Tom Hooper’s movie – which boasts a star-studded cast including Dame Judi Dench, Taylor Swift and Idris Elba – is based on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s iconic musical and Hayward, who is the principal dancer for the Royal Ballet, plays Victoria the white cat.
When the trailer was released in July, fans blasted the CGI fur and questioned the scale of the cats and the elaborate sets.
Responding to the backlash, Hayward insisted the cast “felt cat-sized” when shooting the film.
She told Standard Online: “It takes time maybe, for people to wrap their heads around the whole thing. Maybe they are comments from people who haven’t seen the musical.
“If they had been on the sets themselves, [they would’ve seen] they were absolutely extraordinary. It was like a playground for us. We really did feel cat-sized compared to everything we were seeing and everything that was around us.”
“When I saw the trailer, I hadn’t seen myself with fur yet,” she continued. “We recorded in the motion capture suits and the fur was digitally added.
“It took me a while to process myself as a cat – it’s not something you see every day.”
Hayward added she did not feel overwhelmed acting alongside A-listers including Dame Judi as dancing with ballet stars including Edward Watson has helped her overcome her nerves.
“Even in the early stages of my career I’ve had to dance with principal dancers,” she said. “I could have easily freaked out and got nervous, but I think that helped when it came to trying to forget I was doing a scene with Judi Dench.
“She was just another person playing a part. But now when I look back on what I did, I can’t believe it.”
Hayward was speaking at the premiere of Romeo and Juliet: Beyond Words, held in partnership with Bottega Veneta, at the Curzon cinema in Mayfair on Monday evening.
She stars as Juliet in the film, which sees Michael Nunn and William Trevitt restage and direct Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s choreography for the silver screen.
“As soon as I heard that this film was being made it was something I was very desperate to be a part of,” she said. “Something like this has never been done before. It was just an incredible experience – when we left the set it was like we were leaving the town we made loads of memories in.”