After their postmodern live-action remakes of 'Alice in Wonderland' and 'Sleeping Beauty' (as 'Maleficent'), Disney has taken a much more traditional approach to the diamond in the crown, 'Cinderella'. This includes hiring an actress who looks like a princess.

Lily James and Richard Madden in 'Cinderella'
Lily James and Richard Madden in 'Cinderella'

Best known as 'Downton Abbey''s rebellious young Lady Rose, 25-year-old English actress Lily James is still thrilled to have played such an iconic role. "The first Disney movie I saw I think was 'Snow White'. I loved all the Disney princess movies," she said. "I was completely infatuated with all of them. I had the little slippers and would parade around the house before my brothers sort of beat me up and shattered my dreams of being a princess!"

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So when she auditioned for 'Cinderella', she went in for one of the sisters. "Then the casting director said I should read for 'Cinderella' too," said James, who after a long process of screen tests found out she won the lead role while she was on-set at 'Downton'. "Hugh Bonneville announced it round the dining room table," she laughed. "It was so euphoric and lovely, one of those moments you'll remember."

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She thoroughly enjoyed shooting the film, including the horse-riding. "Once I got the part, Ken [Branagh, the director] asked if I could ride because he had this idea that she should be on a horse a lot. It actually ended up unlocking a lot of her character, because it gave her a strength and womanliness."

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Now watching the movie is like a dream come true. "Every girl wants to be a princess, but the reality of playing a Disney one is, 'Oh my God!'" she enthused. "Actually, I like being in rags rather than ball gowns. But it's also an honour to bring real life to the fairy-tale."

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