When I got to discuss Snow White and the Huntsman with Nick Frost the film was still in post-production and so I’d only seen some 30 minutes or so of footage, and only three minutes or so featured the dwarves. I needed him to fill me in on how the dwarves would fit into the bigger picture – and this, as it happened, went beyond just this one film.
Here’s some of what Frost told me about being a dwarf.
A Dwarf Franchise
I think the dwarves first appear in the script on page 64. I don’t think this is about us, not at this point. What did I sign up for? Two or three. I think the next one will be kind of Dwarf-heavy. It’ll be “Dweavy”. But this one isn’t about us, it’s about Snow White, her battle with the queen and the Huntsman’s treachery. We do see a lot of action though. The whole final third of the film is a push on [the queen's] castle, and the dwarves play quite a big role there.
I think you meet the dwarves at a point where the story needs some comic magic, and that’s our main job in this first one. We support and provide comedy relief. As much as the film is quite dark and gothic and is meant to be creepy, more Lord of the Rings-y than Mirror, Mirror, perhaps. I do think the dwarves are being prepped for film two.
I think they were heavily into preproduction when they started casting the dwarves. I was the last one in. From the second I got the part until shooting was only six weeks, so I was in pretty late. It’s nice to just get in, get on and do it.
Rupert Sanders [the director], apart from the rest of the dwarves, was the big factor in me saying yes, I’ll do it. He struck me as being someone who really knew what he wanted . He’d made this little ten minute short [Snow White film] off his own back and it looked fantastic. It was so nice to go somewhere and be shown something “Have a look at this, you can be a part of this, you can do whatever you want to the character.” It’s nice to start off feeling quite flattered that they would approach you.
How Rupert pitched the film to me was saying that fairytales were not for children. He wanted to get back to that and take Snow White away from the children – though I think it’s going to be a 12A – and get back to the original source material.
We spent a lot of time during rehearsals not actually reading the script but talking about our character’s villages, where they came from, what their relationships are. Were dwarves countrywide? Are there Scottish dwarves? West Country dwarves? What’s the deal with it?
I think we imagined that our race was just obliterated by the queen and what you see here is what’s left for us. Ray Winstone and I were from the same clan. We said that there was a lot of us at one point. There could have been fifty of us, and then just throughout the last seven or eight years, since this kind of “scorched earth” thing has happened, we’ve just died, been killed and swindled until we’re this batch of eight fu**ing animals, basically.
When you meet us we’ve gone from being this kind of hard working race and we’ve lost all of that. Now we’re just monsters. From the first time you see us you see what we’ve become. The battle amongst the dwarves throughout the rest of the film is “Snow White’s a bit nice, isn’t she? Shall we trust her?” Some of us want to just slit her throat and go our own way because we don’t trust tall people. We worked out that these dwarf miners see beauty in dark places, so that they can go down a mine and see seams of gold, that’s why they were so good at mining. When we see Snow White, half of us see that in her. It starts to slowly change us from how you see us at the beginning.
Becoming a Dwarf
Six hours of make-up a day, five and half hours of that prosthetics. They made me shave my head bald with a razor every day, which was terrible. We all had little people as our doubles and they had masks on of our faces.
Dwarf college was very difficult. There were weapons workshops, weapons training. We probably spent three weeks just walking around like dwarves, trying to perfect the walk. We kept that walk up all the time and we had to get a masseuse on set because so many hips and backs were going out. Shoulders would lock and it was pretty tough. I think I’m still suffering.
The fruits of this hard labour will bear fruit when Snow White and the Huntsman opens across the UK on Wednesday and the US on Friday. More from Frost later, as well as my chat with Ray Winstone, another of the dwarves.