Francesca Hayward: I tried not to take Cats criticism personally

Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor
·2-min read

Cats star Francesca Hayward has said she tried not to take criticism of the musical film personally.

The Royal Ballet star made her acting debut in the big screen adaptation of the hit West End show.

The film, which featured Taylor Swift, James Corden, Idris Elba, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Ian McKellen, was mauled by critics for its use of visual effects.

Discussing the criticism it received, Hayward told Harper’s Bazaar UK: “I’m not sure what people were expecting. It’s a musical about singing cats.

“I tried not to take it personally. I got a lot of supportive messages afterwards, and hopefully it brought some more international attention to the Royal Ballet.”

The film, directed by Tom Hooper, required Hayward to sing live in front of her co-stars, and she said: “I knew I could sing in tune, as I’d been in the church choir when I was little, but it was still terrifying, even with all the lessons in preparation.

“I had to sing live to Jennifer Hudson, right after she had just delivered Memory. Can you imagine?”

Hayward, who is a principal of the Royal Ballet and trained at the Royal Ballet School, said she hopes to be a role model to other young dancers from diverse backgrounds.

(Jesse Jenkins/Harper’s Bazaar UK)
(Jesse Jenkins/Harper’s Bazaar UK)

She said: “What I’ve realised is that it’s about representation. I’d like to bring ballet to cultures that wouldn’t think to take their children to a ballet class.

“When I receive letters from children, or from their parents, saying that I have inspired them, then I feel enormously grateful for that.”

Hayward said she has missed the “electric atmosphere” of a live performance during the pandemic, adding: “I’ve also missed being able to tell the story of a character, because that’s what I love doing.

“When I’m dancing, and I have the music and the costumes, that’s when I feel the most free.

“Something takes over and I just disappear into the moment. The longer you are off stage, the more you start to think, ‘Am I actually any good? Am I ever going to get that back?'”

(Jesse Jenkins/Harper’s Bazaar UK)
(Jesse Jenkins/Harper’s Bazaar UK)

The June issue of Harper’s Bazaar is on sale from May 5.