By Oliver Lyttelton | www.oliverlyttelton.com October 27, 2011 at 3:28AM
After a long, somewhat troubled casting process, which involved cycling through most of the possible leading men in Hollywood before landing on "Thor" star Chris Hemsworth, filming on Universal's "Snow White and the Huntsman" is finally underway. And a good thing too -- thanks to a race with Relativity's "The Brothers Grimm: Snow White," the film was moved up six months to a release date next June. And despite some early misgivings (and perhaps because the rival film by Tarsem looks so garish), we're beginning to be intrigued by the project, which marks the directorial debut of commercials helmer Rupert Sanders, and stars Hemsworth, Kristen Stewart as the fairest in all the land, Charlize Theron as her wicked stepmother, and Sam Clafin as the prince.
Firstly, it was the presence of "Drive" writer Hossein Amini coming on board to give the script a rewrite. And then it was the announcement of the casting for the dwarves, with a pretty kick-ass collection of some of Britain's finest acting talent shrinking down -- namely Ian McShane, Toby Jones, Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsan, Stephen Graham, Ray Winstone and Nick Frost. And now, hi-ho! They've got one more diminutive pal joining them.
An interview with The Independent brings the news that awesome BAFTA-nominated actor Johnny Harris is on board the project "as one of the dwarves." But wait! Maths fans will realize that there are already seven actors listed as dwarves in the paragraph above. Something has to give, and a bit of digging reveals that in an interview with the Liverpool Echo, Stephen Graham, originally part of the announced line-up,revealed he had to drop out of the film due to scheduling conflicts with the currently filming HBO/BBC miniseries "Parade's End" with Benedict Cumberbatch and Rebecca Hall.
Bad news for Graham, then, but good for Harris, who's yet to be a familiar face in the U.S. After early roles in the likes of "Gangster No. 1" and "London to Brighton," the actor, a former boxer, really broke through thanks to Shane Meadows; he played Lol's abusive father Mick in last year's made for TV "This Is England '86," picking up a BAFTA nomination for his trouble and it's been the making of him. He gave a brilliant performance in Jack Thorne's excellent supernatural drama series "The Fades" (and we have to insist that U.K. viewers who haven't yet seen the show catch up with it here), and he joins James McAvoy and Mark Strong in the eagerly anticipated crime thriller "Welcome to the Punch" next year.
Harris takes over from Graham as Nero, the angriest of the dwarves (who've been reimagined as a Magnificent Seven-style group of warriors), with McShane as leader Caesar, Frost as big bruiser Tiberius, Hoskins as the old, blind Constantine, Jones as timid Claudius, and Marsan and Winstone as twins Hadrian and Trajan. With that collection of talent, we're tempted to see the film just to encourage Universal to greenlight a dwarf-centric spin-off, rather than the planned trilogy. "Snow White and the Huntsman" hits theaters on June 1st, 2012.