The Huntsman: Winter's War spins the fairy-tale genre on its head

According to its all-star cast, new fantasy-adventure instalment The Huntsman: Winter's War spins the fairy-tale genre on its head. Keeley Bolger meets Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt and co to get the on-set goss

PA Photo/Giles Keyte/Universal.
PA Photo/Giles Keyte/Universal.

Nick Frost is recalling a memorable day on the set of new fantasy film, The Huntsman: Winter’s War.

“We [me and Rob Brydon] got hauled into a net one day with Jessica Chastain and Chris Hemsworth, and had Chris’ leather-clad junk ground into our faces for four or five hours... it was great,” he deadpans.

As the scene - which sees the four characters awkwardly entwined after being bundled together in the net trap - suggests, this movie takes on a somewhat lighter tone than 2012’s Snow White & The Huntsman.

A companion piece to the original, rather than a sequel, it nonetheless marks the return of the calculating Ravenna, played again by Charlize Theron - only this time she’s accompanied by her heartbroken younger sibling Freya (Emily Blunt), and the sisters are hell-bent on conquering the land.

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    Their plans for domination, however, are thwarted, when renegades Eric the Huntsman (Hemsworth), who helped Snow White in defeating Ravenna in the first movie, and his forbidden lover Sara (Chastain), go on a quest to halt them in their tracks.

    Directing duties have shifted to Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (Rupert Sanders, who directed the 2012 movie, left the franchise after his affair with Kristen Stewart, who played Snow White, was revealed).

    There are also new characters in a team of foul-mouthed dwarves, played by Frost, Brydon, Sheridan Smith and The Iron Lady’s Alexandra Roach.


    Chastain, known for her roles in Zero Dark Thirty and The Help, is pleased that plots in modern fairy tales reflect society’s progressive attitudes.

    “Everything is more interesting when there’s balance involved, and if you look at movies like Frozen, and what these fairy-tale films have been in the past and what they are now, you do see a change,” says the California-born star, 39.

    “Love is a very important part in these movies. In The Huntsman, [there’s the love between] Sara and Eric, but also between the sisters,” she adds. “But it’s not finding a mate and settling down, that’s not the be-all and end-all.

    “I loved Frozen and loved that it was about the sisters,” Chastain continues. “I loved that the joke they kept having in the film was like, ‘You love him? You only met him for one day and now you’re going to get engaged?!’ It’s just so ridiculous!

    “It’s a trope of fairy tales of the past. We’re in a different age and that’s not what everyone’s calling for now.”


    Part of the appeal for Blunt, Roach and Chastain was the chance to be part of a female-led cast.

    “Women are proving time and time again that they can be a part of big-action blockbusters and fantasy films like this,” says Blunt, who will be leading the cast in the big-screen adaptation of hit thriller The Girl On The Train later this year.

    “The thing that drew me to this in particular, was the three very powerful female leads; layered, nuanced, interesting characters. That was a big part of the draw.”


    Flowing gowns and robes look great on screen, but in reality, can be troublesome for the actors, faced with long days on set.

    “Even though it looks very icy on set, it was boiling,” Blunt recalls with a laugh. “It was one of those studio sets, where you’re hit with the lights all the time, so Charlize and I would be standing by the fans going, ‘Can you turn the AC on?’, in our huge gowns.”

    Although Blunt’s character, who has ghostly pale hair and spiky costumes, is feared in the film, in real life, her two-year-old daughter, Hazel, was nonplussed by her mum’s transformation.

    “She was completely unfazed by it, which is quite a relief, and also a little bit worrying that she thinks this is what I look like at all times,” jokes British star Blunt, 33, who is currently pregnant with her second child.


    Much as Hemsworth celebrated the female-led cast, he did find himself being teased by Blunt, Chastain and Theron, who he teasingly likens to “bullying sisters”.

    “I copped it a fair bit,” reveals the Thor actor with a laugh. “It was good fun, though. I had brothers growing up, but this was a whole different world for me. They all had a great sense of humour. Charlize especially - she doesn’t pull any punches, she says it how it is.

    “She’s very quick-witted, it’s exhausting trying to keep up. I’d just be like, ‘You can have that joke, I don’t even care any more’.”

    But Hemsworth did manage to get his own back on Chastain.

    “Most of the scenes I did were with Chris, Nick and Rob,” explains Chastain. “The boys would gang up on me a little bit and tease me about being a vegan. Because I was always so cold, Chris would say, ‘We’ve got to get you some food’, and tease me about it. And then, because he’s such a nice guy, he’d go, ‘You know, my mum’s a vegetarian, so I don’t mean anything by it!’

    “There was a lot of teasing of everyone on set, but whenever the girls were together, Chris was going to get it!”


    Welsh actress Roach, who played the young Margaret Thatcher in the Meryl Streep-led Iron Lady, was often the butt of Brydon’s jokes in the dwarf camp.

    “He did refer to me as ‘the competition winner’,” she says with a laugh.

    “He said, ‘You know Sheridan Smith has won Baftas, Nick Frost is famous, I myself, Rob Brydon, am famous... and she’s a competition winner’.

    “That’s what he would say to me, but in a funny way. It was that kind of banter on set with us the whole time. Rob loves an impression, and he’s very good at it.

    “He kept us entertained.”

    :: The Huntsman: Winter’s War is released on Monday, April 4