Three Wishes for Cinderella: popular Czech fairy tale gets Norwegian remake

The Czech Christmas wouldn’t be complete without a dinner of fried carp and potato salad, Jan Jakub Ryba’s Christmas Mass and traditional fairy tales screened every holiday season on Czech television. Perhaps the most popular of them is Tři oříšky pro Popelku, or Three Wishes for Cinderella, made by Václav Vorlíček in 1973. A re-make of the famous fairy tale has now been released in Norway.

Three Wishes for Cinderella is set in a picturesque winter landscape, featuring songs by the famous Czech singer Karel Gott, and starring the late actress Libuše Šafránková in the lead role. Her Cinderella, a cross between a fairy tale princess and a tomboy, has charmed generations of viewers not only in the Czech Republic but also abroad, namely in Germany and Norway, where it has become something of a Christmas phenomenon.

A Norwegian production company Storm Films has now released a modern version of the traditional fairy tale, called Tre nøtter til Askepott, starring popular Norwegian singer Astrid Smeplas in the role of Cinderella.

The new version of Three Wishes for Cinderella premiered in Norway a couple of weeks ago and is due to hit cinemas in the Czech Republic the day before Christmas.

I discussed the remake with one of the producers, Frederick Howard, and I first asked him how it came to be that a 1973 Czech fairy tale became such a success in Norway:

“I think it’s first of all because it is an amazing film. It was screened in Norway during a time where we only had one TV channel.

“It was also one of the first non-American children’s films that really everybody loved because it was something different.

“There was a strong girl who was tough and dared to throw snowballs at the prince. It was also easier to recognize our own culture in the setting, than it would be in the very glamourous American Disney tales.”

Is it true that one year the viewers were really upset when the television station decided not to show it?

“Yes, there were lots of complaints in the press and letters written to the government. People were absolutely mad. I think for most Norwegians seeing Three Wishes for Cinderella on TV on Christmas Day is one of the hallmarks of Christmas. It is one of the most important events every Christmas to get together with the family and see the film.”

So that is definitely something that ties the Czech Republic with Norway, because it’s the same here.

“I think Germany, the Czech Republic and Norway are the countries that really have this tradition.”

Why did you decide to shoot a remake?

“The reason why I wanted to make it is obviously because I love the original. However, it started to get a bit dated.

“The other reason is that it is only available in the Czech language. The version that has been screened in Norway has a voiceover made by one man, who plays all the characters.¨

'Three Wishes for Cinderella' by Václav Vorlíček | Photo: © Barrandov Studio a.s./DEFA

“What we wanted to do was to modernize it while keeping the essence of the original. I believe that after 50 years we are entitled to remake a loved piece of art.

“We play Mozart again and again and we make new versions of Beatles songs once in a while, and it’s the same here. We need to make sure that the story is told in a way that seems contemporary to the new generation.”

So in what way is the new version different from the original? What are the biggest changes that you made?

“I think most of the changes are aesthetic. We also use modern language and of course it is set in different locations.

“The film is shot in Norway, which was not the original plan. We planned on shooting in the Czech Republic and Slovakia but due to Covid-19 travel restrictions, we had to move the entire production to Norway.

“That of course changed some of the aesthetics of the film, giving it a more mountain-like look. Other major change is that we have added a bit more action in the end of the film.

“We also added a new meaning to the third nut. It is supposed to be a little surprise for the audience, something they can talk about.”

So can you tell us more details about the new film?  Where exactly was it shot and who are the main protagonists?

'Tre nøtter til Askepott' | Photo: David Vu,  Storm Films

“The film was shot in Jotunheimen, which is an inland part of Norway up in the mountains. It is one of the most beautiful winter locations in Norway, close to the area where the 1994 Olympics took place.

“It was also shot in Lillehammer where they collect historical houses from all across Norway.

“Cinderella is played by Astrid Smeplass, who is Norway’s most popular pop singer. She is doing a great job in her debut as an actress and has received great reviews here in Norway for her part.

The prince is played by Cengiz Al, one of the most popular young actors in Norway these days and the entire cast around these two are Norway’s biggest stars, such as Kristofer Hivju from the Games of Thrones and Thorbjørn Harr from Vikings.”

The new film was shot with the consent of Václav Vorlíček. Did  you discuss it with him?

“Not me, personally, but my fellow producer, together with the Czech producer Pavel Berčík from Film Kolektiv, had a meeting with Mr Vorlíček to discuss the film and we then remained in touch. But it has mostly gone through Pavel Berčík, who is the Czech co-producer of the film.”

What has the reception been like so far?

“It has been absolutely amazing. This morning we got on the list of ten most seen films in Norway, so it’s a historical moment for us. We also got five stars in all the major newspapers, so the reception has been amazing.

“Of course now the film is slowing down because of the Covid restrictions. But at least we are in the top ten, which is a very good place to be.”

The film has caused some controversy here in Czechia. Allegedly,  there were two versions being made, one for foreign audiences and one for Norwegian viewers, featuring a gay kiss, that was cut from the international version…

“That is not right. Whenever we make a film, we make maybe a hundred versions while we are editing. But when we have finalised the film, there is just one version that is sold and sent everywhere.

“So this is a misunderstanding based on an early edit of the film before it was finalised. We have, together with Bonton Film and Sola Media, who are our international sales agents, issued joint statement to the press about that.”

So do you think the Czech viewers are ready to see a gay kiss in their favourite fairy tale?

“I think they should be! It is 2021 and love is free and so it should be. I also hope that Czech viewers won’t be too provoked by the fact that a Norwegian company made a remake of the story, but it was made out of love for the original version from 1973!”