Cruella is a 2021 American crime comedy film based on the character Cruella de Vil from Dodie Smith's 1956 novel The Hundred and One Dalmatians. The film is directed by Craig Gillespie with a screenplay by Dana Fox and Tony McNamara, from a story by Aline Brosh McKenna, Kelly Marcel, and Steve Zissis. It is the third live-action adaptation in the 101 Dalmatians franchise and serves as both a prequel and reboot. Emma Stone stars as the title character, with Emma Thompson, Joel Fry, Paul Walter Hauser, Emily Beecham, Kirby Howell-Baptiste, and Mark Strong in supporting roles. Set in London during the punk rock movement of the 1970s, the film revolves around Estella Miller, an aspiring fashion designer, as she explores the path that will lead her to become a notorious up and coming fashion designer known as Cruella de Vil.
Walt Disney Pictures announced the film's development in 2013, with Andrew Gunn as producer. Stone was cast in 2016 and also serves as an executive producer on the film alongside Glenn Close, who portrayed Cruella in the previous live-action adaptations, 101 Dalmatians (1996) and 102 Dalmatians (2000). Principal photography took place from August and November 2019 in England.
Cruella premiered in Los Angeles on May 18, 2021, the first major red carpet event since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and was released in the United States theatrically and simultaneously available on Disney+ with its Premier Access feature on May 28. The film received praise from critics for Gillespie's direction, the performances (particularly Stone, Thompson, and Hauser), costume design, production values, and soundtrack, but criticism for its screenplay. It has grossed over $224 million worldwide, making it the seventh highest-grossing film of 2021. A sequel is currently in development.
Estella Miller is a creative child with a talent for fashion but has a cruel streak, leading her mother Catherine to nickname her "Cruella". Additionally, she grows up alienated from her peers due to her poliosis and bold statements. Due to Estella's rebellious nature almost causing her expulsion from her school, Catherine pulls her daughter from school to keep her record clean and plans to move to London. On the way there, she stops at a party hosted by a wealthy woman to ask for financial assistance. Despite being told to stay in the car, Estella sneaks into the party with her dog Buddy and witnesses a fashion show for the first time, but unintentionally attracts the attention of the host's ferocious Dalmatians. They chase her outside, and Estella witnesses Catherine being pushed to her death off the cliff by the Dalmatians. Orphaned with Buddy and blaming herself for Catherine's death, Estella makes her way to London and befriends two street urchins named Jasper and Horace, and their Chihuahua Wink. To go unnoticed, she dyes her hair red.
Ten years later, Estella is making ends meet alongside Jasper and Horace as thieves, while honing her fashion skills by designing their disguises. For her birthday, Jasper and Horace get her a job as a cleaner at the Liberty department store. A drunken Estella remakes one of the window displays and lands a coveted job with the Baroness, who is a renowned but authoritarian haute couture designer. Estella gains the Baroness' confidence but eventually notices her boss wearing a necklace that once belonged to Catherine. After the Baroness claims an employee had previously stolen it, Estella asks Jasper and Horace to retrieve the necklace.
Estella, in order to conceal her identity, creates an alternate ego of herself under her nickname "Cruella", donning her natural hair color and wearing one of the baronesses old designs, purchased from a vintage clothing store owner named Artie, whom she has befriended. "Cruella" crashes one of the Baroness' parties to steal the necklace, but when the Baroness uses a whistle to command her Dalmatians, Estella realizes that she used the same whistle to direct her dogs to murder Catherine. Seeking revenge for her mother's death, Estella taunts the Baroness by appearing at her gatherings and upstaging her as Cruella in flamboyant outfits, designed with intention to humiliate the Baroness. Her antics gain publicity through her childhood friend Anita, a gossip columnist. Cruella's haughty and arrogant behavior increasingly angers Jasper and Horace, as well as the Baroness, who fires her lawyer Roger for failing to stop Cruella. Estella also kidnaps the Baroness' Dalmatians after one of them accidentally swallows her mother's necklace.
Estella sabotages the Baroness' spring collection show using south American moths (smuggled into the building as gold embroidery). Simultaneously, she stages her own show in Regent's Park. Having deduced that Estella and Cruella are one and the same, the Baroness has Jasper and Horace arrested and ties up Estella, leaving her to die in a fire. Estella is rescued by the Baroness' valet John, who reveals the necklace is a key to a box containing Estella's birth records. She discovers that the Baroness is her biological mother, and had ordered John to have the infant Estella killed so she could focus solely on her career and keep her late husband's inheritance. John instead gave the baby to Catherine, one of the Baroness' maids, who raised Estella in secret. Estella is angered by Catherine's deception but eventually makes peace with the truth in an effort to complete her vengeance, adopting the name Cruella for good, and telling her adopted mother how much she loved her.
