Branagh sprinkles Cinderella stardust at Belfast premiere

Sir ''Kenneth Branagh signs autographs for fans before Sunday's Belfast premiere screening of his movie Cinderella
Sir ''Kenneth Branagh signs autographs for fans before Sunday's Belfast premiere screening of his movie Cinderella

Sir Kenneth Branagh was in Belfast on Sunday, to showcase his new movie Cinderella at a charity premiere in his home town.

And the director and actor was in buoyant mood in advance of the much-anticipated red carpet screening of the latest adaptation of the familiar fairy tale.

Sir ''Kenneth Branagh reminisced about his time in Belfast for the Billy plays

Sir ''Kenneth Branagh reminisced about his time in Belfast for the Billy plays

Sir Ken provided some fascinating insights into the process.

He read in the part of the prince, when he was auditioning Lily James for Cinderella.

Then she had to audition with mice – appropriately enough for Disney.

“Yes, we had a special mouse camera unit, a little docudrama, to see how Lily coped with all that, even though we would be using computer-animated mice in the movie.

“She has a genuine youthfulness and freshness, but also a toughness from working on Downton Abbey (where she plays Lady Rose) and has seen the top folk like Dame Maggie Smith doing it.

“Lily’s a young woman with a maturity beyond her years, charming and genuine.”

It was all part of the process to scoop one of the most high-profile parts in the world for the young actress. Now she’s firmly on the road to becoming a new worldwide star.

For lots of little girls of all ages, Lily will forever be Cinderella, in crystal slippers and a fabulous sky blue silk ball gown, twinkling with stardust and travelling in a golden carriage, with lizard footmen.

And Sir Ken thinks that boys will enjoy the show as well:

“I had my two nephews there. They are seven and nine and they said to me ‘Uncle Ken, that movie has something for everyone’ and that was a big compliment for me.”

And the Belfast-born actor and director still has very fond memories of his local links: “When I came over to do the Billy TV plays, I always stayed with my granny and went over to her for my lunch on the Shore Road, as well.”

And he dismisses any suggestion that she would have been very proud of him and his high profile in Hollywood these days.

“Do you know, I think my granny was always more concerned with my health; she always asked me if I was eating well and if my bowels had moved that day!”

And the really exciting news for those who think Sir Kenneth Branagh has deserted his love of the bard is that he’s bringing his young Cinderella co-stars to the London stage, to cast Lily James and Scot Richard Madden (Game of Thrones), who plays the Prince, as the “star-crossed” lovers in Romeo and Juliet in London’s West End next year.

But for the moment, with Cinderella premieres in Russia, Asia, Italy, New York and Los Angeles under his belt already, Branagh is able to discount any flak about the corseted dress in the movie, that has aroused feminist ire. Some have criticised the wasp waist that Lily James displays, as a poor example for young women: “That’s not what I’m getting from audiences,” said Sir Ken, “they have been very positive.”

Cinderella – certificate U – is on general release from Friday.