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Disney Casts Several British Thesps for ‘Maleficent’

Disney’s live-action spin-off of its animated film Sleeping Beauty has kicked casting into high gear. Oscar winner Angelina Jolie leads Maleficent as the titular villainess, which guarantees a healthy amount of anticipation, and Super 8 star Elle Fanning will play Princess Aurora, the maiden cursed upon becoming sixteen.

However, Disney’s also lining up talented British thespians in Kenneth Cranham, Lesley Manville, Miranda Richardson, Sam Riley, and Imelda Staunton for supporting roles. The film follows the same story as Disney’s own Sleeping Beauty interpretation, but accounts for the villain’s point of view and her origins.

From the casting, we can gather that there are two races: humans and fairies. Cranham will play a human king who desires to take over the kingdom of fairies. Manville and Staunton team up to play two fairies named Flittle and Knotgrass, respectively, in the magical trio that ends up caring for Princess Aurora. Two-time Oscar nominee Richardson signs on as the fairy Queen Ulla, the aunt of Maleficent who isn’t overly fond of her niece. Riley (Control) steps in as the raven Diaval, who serves Maleficent and can transform into a human.

We earlier learned that Sharlto Copley was negotiating to play King Stefan. However, an update from The Hollywood Reporter reveals that he will instead play Stefan, the bastard son of a human king and a fairy. The identity of the fairy who became pregnant with Stefan isn’t known just yet, but if you know anything about Disney’s 1959 classic, it’s not difficult to guess who that fairy might be.

Oscar-nominated actresses Richardson and Staunton both appeared in the wildly successful “Harry Potter” franchise, while Richardson also starred alongside Cranham in the humorous biopic Made in Dagenham. Manville acted with Jim Broadbent and Ruth Sheen in Mike Leigh’s ensemble comedy Another Year, while Sam Riley can be seen in Walter Salles’ upcoming adaptation of On the Road, which premieres In Competition at Cannes this month.

Oscar-winning art director Robert Stromberg takes the helm of this reinterpreted fantasy, making it his directorial debut. Maleficent is currently set for theatrical release on March 14, 2014.

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