Cruella breaks Jasper and Horace out of jail, recruiting them and Artie for her final scheme. They sneak into the Baroness' charity gala, where Cruella (dressed as Estella) reveals to the Baroness that she is her abandoned daughter. The Baroness pretends to show remorse for her actions and asks to hug her before pushing her over a cliff, unaware her guests had been led outside and witnessed the event. Cruella survives the fall using a parachute built into her clothing and discards her Estella disguise before returning to witness the Baroness being arrested. Having adopted the last name de Vil (inspired by her stolen Panther De Ville), Cruella inherits Hellman Hall (shortening it to Hell Hall) as its rightful biological heir.
In a mid-credits scene, Cruella delivers two Dalmatian puppies named Pongo and Perdita to Roger and Anita, respectively. Now working as a songwriter, Roger begins composing the song "Cruella de Vil".
- Emma Stone as Estella Miller / Cruella de Vil: An ambitious grifter and aspiring fashion designer, who will go on to become a notorious and dangerous obsessed criminal.
- Billie Gadsdon as 5-year-old Estella
- Tipper Seifert-Cleveland as 12-year-old Estella
- Emma Thompson as Baroness von Hellman: The narcissistic head of a prestigious London fashion house and a renowned designer who is Estella's new boss and eventual rival. She plays a key role in Estella's transformation.
- Joel Fry as Jasper Badun: A thief that grew up with Estella after her adoptive mother's death. To play Jasper, Fry didn't look back at the character's depiction in the original animated film or the 1996 live-action remake, only copying his physical mannerisms.
- Ziggy Gardner as young Jasper
- Paul Walter Hauser as Horace Badun: A thief who grew up with Estella after her adoptive mother's death and Jasper's brother. Hauser drew inspiration for the role from the performance of Bob Hoskins as Mr. Smee in Hook.
- Joseph MacDonald as young Horace
- Emily Beecham as Catherine Miller: Estella's adoptive mother, an impoverished laundrywoman and former maid at Hellman Hall. She became Estella's guardian after the Baroness abandoned her daughter to pursue a career.
- Kirby Howell-Baptiste as Anita "Tattletale" Darling: Estella's childhood friend, who is working as a gossip columnist.
- Florisa Kamara as young Anita
- Mark Strong as John: The Baroness' valet and loyal confidante in her schemes.
- John McCrea as Artie: A member of Cruella's entourage and owner of a vintage fashion shop. He is the first original character in a live-action Disney film to be openly gay.
- Kayvan Novak as Roger Dearly: A lawyer working for the Baroness, who will become Anita's husband and a songwriter after he is fired.
- Jamie Demetriou as Gerald: A clerk at Liberty who is Estella's initial boss.
- Andrew Leung as Jeffrey: The Baroness' assistant.
A live-action Cruella de Vil film, based upon the character in Disney's 101 Dalmatians franchise, was announced in 2013. Andrew Gunn was hired to produce the film, with Glenn Close (who previously played the character in the previous 1996 live-action adaptation 101 Dalmatians and its sequel 102 Dalmatians) serving as executive producer and Kelly Marcel revising the script originally written by Aline Brosh McKenna. In January 2016, Emma Stone was cast in the titular role of Cruella de Vil. Costume designer Jenny Beavan later stated that her role on the film was to help Stone appear as a younger 1970s portrayal of Close's 1990s role in 101 Dalmatians, possibly confirming the shared continuity between the films, though the characters of Roger and Anita appear as the same age as Cruella and portrayed as different races with different occupations in this film. However, Stone was not allowed to portray Cruella smoking as she had previously been since Disney had banned characters being shown smoking in its films since 2007.
In August 2016, Jez Butterworth was hired to rewrite the previous draft of the screenplay. In November 2016, it was reported that Disney had hired Alex Timbers to direct the live-action adaptation, with Marc Platt joining the film as a producer. However, in December 2018, it was revealed that Timbers had left the film due to scheduling conflicts and Craig Gillespie would instead direct the film. In May 2019, Emma Thompson joined the cast as the Baroness, described as "an antagonist to Cruella who's thought to be pivotal in her transformation to the villain we know today". Nicole Kidman was considered to be the top choice and Charlize Theron, Julianne Moore, and Demi Moore were also in consideration for the role, while Dev Patel was considered for the role of Roger Dearly. The same month, Tony McNamara and Dana Fox were hired to write the recent version of the screenplay. Joel Fry and Paul Walter Hauser were added in the following months as Jasper and Horace.
In August 2019, during the D23 Expo, it was revealed that principal photography for Cruella had already begun. The first official image from the film featuring Stone as Cruella de Vil with three adult dalmatians on a leash, Hauser as Horace and Fry as Jasper was also unveiled during the event. In September 2019, Mark Strong, Emily Beecham and Kirby Howell-Baptiste were added to the cast. Filming wrapped in November 2019.
