'Maleficent: Mistress of Evil' star Elle Fanning says Aurora has evolved from her 'Sleeping Beauty' roots

Stefan Pape

It seems like an old-fashioned trope now for the Disney Princess to be saved only by the kiss of a man.

In Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (in cinemas Friday) instead we have a trio of strong female lead roles that dictate their own fate and femininity. Yahoo Movies spoke to Elle Fanning, who plays Princess Aurora, to tell us how important it is that the traditional archetype is being turned on its head.

“We have three central female characters that use their power in very different ways and Aurora stays true to herself which is finding her softness and strength and femininity,” Fanning said.

“It's beautiful to see that on screen, a woman that's not afraid to be soft. Because what does a strong woman mean? What does that look like? There's these stereotypes and for us it was exciting that we got to show three very different women and show them in a very real way, so for me I'm very proud of the woman Aurora has grown up to be.”

Starring opposite Angelina Jolie (Maleficent) and Michelle Pfeiffer (Queen Ingrith) it's a film that blurs the line between good and evil, though a franchise that is, at its core, focusing in on a villain. Much like Joker and 2018’s Venom, Hollywood seems to be more and more attracted by the darker characters from within these universes.

Elle Fanning is Aurora in Disney's live-action Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. (Disney)

“It gives us opportunities to understand the psychology of someone like that, unpack what it means to be bad and in turn, society doesn't just label people as good or bad, people are way more complex than that, we have multifaceted personalities that make for interesting character studies,” said Harris Dickinson, who plays Prince Philip in the film.

Read more: Disney films with hidden adult themes

Ed Skrein however felt that we're merely taking inspiration from real world antagonists: “Our politicians in real life are more villainous in the way they conduct themselves and maybe cinema is just exploring these new villains that seem to be popping up everywhere,” he said.

Elle Fanning is Aurora, Angelina Jolie is Maleficent and Sam Riley is Diaval. (Disney)

Sam Riley – who reprises his role as Diaval – also admits that this fascination derives from the tumultuous world we're living in today.

“We're living in quite disturbing times,” he said. “I think people feel an affinity towards these characters that are misunderstood, living in the verges of society.”

The film's director Joachim Ronning also commented on films that are centred on darker characters, far removed from the typical Hollywood hero.

Joachim Rønning and Elle Fanning on the set of Disney's live-action Maleficent: Mistress of Evil. (Disney)

“They make for very interesting characters and in some sense they are a little bit wish fulfilling in that they do things that we would like to do sometimes,” he said.

Read more: Angelina Jolie says she hasn’t felt safe in years

“Maleficent is wicked and can say what she wants to say and do what she wants to do and fly around and that is something that we would all like to do every now and then, but at the same time she has a big heart and she loves Aurora and that's what makes her relatable and make for a very interesting character to have that duality in them.”

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil is released on 18 October. Watch a clip below.