredibly good at her craft. She’s incredibly instinctive, she’s incredibly intuitive. She will overcome fear like no one I’ve met when it comes to it. She didn’t really want to ride a horse – she had a bad horse-riding accident as a kid – when you’re riding fast on a horse with 200 other soldiers on horses riding behind you, through surf on a beach… that’s terrifying."

What Sanders believes grounds his fantasy fairytale is that all of his characters share a common tragic element -- even Charlize Theron's evil queen. "This queen took over a kingdom, she’s someone who’s suffered a lot of loss," he explained. "She lost a family, she lost a tribe. She found her way into this kingdom like a Trojan horse, she moves from kingdom to kingdom hollowing them out from the inside, like a siren who attracts people to her beauty."

That sense of loss trickles down through SWATH, affecting every character's journey. "The dwarfs lost everything; they were down in the mines, they’re noble gold miners who see light in the darkness and that’s why they were always the gold miners. When they came up from the mines the world was black and then they lost all the other people in their race. The Huntsman lost a wife. Snow White lost a kingdom, she lost both her parents and she lost the love of the people. So everyone’s dealing with loss in very different ways."

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