On March 31, 2021, it was announced that Nicholas Britell was hired to compose the film's score. The score album was released on May 21, 2021, by Walt Disney Records.
A separate soundtrack album for the film was released on the same day. Both albums feature "Call Me Cruella", an original song performed by Florence and the Machine, which appears in the end credits of the film.
Theatrical and streaming
Cruella was originally scheduled to be theatrically released on December 23, 2020, but it was delayed to May 28, 2021 as filming began. The film received a PG-13 rating from the Motion Picture Association, "for some violence and thematic elements", making it the second live-action remake/spin-off of a Disney animated film to receive the rating, following Mulan. On March 23, 2021, it was announced that the film will be released simultaneously on Disney+ with Premier Access in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The film premiered at the El Capitan Theatre in Los Angeles on May 18, 2021, the first major red carpet premiere since the pandemic began.
Tickets for the theatrical screenings went on sale on May 14, 2021, and it was announced that the film would also be screened in Dolby Cinema in select territories. It was first screened for critics the same day.
A prequel novel titled Cruella: Hello, Cruel Heart was published by Disney Publishing Worldwide on April 6, 2021. Written by Maureen Johnson, the novel is set before the events of the movie, in 1967. It followed sixteen-year-old Estella and her encounter with Magda and Richard Moresby-Plum, two wealthy siblings who introduced her to the world of the rich and famous. A tie-in novelization of the film by Elizabeth Rudnick was published by Disney on April 13, 2021. A book titled Cruella's Sketchbook was also released on the same day. A manga adaptation of the movie by Hachi Ishie, titled Cruella: Black, White and Red is scheduled to be released by Viz Media on August 3, 2021.
On May 28, 2021, MAC Cosmetics launched a make-up collection inspired by the film.
On May 28, 2021, Disney+, in partnership with Social Tailors and Jeferson Araujo released an AR Effect for Cruella, where users could share stories on Instagram of themselves with makeup and visuals inspired by the new movie of the Disney character.
Cruella will be released by Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment on Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital on September 21, 2021.
According to Samba TV, the film was watched by about 686,000 American households in its debut weekend (39% behind Mulan's 1.12 million), resulting in around $20.57 million in revenue for Disney. The company also reported 83,000 UK households watched the film (resulting in $2.35 million), 15,000 in Germany, and 9,000 in Australia.
As of July 20, 2021, Cruella has grossed $83.9 million in the United States and Canada, and $140.7 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $224.5 million.
In the United States and Canada, Cruella was released alongside A Quiet Place Part II, and was projected to gross $17–23 million from 3,892 theaters in its opening weekend, and around $30 million over the four-day Memorial Day frame. The film made $7.7 million in its first day, including $1.4 million from Thursday night previews. It went on to debut to $21.5 million and a total of $26.5 million over the four days, finishing second at the box office. 61% of the tracked audience was female, with 43% being under 25 years old. In its sophomore weekend the film grossed $11 million, finishing third behind The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It and A Quiet Place Part II. The film then fell to 5th place in its third weekend, grossing $6.7 million. Deadline Hollywood wrote that despite having a running total of $71 million through five weeks, sources believed that the "Disney+ Premier PVOD tier is impacting the pic's overall revenue, not just at the box office, but in the movie's downstream ancillary revenues."
Along with its $26.5 million domestic opening the film also made $16.1 million from 29 other countries, for a global debut of $43 million. In China, Cruella debuted with a less-than-expected $1.7 million opening, finishing behind holdover F9, which earned $8.9 million.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 74% based on 373 reviews with an average rating of 6.8/10. The website's critics consensus reads "Cruella can't quite answer the question of why its title character needed an origin story, but this dazzling visual feast is awfully fun to watch whenever its leading ladies lock horns." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 59 out of 100 based on 56 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews". Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale, while PostTrak reported 84% of audience members gave it a positive score, with 63% saying they would definitely recommend it.
