What kind of adult does a kid become after surviving a trip to a cannibalistic witch’s gingerbread house?
That’s the premise of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters* (out March 2), which uses the centuries-old German folktale as a preamble to a larger story of vengeance and the bonds between siblings — particularly abused ones.
Next Thursday, look for a trailer from the Paramount film. But for now, we see a first look at Jeremy Renner’s Hansel and Gemma Arterton’s Gretel, all grown up. (Click the picture for a larger view.)
Though older, they’re still prowling the woods for little old ladies who like to devour wayward children. Arterton discussed the approach of the movie, directed by Tommy Wirkola (the Nazi zombie saga Dead Snow), and how it’s as much Pulp Fiction as fairytale…
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How does this movie incorporate the original Brothers Grimm tale? Is that story kind of a prologue?
GEMMA ARTERON: Yes, it continues it. You see a series of flashbacks with their experience of killing that first witch, which is brilliant. I remember being on set for the final few days of that. The candy house, and the witches are really repulsive and quite frightening. The makeup is out of this world. It’s this bone-chilling scene. Very dark. The girl who plays my character is brilliant, with the horrified expression she has.
Folktales like this have been told over and over again, changing every time. What’s the constant that your movie picks up?
They resonate with your fears, that’s how these fairy tales worked. They scared you into behaving. This one in particular is about abandonment and being lost and parents leaving you. The heart of it is that these kids grow up to be bloodthirsty witch hunters. It’s a bit tongue-in-cheek, really. What would Hansel and Gretel be in 15 years time?
Though it’s comedic, deep down it’s about abused kids becoming kind of hyper-responsible?
But it’s also very, very dark, and bloodthirsty and there’s a lot of cursing. It’s kind of got a [Quentin] Tarantino feel, really.
Interesting. So instead of Jules and Vincent, we have Hansel and Gretel. And beyond being killers, they’re siblings who feel they need to protect each other?
We spent a lot of time thinking about that and behaving like brother and sister, making it detailed so it wasn’t just two actors kicking butt, really. That would get boring. In our minds, these are two people who grew up with no parents and they only have each other and the bond they have, and with the complexities of that, some resentment.
They would be pretty messed up, come to think of it. After nearly being eaten …
They had to murder somebody when they are kids! So it’s all about being tough. Jeremy and I found within the script moments where we showed the vulnerable side of them. Often in action movies, people are scared to put that in. I think it was important. Just a couple moments, tender moments, when the guard drops, then you understand.
What differentiates the brother and sister?
Gretel is much more in tune with her spiritual side. Hansel is a typical action hero, cheeky, funny, a womanizer. She’s much more of a thinker, intense, internal and bit more open-minded than he is.
Renner says his Hansel is like Han Solo. Is Gretel a tough wisecracker, too? Or is she Chewbacca?
Even though Gretel is very tough and can handle herself, she’s still a girl. [Laughs.] She’s got feminine ways.
(*Reporter’s Note: The studio says the title is Hansel & Gretel Witch Hunters, with no colon. I can’t bring myself to write it that way.)
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