Hugh Dancy Talks About "Ella Enchanted"

Anne Hathaway Hugh Dancy Ella Enchanted
Anne Hathaway and Hugh Dancy share a moment in the fairy tale romance, "Ella Enchanted.". Miramax Films

The classic fairy tale world is given a modern twist with the romantic comedy/fantasy, "Ella Enchanted." Hugh Dancy stars as Prince Char, a handsome teen idol who isn't overly considered with the goings on in his kingdom. That is until he crosses paths with Ella of Frell (Anne Hathaway), an intelligent beauty who's a staunch supporter of the rights of elves and ogres.

Loosely based on Gail Carson Levine’s novel, "Ella Enchanted" features singing, dancing, swordplay, romance, and lots of witty dialogue.

It also features a dynamic group of actors who are captivating on screen, chief among them being the two leads - Hathaway and Dancy. These two have great chemistry, something that's absolutely essential to making "Ella Enchanted" work. In casting Dancy as the Prince, director Tommy O'Haver needed a believable actor with popstar looks and attitude. In Dancy, he found the right mix of ingredients. "He not only had the charisma, looks and intelligence to be the believable heir to a kingdom, he had a wonderfully silly sense of humor. He and Anne were just so funny together," explains O'Haver.


What was the audition process like for “Ella Enchanted?”
I'm looking at this thing here that says "extensive auditions in England" but the thing is, you're never aware of that when you go into an audition. They could be seeing you and one other guy or every other actor in England.

So maybe they did, maybe not. II was just glad that Anne [Hathaway] came over to England when they did this audition so there was a sense that they really cared about the particular chemistry between those two characters.

Define chemistry?
I don't know. In my experience it's not essential to get on with the person that you're acting opposite.

You can still have chemistry on screen without getting on with the person. But it just makes your job a lot easier if you don't have to gird your loins, if that's not quite the right phrase, every time you're going to do a scene with that person.

Director Tommy O’Haver said there was a lot of chemistry between you and Anne.
That's what I'm saying - on this it was apparent really from the moment that we met that it was going to be very easy. And when you've got that, it kind of adds a level of security. So then you can just start working on the story and make sure that you've got everything going in the right order, in the right direction.

What's so appealing about Anne Hathaway?
I can tell you that when I first met her, as an actress this is, I was really impressed by the way she combined charm and comedy, and blended the two seamlessly. [She] made it feel incredibly natural, which I think is the hallmark of a very good actress and a very good comedienne. You don't try and play a gag, you just offer up a character that happens to be quite funny or quirky or whatever and make it believable.

She can’t be perfect. Does she have any annoying qualities?
I don't think Anne has any annoying qualities - that's probably the most annoying thing about her.

How's that for diplomacy? The honest truth is that we got on exceptionally well and I know everybody always says this but nonetheless, this film was a pleasure to make - and not just Anne - the whole cast as well, and Tommy O'Haver also. I always think that the atmosphere on set is defined by the person at the top and it kind of filters down through everybody. And he and the DP, John de Borman were just a hoot. Filming seemed to come a distant second to having a good time.

Are you a fan of this genre of film?
I don't think I've ever seen a film quite like it. I'm not particularly sure what this genre is. Fantasy if you like, yes, I am. Do I like this genre? Yes, I do, I do. But what I liked about this was the opportunity to take what I guess is a very specific genre, which is fantasy-fairy-tale, and give it a slightly different spin.

Did you do your own singing in this film?
Oh yes. The little song and dance number at the end - that's me, my voice, howling out. It was a new experience for me. I've never sung before and I've certainly never sung on screen. I think I sung on stage when I was 13 and for some reason nobody's asked me to try it again since.

Did you take voice lessons?
No, actually. We didn't have vocal lessons. But we all turned up at the studio together to record it, and there was somebody there to kind of coach us through. It was kind of really by the seat of the pants.

How about the sword-fighting? Did you have any training?
Oh for sure. I think the worse that happened there was that I hurt my thumb, but you can't complain really about that.

PAGE 2: Hugh Dancy on Period Roles, "King Arthur," and a Haunted Hotel

Interview with "Ella Enchanted's" Anne Hathaway

In “Ella,” Prince Char’s path follows a similar trajectory to Ella’s. He doesn't have a literal curse to overcome but he has other problems.
Oh God, you're right. I think that's very true and the whole point about it is that they each enable - I mean, admittedly it's Ella ultimately who removes her own curse - but part of what helps her is her love for this guy. And equally, his growing attraction to the girl enables him - or she forces him rather - to go out and see things for himself, and that's when he begins to adopt his responsibilities and throw off his malaise.

Did you read the book “Ella Enchanted” is based on?
I read the book toward the end of making the film.

I hadn't been aware of the book when I got involved in the audition process. Then once we were starting, I wanted to leave it for a while because I knew it would… I think for anybody reading the book they're going to get an idea in their heads of all those characters, and I think that once that gets fixed, it's quite hard to shake. So then when I read it later, I enjoyed it very much.

Is it true you were living in a haunted hotel while you were filming in Ireland?
We were in a haunted hotel briefly, yeah, but I didn't see any evidence of it. They did serve a good pint of Guinness so I may have slept through the creaking and the banging and the wailing.

What do you think of period roles and how comfortable were you, getting in those fluffy shirts and britches?
Well, fluffy shirts are, by definition, very comfortable. But no, I don't think I'm particularly drawn to the period roles or the medieval roles.

