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Cinderella: Camila Cabello and Idina Menzel on writing their own songs for ‘liberating’ take on fairy tale

Camila Cabello and Idina Menzel star in a fresh feminist take on Cinderella (Picture: Amazon Studios)

Camila Cabello and Idina Menzel take on the roles of Cinderella and her stepmother Vivian in Kay Cannon’s fresh musical take on the timeless fairy tale for Amazon – and they are here for the movie’s empowering message for women.

Writer and director Cannon, who is also the brains behind the popular Pitch Perfect films, has rewritten the narrative to have Cinderella focus on her dream of trying to open her own shop, where she can sell the gowns she designs. In her kingdom and time (non-specific but Ye Olden Days) though, women don’t run businesses.

Talking to alongside her co-star Menzel, Cabello, who makes her acting debut in Cinderella, was all in when she found out about Cannon’s vision.

Describing herself as ‘excited and scared at the same time’ when the opportunity came along, during the recording of her second album, Romance, she explains: ‘Just reading the script and the values that this film represents and everything about it, I was kind of like I can’t let this pass me by because it’s such a dream role for me.’

The Havana singer was also struck by the similarities between writer and director Cannon’s journey and that of her heroine, calling her ‘like a Cinderella herself’.

‘I feel like Kay represents it. She’s like almost like the character, she’s a woman who is in the kind of male-dominated industry of comedy and writing. And she’s just paved the way for herself with a lot of ambition.

Cabello’s Cinderella is more interested in being a business woman (Picture: Amazon Studios)

‘She has a young daughter, and I feel like this movie is almost like a gift to her daughter and to young girls – this kind of whole new value system. Growing up with fairy tales, where it’s like, the princess is waiting for this prince to save her, and then with this one, everything is so different. There’s no good and evil people. It’s like this more complex message of people having their own emotional identity and trauma.’

Menzel chimes in to agree, adding: ‘And people being allowed to be seen for what they want in this life.’

The musicals veteran certainly seems well placed to talk about misunderstood characters, having been Broadway’s Elphaba in Wicked, original villain from The Wizard of Oz, and voiced Elsa in Disney’s Frozen films, a far more complex princess than the studio’s past offerings.

The starry cast also includes Pierce Brosnan, Minnie Driver and Billy Porter (Picture: Amazon Studios)

In her role as Cinderella’s stepmother, Vivian, Menzel, 50, has injected nuance and empathy into the traditionally ‘evil’ character, making her drive far more about just pushing Cinderella to see her married, as that’s the only way she believes women can advance in life.

Addressing the balance needed for a sympathetic villain, Menzel explains: ‘I was trying to navigate that all the time, figuring out that tone and wanting to have fun with her and give people what they wanted, but also shed light on the complexities of her character and her soul and who she is, and I think that’s how we are as women.

‘I mean, our power is what’s so beautiful about us. And the one thing that we’re always so afraid of is to kind of let rip for fear that we’re going to alienate people in our lives or be too scary or too strong or too bitchy. So, I think being in a movie with so many powerful women was liberating for all of us.’


The best known character Menzel has portrayed is Frozen’s Elsa (Picture: Disney)

Both Cabello and Menzel are powerhouse singers who have released their own albums, which include songs they have co-written or written themselves. Cabello, 24, has notched up two UK number one singles and three Grammy nominations too, during a successful solo career she embarked upon after leaving girl group Fifth Harmony in 2016. Meanwhile, Menzel has a Tony award and two further nominations to her name.

However, with Cinderella, both stars also got to write songs for their respective character to sing, which are slotted in among a mix of hits from Madonna, Ed Sheeran and Janet Jackson – to name a few.

Cabello reveals how the team were keen for her to write a song for Cinderella from the get-go.

‘When I got presented with the opportunity to be in the film, they were very much like, it would be so sick if you wrote an original song. So I wrote it [Million to One] with Scott Harris in like a couple of days, which never happens! So many times, you’re striving to write a cool song and you have maybe a week or two to do it, and it maybe happens on the last couple of days – but [here] I think it just kind of happened like magic.’

Cabello hadn’t worked with songwriter and producer Harris before but ended up recruiting him for her album afterwards as they had ‘such good chemistry’.


Cinderella marks Cabello’s acting debut, seen here with Nicholas Galitzine’s Prince Robert (Picture: Amazon Studios)

Menzel pitched her and Laura Veltz’s song, Dream Girl, to the team, knowing it was in no way guaranteed to be accepted, let alone make the final cut.

‘I did ask to have an opportunity to have an original song, but I knew how these things work and many films going in where you try to lobby for that, and it doesn’t happen.’

Joking that she didn’t think Cannon would agree to use her song ‘just to be nice’, Menzel describes herself as ‘honoured’ that the song was picked, a song that Cabello praises as ‘a banger’.

Chatting about the experience of penning a song for the character you play, and tapping into their journey and emotions, Menzel continues: ‘There’s something to it, because only we know the characters the way we know them. I mean, great song writers are great because they can get in the head of the artists and understand our experiences, but there’s something about this, when you’re singing as the character.

‘It’s such an opportunity, and the day you get to shoot a song that you’re part of writing, in the film, is really a milestone.’

Cinderella is available on Amazon Prime Video from Friday September 3.


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