Director Robert Stromberg Finds More In Maleficent

'There are new layers to be peeled back...'

One of the biggest reactions at this year’s Disney D23 event was the unveiling of a teaser from Maleficent, which promises a look at the Sleeping Beauty story in a way that sheds more light on its dark vision. Star Angelina Jolie and director Robert Stromberg showed up to present the footage, and he talked to Empire afterwards.

A veteran VFX supervisor/production designer (and double Oscar winner) who worked on the likes of Avatar and Alice In Wonderland, he’s made the leap to the director’s chair for this one, which also stars Juno Temple, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley and Peter Capaldi. Stromberg said that he wasn’t too nervous about the big chair: “I think I was fairly comfortable because of those other films and being around these big productions, it takes a certain amount of calmness to deal with it all. One person told me it feels like painting in a hurricane, and it's kind of true.

“Keeping the artistic spirit when there's so much going on around you," he continued. "So falling into the director's chair, my philosophy is these things are all related, whether it's composition in art or music, or dialogue, there's a rhythm to everything and it's really a matter of understanding those rhythms, when it's on and when it's off. So it was a fairly comfortable transition.”

We got a better look at Jolie in full costume in the footage, a reveal that was as rewarding to the director as it was for those just seeing the design for the first time. “It's exciting to unveil that, for the world to see, because I've been looking at it for a year knowing how great it looks. She is that character and just brings so much passion and professionalism to it.”

As for the story, he was cagey about exactly what we’ll see, but stresses the idea that this will delve deeper into Maleficent’s past and show how she became so bitter and dangerous. “I think that there are other layers to explore. I can't give away too much now, but there are elements of her we know that are alive and well and there are new layers yet to be peeled back. I can say that it is told in a different perspective, in the way that the book and musical Wicked told a familiar story from a new angle.”

Maleficent is set for release on July 2 next year.