06.02.11

Rival Studios In 'Snow White' Face-Off

It’s a story of Shakespearean—nay, Homeric—proportions: two rival Hollywood powers are currently locked in a bitter war of attrition over a cutesy, fairy-tale princess. Three months after the independent motion picture company Relativity Media acquired first-time screenwriter Melissa Wallack’s Snow White script in June 2010, major Hollywood studio Universal Pictures introduced its own revisionist take on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, dubbed Snow White and the Huntsman.

What followed was a tinsel-town version of an arms race, as Relativity’s project landed a director, Tarsem Singh (the upcoming Immortals), followed by a series of casting coups: Julia Roberts as the evil queen, hot newcomer Lily Collins (The Blind Side) as Snow White, and Armie Hammer playing the prince. Universal then countered, casting its own Oscar winner, Charlize Theron, as the studio’s evil queen, Twilight star Kristen Stewart as Snow White, and Thor’s Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman.

But that was just the beginning.

When Relativity announced a June 29, 2012, release date for its as-yet-untitled 3-D Snow White project, Universal announced shortly thereafter that its version would hit theaters on June 1, 2012. Refusing to be bullied by a major Hollywood studio, Relativity then went all Rocky Balboa on Universal, moving the release date of its own film all the way up to March 16, 2012.

Lost amid all the hullabaloo, however, is the most important question of all: which film project is more promising? The Daily Beast broke down each film’s screenplay to let you determine which Snow White deserves to live happily ever after. (These screenplay drafts are not confirmed shooting scripts.)

THE PLAYERS

While both film projects are penned by first-time screenwriters, Relativity’s Snow White boasts a compelling director, Tarsem Singh, whose previous films The Fall and The Cell have displayed a unique visual style. The untitled film also boasts a producer trio of Ryan Kavanaugh (The Fighter), Bernie Goldman (300), and Brett Ratner (the Rush Hour films). Along with the evil queen (Julia Roberts), Snow White (Lily Collins, daughter of Phil) and thick-skulled Prince Alcott (The Social Network’s Armie Hammer), Nathan Lane will play the queen’s bumbling servant, Brighton, and Mare Winningham will appear as Snow White’s servant-confidant, Baker Margaret.

Lost amid all the hullabaloo is the most important question of all: which film project is more promising?

Universal’s film, meanwhile, is being helmed by first-time filmmaker Rupert Sanders. Universal, however, brings an impressive producer to the table in Joe Roth, who has ample experience spinning fairy tales into Hollywood blockbusters with the 2010 Tim Burton film, Alice in Wonderland. Joining Charlize Theron as the evil queen, Twilight star Kristen Stewart as Snow White, and Chris Hemsworth (Thor) as the brooding Huntsman, is Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), as the valiant Prince Charmont.

TONE

Relativity’s untitled Snow White project is a family adventure film full of several cheeky in-jokes and scenes that quickly devolve into slapstick comedy. The story begins with a series of hazy flashbacks with voiceover narration (e.g. “Long ago, when flowers bloomed in the Kingdom…”) and is chock-full of contemporary references. There are gay jokes, the kingdom’s poor economy is referred to as a “recession,” and the queen (Roberts) exploits her people with unreasonable taxes in exchange for protection from a “beast” that hasn’t attacked the town in ages. In fact, there are several references to the poor economy in this film, with the queen quipping at one point, “You’d think, in this economy, you could find good help.” Ultimately, the film is like a cross between Princess Diaries and Enchanted (yes, there’s a possible dance number involved).

Universal’s Huntsman, on the other hand, boasts no voiceover narration, and is a violent, serious, action-packed revenge tale that spends the bulk of it’s time having Snow White (Stewart) and the huntsman (Hemsworth) being chased through the Dark Forest and various villages by an elite team of mercenary warriors assembled by the queen (Theron). There also are several badass action-movie lines. Early on, when the huntsman is asked why he doesn’t like to wear armor, he replies, “I don’t like to be weighed down.” In the end, the film is like a cross between The Princess Bride and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.

