Lily James, the actress who plays Lady Rose MacClare in the hit TV series “Downton Abbey,” has been signed to star in the Kenneth Branagh-directed live-action version of the fairytale, “Cinderella.” The deal was announced on Tuesday.
At one time, Emma Watson of “Harry Potter” was in talks to play Cinderella, but a deal never came to fruition. Irish actress Saoirse Ronan (“The Host”) was also reported to be a frontrunner at one point.
The actress who will play Cinderella’s wicked stepmother was also announced by Disney. She will be played an actress many will recognize: Academy Award-winner Cate Blanchett (“The Aviator”).
Sir Kenneth Branagh will direct “Cinderella.” He also directed “Thor” and “Jack Ryan” (currently in post-production).
James, 24, appeared in “Wrath of the Titans” and as sprinter Lisa in the Noel Clarke-directed athletics drama “Fast Girls” in 2012. She also played Poppy on the series “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” before she was given the recurring role of Lady Rose MacClare on “Downton Abbey.”
Disney, of course, was behind the animated original “Cinderella” from 1950. “Cinderella” is set to be released in 2014.
Disney is currently shooting “Maleficent,” which is a live-action take on the story of Sleeping Beauty, starring Angelina Jolie in the title role. That film has a 2014 release date. A live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast” is reportedly next in-line at the studio.