First Cinderella Image Online

As Kenneth Branagh kicks off filming

If you were wondering about the status of Disney’s new live-action take on Cinderella, wonder no more: it just started shooting. Kenneth Branagh and his crew began cranking the cameras at Pinewood, and the first image of Lily James as the titular character has been released.

With Cate Blanchett, Richard Madden, Helena Bonham Carter, Holliday Grainger, Sophie McShera, Stellan Skarsgard, Derek Jacobi and Nonso Anozie among the cast, the new version promises a few changes to the traditional tale while keeping to the basic structure.

The script, written by Chris Weitz, follows the fortunes of young Ella (James) whose merchant father remarries following the tragic death of her mother. Keen to support her loving father, Ella welcomes her new stepmother Lady Tremaine (Blanchett) and her daughters Anastasia (Grainger) and Drisella (McShera) into the family home.

But when Ella's father suddenly and unexpectedly passes away, she finds herself at the mercy of a jealous and cruel new family. Finally relegated to nothing more than a servant girl covered in ashes, and spitefully nicknamed Cinderella, Ella could easily begin to lose hope. But despite their cruelty, Ella is determined to honour her mother's dying words and to "Have courage and be kind."

Then there is the dashing stranger (Game Of Thrones' Madden) she meets in the woods. Unaware that he is really a prince, not merely an employee at the palace, Ella feels she has met a kindred soul. It looks like her fortunes might change when the palace sends out an open invitation for all maidens to attend a ball, raising Ella's hopes of once again encountering the charming "Kit."

Alas, her stepmother forbids her to attend and callously rips apart her dress. But, as in all good fairy tales, help is at hand as a kindly beggar woman (Bonham Carter) steps forward and, armed with a pumpkin and a few mice (and presumably, given the star responsible, a hairdo like a bird's nest), changes Cinderella's life forever.

Branagh seems happy with the assignment: “It is impossible to think of Cinderella without thinking of Disney and the timeless images we’ve all grown up watching. And those classic moments are irresistible to a filmmaker.”

He’s also pleased with the cast he’s put together, which is nice. “With Lily James we have found our perfect Cinderella. She combines knockout beauty with intelligence, wit, fun and physical grace. Her Prince is being played by Richard Madden, a young actor with incredible power and charisma. He is funny, smart and sexy and a great match for Cinderella.”

Cinderella will go to the cinematic ball in 2015. A March 13, release is set for the States, but there’s no confirmed date for the UK just yet.