SNOW WHITE

Relativity has cast future star Lily Collins—who will next appear in Abduction, opposite Twilight’s Taylor Lautner—in the title role of Snow White. Her princess-to-be is more of a sassy, ball-busting, Juno-type who bickers throughout the story with the gang of dwarfs, and her love interest, Prince Alcott (Hammer). She is kept company by her mouse, whom she often speaks to, and, after being trained to fight—in a Rocky-like montage—by the dwarves, is transformed into their thrill-seeking leader who can carry her own in a fight.

Universal’s Snow White (Stewart) starts out as more of reluctant hero, jailed from age 11 to 18 by the evil queen (Theron). She eventually escapes and falls in with the huntsman (Hemsworth), a fallen warrior/drunk whose wife was murdered. The huntsman eventually teaches Snow White how to fight through tough love—at one point forcing her to face off against a wild boar with a dagger—and as the two overcome trial after tribulation, she is transformed into a warrior herself. And, in true Twilight fashion, Snow White finds herself torn between the huntsman, and Prince Charmont (Claflin).

THE EVIL QUEEN

Relativity’s evil queen (Roberts) is a bit inept, and a bit of a caricature. In order to make herself look younger, she undergoes several “extreme beauty treatments” including having bees sting her lips (ye olde Botox); hissing snakes injecting the fine lines in her forehead with venom; and flesh-eating worms nibble at her dead skin. Since she’s dead broke, the queen attempts to seduce the much younger prince (Hammer) for his fortune—by pressing her cleavage in his face, serving him loads of wine, etc.--but mostly succeeds in making him feel extremely uncomfortable.

On the Universal side, the queen (Theron) is a scary villainess who makes herself appear young by draining the beauty from pretty teenage girls, and has a penchant for nude bathing, as well as consuming yellow birds. The queen has a vendetta against the patriarchal royalty system—or how kings replace queens with younger and younger women. “Men use women,” she says. “But when a woman stays young and beautiful for all time, all the world is hers for the taking.” She is armed with an imposing, curved dagger, and is not afraid to use it.

THE DWARFS

Relativity has already cast a gang of little people as their seven dwarfs, and there are no household names there. The dwarfs in the film are a rowdy pack of woodland thieves who rob anyone who passes through the forest. At one point, they’re addressed as “midgets,” to which one of them replies, “Actually, it’s ‘little people.’” They constantly bicker back and forth, are extremely difficult, and comically attack their foes with various homemade gadgets. They’re pretty much like Ewoks, to put it bluntly.

Universal has not just seven, but eight dwarfs that were once court jesters in the kingdom, but were framed for a crime they didn’t commit, and banished. They defend themselves with intricate, makeshift weaponry, don’t talk much but bicker by kicking one another, and although no dwarfs have been cast yet in the film, the screenplay offers some interesting options: Caesar, eldest dwarf with longest beard (Ben Kingsley); Nero the hotheaded dwarf (Gary Oldman); Tiberius, the biggest dwarf (Ray Winstone); Claudius, a stuttering dwarf (Terry Gilliam); Constantine, a blind dwarf (Robert Duvall); Gus, the youngest dwarf (Toby Kebbell); Hadrian, the strongest dwarf (Bob Hoskins); Trajan, a slightly camp dwarf (Eddie Izzard). The wish-list cast of non-little people leads one to believe that the dwarfs could be created through CGI trickery.

MYTHICAL CREATURES

Aside from a slobbering, grotesque beast that stalks the forest outside the once-beautiful kingdom, the as-yet-untitled Snow White project from Relativity boasts few other mythical creatures. There is, however, a sorceress who can transform people into various animals.

Universal’s Huntsman film, however, contains a smorgasbord of mythical creatures, including fairies, shape-shifting wolves—again, cue Twilight references—an evil Shadow Army, and a Dark Forest packed with more creative creatures than a Guillermo Del Toro film.

VERDICT

So, which film stacks up better?