When Snow White and the Huntsman opened in theaters in June of 2012, the biggest issues confronting the fairy tale reboot were its mixed reviews and the fact that another Snow White-inspired film, Mirror, Mirror, had just been released two months’ before. Despite both concerns, the two-hour excuse for a Charlize Theron milk bath performed well enough at the box office that, within days of its release, Deadline reported that Universal was fast-tracking a sequel.
Then, a few weeks later, everything changed. A fling between Snow White star Kristen Stewart and the film’s director, Rupert Sanders, became a massive celebrity news story, causing a chain reaction that would alter those sequel plans, eventually resulting in The Huntsman: Winter’s War, a prequel to the first movie in which neither Stewart nor Sanders were involved.
With that prequel opening in theaters Friday, nearly four years after the pseudo-scandal, let’s go back in time and remember how a few revealing paparazzi photos put Snow White 2 on a path toward becoming The Huntsman: Winter’s War.
June 3, 2012: Snow White and the Huntsman opens at No. 1 at the box office, earning $56.3 million in North America. That’s not an extraordinary take, but more than Universal initially projected.
Watch the ‘Snow White’ trailer:
June 7, 2012: Deadline reports that Universal is moving full-speed ahead with a previously hinted-at sequel. David Koepp (2002′s Spider-Man, Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull) is reportedly tasked with writing the screenplay, while discussions are underway for Sanders to return as director.
July 24, 2012: Paparazzi photos of Sanders and Stewart kissing, both inside and outside of a parked car, are published by Us Weekly. The pictures aren’t explicit, but Sanders is married with kids, and Stewart is still romantically linked to her Twilight co-star Robert Pattinson, so celebrity news sites and gossip blogs are all over it.
Aug. 14, 2012: A story in The Hollywood Reporter says that Universal is retooling the Snow White sequel, minus Stewart, and turning it into a spinoff that focuses more on Hemsworth’s character. Koepp also exits the project. The next day, Universal issues a statement denying that Stewart has been dropped from the project.
April 2013: The following spring at CinemaCon, Universal confirms that Snow White and the Huntsman 2 is slated for a 2015 release, with Stewart still in the picture. By then, however, Sanders is officially off the project.
June 2014: Frank Darabont of The Shawshank Redemption and Walking Dead fame enters the picture as a potential director for what’s now being called The Huntsman, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Snow White stars Hemsworth and Charlize Theron are attached to return. But this time, it seems Stewart — by this time broken up with Pattinson — is out of the picture for good.
January 2015: Darabont’s out, but quickly replaced by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, the visual effects supervisor on Snow White and the Huntsman who’s making his feature directing debut on the new movie.
February 2015: Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt join the cast of The Huntsman.
November 2015: The movie’s name is officially changed to The Huntsman: Winter’s War and its release date is confirmed for April 22, 2016.
Week of April 22, 2016: Winter’s War is about to open in theaters. Reviews, so far, are more negative than the ones for Snow White and the Huntsman were. Meanwhile, the careers of both Stewart and Sanders are still in decent shape. After her very well-received work in Clouds of Sils Maria, she’ll soon be seen onscreen in both Equals and the Ang Lee-directed Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. Sanders, divorced from wife Liberty Ross since 2014, is currently shooting the adaptation of Ghost in the Shell starring Scarlett Johansson. It’s not due out until next year but already has been the subject of some whitewashing controversy over Johansson’s casting as a woman that, in the manga that inspired the film, is Japanese.