I was invited by Disney on an expense-paid trip to LA last month for the premiere of FROZEN. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Photos courtesy of Disney. NOTE: There are SPOILERS near the bottom of this post. If you haven’t seen the movie yet, all discussion of spoilers will have plenty of advance warning. When you see “SPOILER ALERT BELOW”, you can quit reading.
As an actor on Broadway, Santino doesn’t get many breaks away from the stage. In fact, the week that we met Santino (the day after the Hollywood premiere of Frozen) was his vacation week from Cinderella on Broadway, where he is playing the Prince (a “very different prince,” he says).
Meet Prince Hans
Hans is a prince from a neighboring kingdom, the 13th son of the king and queen.
When asked if he sees any of himself in Hans, Santino said, “I would say in little bits and pieces….like any role, it’s kind of a match of your imagination and your experience. Other than that, Hans doesn’t have a huge sense of humor. I like to think that I have a good sense of humor. I like to keep people laughing or myself laughing, because life is too hard otherwise. So I’d say we’re pretty different. There’s not a lot that’s similar. Plus, he has red hair. Never could happen. No one would ever buy it.”
Prince Hans comes to Arendelle for the first time to join in the festivities of Elsa’s coronation and bumps into Anna, the younger princess, before the ceremonies begin. They instantly hit it off (that’s an understatement!), and in a very fairy tale-esque manner, he proposes to Anna after knowing her for a few hours. Hans is handsome, chivalrous, kind and slightly awkward…in a good way. He and Anna just “get” each other – both of them have been shut out by their older siblings.
Their love songs, “Love is An Open Door” is one of my favorites ever.
Recording Love is An Open Door:
Santino recorded his part as Hans while he was in the middle of an active Broadway show, and singing Love is An Open Door was the only thing that he and Kristen Bell (Anna) recorded together. He explains the process:
“We were doing (Cinderella) performances; rehearsals during the day, then performances at night, and then after a show one night, I got on a plane into L.A., met Kristen really for the first time. She was pregnant at the time. We sang the song for like a couple hours, got on a plane, went back and did my show.”
They sang together and then separated into different recording booths where they recorded their portions separately as well. He claims, “No, there was no dancing. There was no dancing.”
Getting into musical theater
Santino talked briefly about his childhood and how he got into acting and singing. “I forced my family to do a Thanksgiving play in our garage, and I was the turkey in pre-school. I also played baseball. I mean, I was a big baseball player. I loved baseball, um, and I always did both. I always liked bringing people together and telling a story that kind of united them. I don’t think as a preschooler I thought ah, I want to be an actor….” But acting was always just his “thing.”
On being an animated character, Santino said, “The great thing about animation is you’re not limited by anything physical or even logical. You can totally be in a place of nothing but imagination. And what’s so great about what Jenn and Chris did is they’re the ones who are responsible for the editing, which has all the logic. So my job is just to generate creative ideas, and it’s their job to make it all make sense. And that’s great, that’s great.”
Santino talked about seeing the finished movie: “The second time I saw it, which was like November 9th with a big, big crowd, that was the first time I was really able to take it all in. I’m just so proud to be part of it. I think it’s gorgeous to look at, and I think it’s so moving. I’m so moved by the sister story and by them being so alone and not finding each other. I think that’s so moving and a story that we haven’t heard before. And, and I think it’s also really funny. And it’s also like an action movie in a way. I mean, on Broadway I fight a tree giant every night, and in this I’m fighting a giant snow man. So that’s so exciting. I think it’s one of those things that you realize, I think we all realized, that we’re part of something that would be around for a very long time.”
**SPOILER ALERT BELOW**
Santino Fontana discusses the twist in Frozen
Santino knew when he was asked to play the part of Hans that there would be a twist at the end, but the story was changing and evolving for so long that he wasn’t sure exactly how that twist would come about. Interestingly, he didn’t even know the rest of the story – he was only aware of his part – until he saw the finished movie in early October with a small group of people involved in filming it.
He says that it’s still hard for him to be in a theater when people boo Hans when his true colors are revealed. It’s hard not to take it personally. It’s still fun, though, to hear the gasps in the audience when people are hit with a twist that no one saw coming. Again, he attributes the brilliance of an unexpected twist to the writers and directors and doesn’t take an credit for the surprise.
He says, “Everyone starts as an outsider, really. We don’t know where Elsa’s coming from. We don’t know where the Duke of Weselton is coming from. We don’t really know where Kristoff is coming from. You just have to do what’s in front of you, and then whatever needs to be revealed whenever it needs to be revealed is taken care of. You just have to play the scene as honestly as possible. It’s so great to be an actor and you feel like you’ve been taken care of by what’s on the page, because then you don’t have to cover things up or fix something. And if you do go back and watch, I think you would start putting pieces together, but it we did, very specifically, didn’t want anyone to know (of the betrayal) a second before it happened. You want to put the audience in the place of a protagonist, Anna, so you have to see what she sees.”
As someone who usually figures out twists in movies, I was thrilled that I didn’t see Hans’ betrayal coming at all. I simply thought that Anna and Hans would kiss and there would be no spark. I love that I was surprised. I also loved hearing the gasp of shock from the audience both times I saw the movie.
If you’ve seen Frozen, what did you think about the twist at the end?
Be sure to check out the rest of my #DisneyFrozenEvent posts (with movie review, interviews, embarrassing videos, and other behind the scenes looks at the movie).
FROZEN is in theaters NOW!
Frozen stars the voice talents of Kristen Bell, Idina Menzel, Jonathan Groff, Josh Gad, Santino Fontana, Alan Tudyk and Ciarán Hinds and is directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee with original songs by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez.
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