Writing for Variety, Peter Debruge said: "The director, who brought a wicked edge to pop-culture redux I, Tonya a few years back, has rescued Cruella from the predictability of the earlier 101 Dalmatians remakes and created a stylish new franchise of its own in which a one-time villain has been reborn as the unlikeliest of role models." A. O. Scott of The New York Times called the film "refreshing" within the Disney live-action efforts, while complimenting the film's visual style and storytelling in a Dickensian tale, as well as favorably referring the film as a PG-13 revenge take to Joker. Peter Travers, reviewing the film for ABC News, wrote: "If looks really were everything, Cruella would be flying high on the dazzling costumes that two-time Oscar winner Jenny Beavan has designed for and with two Oscar-winning Emmas–Stone and Thompson–are dressed to wow and deliver much to enjoy in this beautifully crafted fluffball and hits its stride when the two Emmas go on the diva warpath—all in the name of female empowerment." Justin Chang of Los Angeles Times remarked the movie as "dazzling fun" and lauded the performances of Stone and Thompson, of which he described the rivalry of the performances as "hard to resist on-screen", and hailed Beavan's costume design on the film as one of her best works since Mad Max: Fury Road, while drawing parallels of the film's moral ambiguities and Stone's portrayal of the titular character to her previous performance as Abigail Hill in The Favourite.
Alonso Duralde of TheWrap wrote: "Placing these characters in the '60s and '70s allows director Craig Gillespie and screenwriters Dana Fox and Tony McNamara to place the characters into an exciting moment of fashion history ... Costumer Jenny Beavan, art director Martin Foley, and production designer Fiona Crombie, and their respective departments, all seem to be enjoying and making the most of the film's period demands." In addition, Duralde also lauded the performances of Stone, Hauser, and Thompson, drawing comparisons of the characterizations of the latter's portrayal of the Baroness to Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada and Reynolds Woodcock in Phantom Thread. Chicago Sun-Times's Richard Roeper rated the film with 3/4 stars, and highlighted Gillespie's direction for being "clever" and "devilishly offbeat" while praising the performances of Stone and Thompson as "appropriately over-the-top and wildly entertaining", drawing its comparisons to The Devil Wears Prada and also commended the costumes, makeup, and the production values of which he referred to as "spectacular", "dazzling" and a "visual feast", comparing its style to Phantom Thread and noting the similarities of the vibe and tone of the film's soundtrack to Goodfellas, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Baby Driver.
K. Austin Collins of Rolling Stone rated the film with three out of five stars, praising Stone's success in embodying the titular character, and describing her performance as "vampy, stylish, and cruel" while comparing the film's style of storytelling to I, Tonya, which he noted had a similar internalized victim-like story perspective in its depiction of Tonya Harding. He pointed out that the "plausibly two-sided" depiction of Stone's Cruella relates to that of Andrea "Andy" Sachs from The Devil Wears Prada, but with a twisted spin. He also commended the supporting performances, particularly Thompson and Hauser, referring the film as "a battle of wits and knits", "entertaining", and "fun". Jamie Jirak from ComicBook.com called the film as "raising the bar when it comes to their [Disney's] live-action catalog", praising the art department, the performances and nostalgic elements. Debopriyaa Dutta from Screen Rant opined that the film told a "masterfully nuanced origin" and praised the performances of Stone and Hauser. Kate Erbland of IndieWire gave the film a "B-", and labelling the film as "exciting" and "fun" and a "colorful, loud, and unexpected look" on the origin story of Cruella De Vil while Erbland singled out the praises on the casting and the performances of Stone, Thompson, Fry, Hauser, and the costumes, but found fault at the film's runtime of which she referred it as "bloated".
The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday described the film as "tedious, transgressive, chaotic and inert". While praising the performances of Stone, Thompson, Fry, and Hauser, as well as the costumes; she criticized the film, writing, and the runtime of which she found it as "overstuffed", "overlong", and "miserably misanthropic". Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle thought the film was misbegotten and felt that it favors more on style over substance. Though he praised Thompson's performance, the costume design and the soundtrack, he criticized the film's writing as "lazy" and "careless". Matt Zoller Seitz of RogerEbert.com gave the film 2/4 stars, and said: "There's no denying that Cruella is stylish and kinetic, with a nasty edge that's unusual for a recent Disney live-action feature. But it's also exhausting, disorganized, and frustratingly inert, considering how hard it works to assure you that it's thrilling and cheeky."
Jacobin's Eileen Jones described the film as a "dopey, uninspired, and tedious mess", specifically criticizing the script as "basically rotten" and describing the transformation of Cruella's character as "the complete mangling of one of the greatest Disney villains of all time." Jones took issue with the absence of the "implied critique [...] of Cruella's wealthy entitlement and mad consumer obsession" as shown in 101 Dalmatians, and the attempt to make a "legendary dalmatian-skinning villain" into a "scrappy, likable hero." Jones complimented the film's costume design, specifically emphasizing the "trash gown" shown at the Baroness fashion show, and describing it as "sufficiently cool that costume designer Jenny Beavan may win another Oscar."
In May 2021, both Stone and Thompson stated that they would like to do a second Cruella film in the style of The Godfather Part II, serving as both a sequel and prequel. On June 4, 2021, Disney announced that a sequel is officially in the early stages of development, with Gillespie and McNamara expected to return as director and writer, respectively.