Known for his roles in Giri/Haji, 2020’s Dracula mini-series, and the upcoming Sandman TV series, as well as the musical “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie,” actor John McCrea, who portrays vintage shop owner Artie in CRUELLA.
In CRUELLA, the film follows aspiring fashion designer Estella (Emma Stone) during the punk rock movement of 1970’s London as she explores the path that will ultimately lead her to become the notorious criminal known as Cruella de Vil.
For the release of Disney’s live-action CRUELLA, Nightmarish Conjurings had the chance to chat with actor John McCrea, where they discussed everything from bringing Artie’s androgynous style to life, the importance of villains, and more.
Cruella is considered one of the most notorious and hated villains. That being said, are you a fan of villainous characters?
John McCrea: I’m always a fan of the villain, always (laughs). I’ll be honest it’s not one of the movies I grew up watching. I was more of a Hercules, Lion King, sort of nineties era, but I do remember the live-action one and I remember Glenn Close. But who doesn’t love a villain, you know? Without the villain, you have no story.
Director Craig Gillespie mentioned that you brought more to the character than was originally on the page. Can you elaborate a bit more on that?
John McCrea: I think we were so lucky to work with Craig because he’s really collaborative. He really lets you just go. That was the first thing I ever did was in my audition, I got the script and then [Craig] said, “Just go, just keep going, keep going” and, at this point, I wasn’t even talking to anyone. I was just going and going and improvising. And I thought from that moment on, I hope I get that job because there would be a lot of room for collaboration, which there was.
When it came to your look and style was that something you helped collaborate on?
John McCrea: They would always show me the pieces and pause for response or reaction and it was always, “Oh, I love it so much!!” (laughs). [Jenny Beavan] is so good at her job that, I mean, she could have put me in a potato sack and I would have done it and probably would have ended up looking amazing because she’s got such an eye. I definitely remember when I first got the role, not thinking that his color palette would be what it is. He wears a lot of Browns, a lot of purples. I think when you first read or think of a character like [Artie], you assume it’s going to be a lot of garish, bright colors, maybe lots of sparkles. And I think, again, it’s just another way in which this movie completely subverts everything you always think is going to happen and something else happens.
Artie has a wonderful androgynous feel to him. He’s a character not typically seen within Disney’s previous filmography. Was that an exciting thing for you to delve into?
John McCrea: Yeah, totally. A lot of that was happening in the ’70s. It was really starting to happen, and so I think it would have been a huge missed opportunity if they hadn’t have had some character like that in a movie [set] in the seventies.
Artie works at a stunning vintage clothing store in London which is also the location of where he first meets Cruella. That said, was there an outfit of hers that you wish you could have worn instead?
John McCrea: The first thing we ever shot was the very last scene, as is usually the way for some reason. Weirdly, when you’re filming things, you always tend to do the last thing first (laughs). That coat that she wears [at the end], I mean, come on! I would have stolen that away if I could have. It’s such wonderfully, beautifully cut and so chic.
To close out this interview, you know I have to ask about the dogs. Were you able to get much play time in with the Dalmatians?
John McCrea: I wish! We try to be really respectful of the dogs and I think there’s like an unspoken rule that you’re not supposed to rile them up and they’ve always got their handlers with them. I shot one scene, I think it’s in there, and I’m in a car with these Dalmatians and I was just like, this is the best day I’ve ever had. And I kind of kept just like getting things wrong just so I can stay in the car. It was amazing.
For more on CRUELLA, check out our review here. CRUELLA will release simultaneously in theaters and on Disney+ with Premier Access for a one-time additional fee on Friday, May 28th.