We all remember the story from our childhoods. Poor orphaned Cinderella, forced to carry water from the well and sweep the dirt floors of her evil step-mother’s dreary cottage every day while dreaming of a handsome prince who would rescue her from her life of toil to go live in his drafty old castle. Very medieval.
Plus, there was a fairy godmother sprinkling pixie dust, a pumpkin morphing into a golden coach and a lot of talking mice. Okay and this relates to real life, how?
But wait – What if it’s 2004 and our princess-in-the-rough is a high school senior like Sam Montgomery, and instead of chopping wood for the family hearth she’s bussing tables and scrubbing the linoleum floors of her heartless step-mother’s tacky 50s diner after school and running errands for her nasty, spoiled step-sisters? What if she’s not looking for a handsome prince, per se (not that she’s opposed to the idea), but studying for the SATs and dreaming of Princeton and her future beyond the San Fernando Valley?
And what if, instead of magic pumpkins and chatty rodents, she gets one very cool, no-nonsense fairy godmother who encourages this modern Cinderella to find the strength within to be herself and realize the kind of life that, well, fairy tales are made of? That’s how Warner Bros. spins the beloved (but outdated) fairy tale into “A Cinderella Story” starring Hillary Duff as Sam Montgomery.
Producer Clifford Werber, who originated and developed the idea of a “smart, contemporary Cinderella story with comedic parallels to the classic,” notes that the enduring appeal of the original is its “heart and soul, the ultimate wish-fulfillment fantasy and an underlying message of empowerment. In that sense it’s as relevant today as when it was first introduced.”
Without losing any of the story’s time-honored elements, “A Cinderella Story” transports the action to a suburban high school, where, appropriately enough, most young people first begin to grapple with the issues of identity, loyalty and integrity the Cinderella tale traditionally touches upon. Lest that sound a bit solemn, fear not, as Werber attests: “First and foremost, it’s a comedy.”
“Two thoughts guided me on the script,” says screenwriter Leigh Dunlap: “One, to believe in yourself and not look elsewhere for validation and two, don’t be afraid to participate in life. You aren’t confined by how you look or where you come from or how much money you have.”
Having loved the story as a child, Hillary Duff believes the original will always have its special appeal to a younger generation’s imagination, while this version speaks to a more sophisticated age group. “It shows what a lot of people go through in high school, which is funny but it can be brutal too,” she says. “There’s always the popular group and lots of cliques, and so many people trying to be something they’re not or just don’t have the freedom to be themselves. I hope that kids who watch it will get the message that they are not alone, that this stuff happens to everyone.” – Warner Bros.