GALLERY: Tarsem on the Late Eiko Ishioka and the Fairytale Look of Mirror Mirror

He's painted cinematic landscapes of psychosexual kink (The Cell), childhood fantasy (The Fall), and ancient Greek 3-D abs (Immortals), but in this week's Mirror Mirror director Tarsem takes a turn into uncharted territory: The family-friendly fairytale. Turning his attentions to the story of Snow White, Tarsem creates another visually rich fantasyland of imagination -- and gives the fabled princess a post-modern streak to boot -- with the help of the late Oscar-winning costume designer and longtime collaborator Eiko Ishioka (Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark), who passed away in January at the age of 73. In an exclusive chat, Tarsem takes Movieline through his work with Ishioka and the whimsical, inventive, and utterly imaginative designs of Mirror Mirror that comprise their final collaboration on film.

GALLERY: Tarsem on Eiko Ishioka and the Fairytale Look of Mirror Mirror

Head over to the Mirror Mirror Gallery here for Tarsem's notes on the costumes, design, and visual inspirations for Mirror Mirror, or scroll down for additional thoughts as Tarsem discusses his relationship with Ishioka, his approach to the Snow White mythology, and his plans to take a break from heavily visual storytelling with his next project.


Tarsem says he was looking for a break from his heavily visual films when he decided to take on Mirror Mirror for the chance to work one last time with Ishioka, who succumbed to cancer only months after production wrapped. "On a personal level I did not want to do more than three visual films," he said, "but the reason that really pushed it together was that I knew that Eiko did not have more than a year to go. She did not have more than a movie left in her. I said, okay, let’s do a visual film. Eiko’s kind of like me, unfortunately – she has only two gears, full speed or off, and I just knew that she wanted to work."

Tarsem's Snow White (played by Lily Collins) springs into action as a swashbuckling bandit princess in Mirror Mirror's post-modern take -- a far cry from the original Disney animation. Tarsem sought to make a family film that simultaneously rejected the "damsel in distress" angle. "I had done three R-rated movies and thought I wanted to do a family film," he said. "Everyone asked me again and again if I wanted to do a gritty, R-rated Snow White and I said no! The original story, as beloved as it is, is a ten-minute story. It’s just about vanity. I’d never seen the original animation until about a month ago, and I thought I would like to have a different take on it."

Tarsem had to scrap plans to release Mirror Mirror in 3-D in order to get into theaters ahead of the competition -- Rupert Sanders' action adventure Snow White and the Huntsman, starring Kristen Stewart. "We had to come out first because we are a smaller movie than the big, grand action-adventure," Tarsem explained. "It’s always easier to sell those on a trailer. I said, 'We have to come first.' They could afford to come second, but we couldn’t afford to come second."

"By that I don’t mean handheld, gritty, running around stuff -- it’s not going to be Law & Order – but a contemporary tale. The film I’m going towards right now is a very simple drone attack from the perspective of the guys who fly the planes that are actually flying in Africa, but they do it from a little container in the desert. It’s a drone attack, so what are the politics involved in saying, ‘Go ahead and do this’ and just watching the collateral damage of when you can give a go-ahead and when you cannot, and how the same act feels completely different on the ground than for the people in the sky who come and knock them out? It’s what right now I’m gearing towards, but anything that’s interesting right now that isn’t fantasy oriented, a tale that isn’t completely designed, is what I want to do. This is the closest I’m to it right now and I’m going to go for it."

GALLERY: Tarsem on Eiko Ishioka and the Fairytale Look of Mirror Mirror

Mirror Mirror is in theaters Friday.

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