[Interview] The funny story behind Jillian Bell’s ball gown in ‘GODMOTHERED’


Courtney Howard // Film Critic

If there’s one common attribute all fairy godmothers share, it’s their commanding ability to work magic elegantly dressed to the nines. Actress Jillian Bell pulls inspiration from CINDERELLA’s iconic godmother, in her aesthetics and aspirations, to play Eleanor, an eager godmother-in-training, in Disney’s GODMOTHERED. In the light-hearted comedy, her character is called upon to help a disillusioned single mother (Isla Fisher) find true love.

At the film’s recent virtual press day, Bell admitted that being a Disney character was a longtime dream of hers she was able to fulfill, accepting the part. However, she explained, she saw herself playing a fantastical figure who was more witchy, than bewitching.

“Who doesn’t grow up wanting to be a Disney princess?! I mean that’s the goal. I’d always been looking for something, some kind of a magical being to play because my goal in life was to play a witch. And this is the closest I’ve ever gotten to it. She’s got magic and spells, and is trying to make, Isla’s character’s dreams come true.”

Throughout the film, Bell barely changes out of a voluminous silk and tulle pastel pink ball gown. She adds layers on top, of course. But that tight corset never budges. She said she secretly came to love being in one costume.

“I will say that I actually really liked it. It really helps like get into character, stay in character, [and] helps the posture. There was one day where we were on a field, and it was very cold – it was 17 degrees. And I was just in the dress. I was shaking uncontrollably. But like besides that, I feel like we made it work.”

Bell has costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalfus (A SIMPLE FAVOR) to thank for those extra warmer layers.

“She definitely took care of me. She made sure that I was warm when we were shooting very cold scenes. And she made sure that I can move around a lot because most of the scenes [were] very physical.”

Jillian Bell as Eleanor in GODMOTHERED, exclusively on Disney+.

In order to figure out the look and logistics of Eleanor’s graceful and, well, not-so-graceful movements, the pair collaborated with the film’s director Sharon Maguire (BRIDGET JONES’S BABY). The hunt for the perfect design led them to a major bridal chain store.

“It was like a team effort, you know. It started with a corset. I actually went to [laughs] David’s Bridal and I tried on all different types of wedding dresses. And they were all huge ball gowns. I remember seeing other women there that were trying on dresses to be married [in]. And they were looking at me. I was in the poofiest thing falling out of the dressing room and they were all like congratulations! [laughs]”

She continued,

“That’s how we kind of found the framing for the corset and the ball gown look. It went through many different versions but we all kind of got there together and I’m so pleased when I saw the final product.”

The affable actress wistfully lamented,

“I wish I could’ve kept one because I like to keep one costume for everything I do but this was a pretty massive costume to ask for.”

GODMOTHERED will begin streaming exclusively on Disney+ on December 4.

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Courtney Howard

Courtney Howard is a LAFCA, CCA, OFCS and AWFJ member, as well as a Rotten Tomatometer-approved film critic. Her work has been published on Variety, She Knows and Awards Circuit.