Film Preview: Ice Princess

A one-line description of this new film might read: A high school bookworm pursues her dream of becoming a champion figure skater, despite her mother’s insistence that she pursue an academic career. While this may convey the general idea of the film, it leaves out the details that make this a compelling story for audiences.

So to get the story behind the tag line, I spoke with screenwriter Hadley Davis about where the idea for Ice Princess came from, and what she did to help give it life.

To begin with, Disney wanted to do a film about ice skating and developed a story about a female hockey player who becomes a figure skater. Then the studio decided to try a different approach, and brought in Davis, who had written for Dawson’s Creek and Spin City. She devised a story about an awkward but gifted physics student (Michelle Trachtenberg) who longs to become a figure skater, despite the insistence of her mother (Joan Cusack) that she pursue an academic career at Harvard.

“This is about a physics whiz who’s supposed to go to Harvard,” Davis says, “but her understanding of physics gives her skating an edge that helps her achieve her real dream.”

To illustrate her point, Davis mentions the skating pose “spread eagle,” in which a skater spins in a circle and leans back. “The farther one leans the better the spread eagle,” she says. “But Casey (the heroine) knows that the tighter her arms are to her body, the faster she’ll spin, which will help her lean even farther. So she personalizes her aptitude for physics.”

In writing the script Davis drew extensively from her own background as a dancer, as well as her childhood experience of skating on a pond near her home.

“When I was growing up, I was a ballet dancer, and there are a lot of parallels between ballet and figure skating,” she points out. “The competition between the girls, the stage parents, and the focus and mind-set one must have are similar. And when I was in fifth grade,” she continues, “I had a chance to dance with the Boston Ballet, and be on TV.  But my parents said no to that and I was quite disappointed. In fact, my parents didn’t want me to be a ballerina. They wanted me to go to college and get a good education (which she did, attending the University of Pennsylvania). But I always wondered what if I had pursued that other path?”

Another aspect of this was that her mother made her wear a helmet when she went skating.
“My mom was ahead of her time in this area,” Davis says. “She insisted that my sister and I wear helmets when we went skating, which no one else was doing then. It made me feel dorky and self-conscious, which I drew on for Casey’s character.”

As far as the message of the Ice Princess, Davis says she hopes the film will appeal to girls and their moms and that they’ll get the message that “parents’ dreams should not get tied in with their daughter’s, but should remain clear and separate for each of them.”  Girls 5 and up – and their parents – should enjoy this film, which is rated G.

– Philip Murphy

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