The announcement of a follow-up film to Rupert Sander’s runaway success Snow White and the Huntsman was somewhat of a surprising one given the finality of the film’s ending. Further surprises came when the director charged with bringing the prequel/sequel to the screen – Frank Darabont – jumped ship just as the production was beginning to gather momentum. Yet, none of this seemed to phase producer Joe Roth who, almost seamlessly, drafted in up-and-coming French filmmaker Cedric Nicolas-Troyan to take over. Most surprising of all, the prospect of accepting the position didn’t phase him either.
“When Joe offered me The Huntsman,” Troyan recalls. “He called me up and it was a real surprise for me. He said, ‘The director that was going to do this movie had just exited and I’m asking you to do it. The movie is in pre-production and you’re shooting in 14 weeks.’ And I was like, ‘Yeah, great!’”
Cedric’s immediate acceptance of Roth’s sudden proposal was anything but ill-considered. Having worked on the film’s predecessor as both Visual Effects Supervisor and Second Unit Director, Nicolas-Troyan knew that he would feel right at home on-set.
“It was not like me stepping out naked in some kind of foreign place,” Cedric explains. “I was like, ‘You know what? If that was going to be my first experience as a director then it should be great’.”
Familiarity with the cast and crew wasn’t the only reason that the filmmaker committed to helming the multi-million dollar sequel. Having always been open to new opportunities and experiences, Nicolas-Troyan’s optimistic outlook made him the perfect candidate.
“I think there are a lot of people that think, ‘Why should I jeopardise what I have now to take on this thing when I don’t know if its gonna work’,” Cedric considers. “When I moved to the States, somebody called me and said, ‘Hey do you want to come and work in LA with us?’ I could have been like, ‘Ah you know, my career in France, I’m doing pretty good.’ But I just say, ‘Yeah, sure, great!’ And then I went there and it happened like that every time.
I always say it’s like surfing. You’re on your board and the wave is shaping up and maybe the wave is bigger than you thought it was gonna be. But if you start to think, ‘Oh, what should I do? Should I go back to the beach?’ then the wave envelops you and you’re wiping out. You have to commit to it, you have to paddle and take it on. Maybe it’s a great wave, maybe not but at least you have committed to it. Directing is a lot of that.”
There’s been quite a bit of creative surfing during the Frenchman’s varied career, which began with work as a compositor on films such as Assassin(s) and Paparazzi and lead to roles as Visual Effects Artist and then Supervisor. He’d even dabbled with short films, including the immensely entertaining and unique Carrot Vs Ninja. But while this may seem like the standard linear career progression, each step up was somewhat of a surprise.
“I’m the kind of guy who’s focused on what he’s doing at the moment when he’s doing it. I’m trying to focus on the present and not really on the future,” Nicolas-Troyan reveals. “So it’s always been somewhat of a Cinderella story, I don’t want to sound dumb and I got surprised every time but I never set up myself like, ‘Yeah, I want to be a director’. Every time I was moving up and moving on I was like, ‘Yeah, great!’ It was a way for me to embrace the next challenge and the opportunity. I think it had more to do with embracing the opportunity because all of the things that had been offered to me, it was not me saying, ‘I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna do that.’ It was more like, ‘Would you be interested to do that’ or, ‘Can you come and do that’. I think it was more a story of not shying away and saying, ‘Yeah sure, I’ll tackle that!’ And that lead me to the next and the next and the next.”
Cedric’s grounded approach to his career bled seamlessly into his attitude on set of The Hunstman: Winter’s War as a first time director.
“I think honesty and truth for me, is the most important thing. When you’re a director, for me it’s about creating a place of trust and truth with your cast,” Nicolas-Troyan explains. “The lies have to be on camera, not behind it. For me it’s just about that, creating this environment when we can all be truthful and honest and safe with each other. I listen to them and I try to figure out what’s the best way for me to be to get them to be the best that they can be. I think that comes with honesty and if I’m not being honest then I can’t ask them to be. They know its my first movie, everybody does. I’m not barking and pretending that I know everything. You’re only fooling yourself when you do that, you’re not fooling anyone else. I’ve seen director’s trying to play that card and they fail. For me it was just trying to be honest with who I was and for me it worked really amazingly because all of a sudden you have tremendous support. You get support from your cast, you get support from your crew and then you become the best version that you can be at that moment, which was my goal.”
Cedric’s open and refreshing approach has afforded the filmmaker a bright future, with a full plate of up and coming writing and directing projects including the upcoming Highlander reboot. Yet, as a self-confessed comic-book geek, there’s one project that he’d love to get his hands on if the opportunity ever presented itself.
“I’m definitely a superhero buff. The one thing that I was a big fan of that I wanted to do when I was 13 years old has been done already,” laments Nicolas-Troyan. “I was a big Wolverine fan and that’s been done three times already, so I think that’s fairly safe for me to say that.”