Do you think it's something that people see in you?
Possibly, yes. I think that's more likely because I'm certainly not out there looking. In reality, for me every role is completely different. And I think that this or “King Arthur,” which I've just finished, on paper they can look similar but the reality is you're giving completely different performances for a different character and for a different audience.

How was your role in “King Arthur” different from “Ella Enchanted?”
It's a very big film - no singing and dancing. But I suppose the similarities are that it was a re-working of an old genre, or in this case an old myth or an old legend. It's an attempt to tell the story of how that myth was born in the real world and obviously you're taking people's expectations and playing around with them.

How did Keira Knightley and Anne Hathaway compare as leading ladies?
Well, I got to know Anne a lot better obviously because we worked a lot more closely. I've not seen Keira do comedy like Anne does, but that's just to compare them as actresses because as individuals they're both lovely.

Did you get any advice from “King Arthur” producer, Jerry Bruckheimer?
The way Jerry works is that he hand-picks everybody and he puts the whole thing together. He comes up with the concept, if you like, and then it's hands-off because he's comfortable with what he's going to be getting. And then, this is what I've been told, he comes back in during the editing process and helps shape the film.

What are the perks of a Jerry Bruckheimer film?
What are the perks? There's always a fire engine, in my experience. Listen, I've worked on “Black Hawk Down” and “King Arthur” and they're both by far and away the biggest films I've ever had any experience on.

There's no comparison, simple as that.

PAGE 3: Hugh Dancy on His Hunk Status, Fame, and Guinness Consumption

Interview with "Ella Enchanted's" Anne Hathaway

How do you feel about being labeled a hunk?
Oh boy, my life's ambition obviously. I haven't really given it a lot of thought.

Why not?
Because I don't really think of myself as a hunk, to be honest.

How do you feel about being described as the next Colin Firth?
I don't know how to put what I think about that. I think it's probably not very accurate. I don't think I'm the same kind of actor as Colin Firth, but it's very flattering.

Can you live an anonymous life in London?
I think I can lead a pretty anonymous life, yeah.

Teenagers don't know where you live?
(Laughing) No.

Are you concerned about the possibility of huge fame and how you would deal with that?
I don't think it's something you really sit around and think about. Do you? It wouldn't make you a very, in my mind, attractive or interesting person if you made game plans for your sudden fame. If it happens as a result of something you're proud of then, fantastic, because at least when people come up and say, “Oh I like this and that…,” you can say with all honesty, “Good, I'm really glad,” instead of gritting your teeth.

Do you have a girlfriend back home in England?

Are you looking?
Not actively.

What do you look for in a girlfriend?
Somebody that's challenging and can stand up for themselves. That's about it. I don't have any other factors.

With your theatrical background, is their a particular story or character you'd like to play?
Honestly, I think the advantage of having come from that background is that you come with an awareness of the wealth of characters and different styles and literature and different genres.

The only reason to go into this at all is because you have an interest in all of them. I just want to try and stay enthusiastic, and the best way to do that is try out a lot of different things.

What's up next?
As always, there's a couple of things in the pipeline - but that pipeline is a strange and ambiguous place.

The next thing I think I'm going to do is I think I'm going to have to go back and do some re-shoots for “King Arthur.”

Where did you shoot “King Arthur?”
Ireland. Great for the spirit - very bad for the body.

How much drinking do you when you’re on an Irish set?
On set? None at all, I hasten to add. But one of the most fantastic things about Ireland and Dublin is that the pubs are like Paris and the café culture. And Dublin, in many ways, is a pub culture. So it was great. When we were filming “Ella,” we'd all meet up and go round the town.

Does Anne Hathaway drink as well as the boys?
That would depend on how you defined ‘the boys.’ I tell you, the haunted castle we stayed in has a kind of old retainer who worked there and he kind of did everything. He served the food, he served at the bar, and we had a couple of great nights in there drinking pints of Guinness. So, yes, she certainly will enjoy a pint of Guinness but she's not a lager lout.

Are you a lager lout?
No, I'm not a lager lout either. I think you have to be a massive football fan to be a lager lout…

What's your daily life when you're not working?
Mundane, in the extreme. I've not as yet found one hobby that would absorb me completely when I'm not working, but I have just bought a new apartment and didn't quite bargain for the amount of effort and time and money that that absorbs.

A bachelor pad?
Well, I'm a bachelor and it's a pad. Two bedrooms.

What's the bravest thing you ever did?
Good question. I think becoming an actor because it's a ridiculously insecure profession to go into. I feel very comfortable but very lucky. I think any time that you imagine that it's plain sailing for hereon in, then you're kidding yourself.

How early on did you decide you wanted to be an actor?
I knew I wanted to be an actor when I was growing up, really. So when I decided to go to university instead of drama school, it was with the intention of becoming an actor afterwards.

Are there any other actors in your family?
My cousin has just started out but, I'm not from a family of actors - a lot of doctors and a lot of teachers and academics. My father is a professor of philosophy.

Are they supportive?
Very, because I think those other professions are things you only go into if you really care about them, so they understood that.

Interview with "Ella Enchanted's" Anne Hathaway

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Murray, Rebecca. "Hugh Dancy Talks About "Ella Enchanted"." ThoughtCo, Oct. 2, 2012, Murray, Rebecca. (2012, October 2). Hugh Dancy Talks About "Ella Enchanted". Retrieved from Murray, Rebecca. "Hugh Dancy Talks About "Ella Enchanted"." ThoughtCo. (accessed October 23, 2017).