The film is the latest in a series of live action Disney fantasies which began in 2010 with the enormous box office success of Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland and continued earlier this year with Sam Raimi's Oz the Great and Powerful, a prequel to 1939's The Wizard of Oz. Branagh finds his way into the director's chair following his impressive stewardship of superhero movie Thor in 2011 for Disney-owned Marvel Studios.
James, 24, picked up big-screen experience as Korrina in fantasy sequel Wrath of the Titans and as sprinter Lisa in the Noel Clarke-directed athletics drama Fast Girls last year. She will star alongside Cate Blanchett as the wicked stepmother in Cinderella. There is no word on whether the roles of the ugly sisters and Prince Charming have yet been cast. Screenwriter Aline Brosh McKenna of The Devil Wears Prada fame has written an initial draft of the script.
Harry Potter's Emma Watson was at one point in talks to play Cinderella, but a deal was never done. Irish actor Saoirse Ronan was also reported to be a frontrunner at one stage.
The current appetite for children's fantasy shows no apparent sign of letting up. Oz the Great and Powerful is the year's highest-grossing film so far, with more than $480m at the global box office. Disney is currently shooting Maleficent, a revisionist live-action take on the story of Sleeping Beauty with Angelina Jolie in the title role, for a 2014 release date. A live action version of fairytale Beauty and the Beast is reported to be next in line at the studio.
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