“There’s no redemption for these villains,” declares Jermaine Clement, the FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS’ Hiphopopotamus, spending some time throwing down some thoughts about his recent turn as “The Fleshlumpeater,” the 50 ft leader of the man-eating giants in Disney’s The BFG. At the London Hotel West Hollywood at Beverly Hills, Clement joins on-screen adversary Mark Rylance (“The Big Friendly Giant”) in a room full of pop culture writers and bloggers from the family entertainment space, all eager to discuss Steven Spielberg’s much-anticipated first film to bear the Disney mark. “The bad giants are a satire of adults and they’re very stuck in their ways and fearful of things – they’re so stupid that they’re dangerous without realizing it. There’s no reasoning with these characters because they won’t understand and they don’t care. The BFG needs Sophie to help overcome them.”
Rylance, fresh off of his Academy Award-winning performance in BRIDGE OF SPIES is incredibly modest and humble as he readies for his third Spielberg outing in a row, the 80s-centric READY PLAYER ONE (due 2018), and then jumps into a fourth collaboration in THE KIDNAPPING OF EDGARDO MORTARA (due 2017). The Shakespearean actor calmly ponders what the Clement and his fellow giants might do beyond the tale of The BFG, one in which Rylance as the title character finds himself as “the runt,” a 24′ giant in a world of 50 footers.
“[Screenwriter] Melissa Mathison [who adapted Roald Dahl’s book], who so sadly died, she did research into giants and was of the impression that at one time the giants didn’t eat kids, didn’t eat people — they actually were warriors who fought with the people, I think against the Romans. That’s the kind of mythology of it, with the Druids and Boudica, the great female warrior of England, but maybe it’s even earlier times than that. [Since then] They’ve fallen into a decadent period, so I guess the hope is that with a little bit of dietary control on [POTENTIAL SPOILER] that terrible island they’re put on, with a vegetarian diet, maybe they’ll change their habits.”
For The BFG, both Clement and Rylance found themselves in a position that they’d not been in before – performing in motion capture, their larger-than-life characters later paired with their live-action co-stars in a method that’s become so much more common in recent years.
“[Acting] has more to do with the people you’re working with, than the technology or the medium,” explains Rylance of the process. “I’ve acted in operas, in Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, in stone circles, in little church halls, and in my basement for many years. Every morning it took about an hour and a half of them sticking glow-in-the-dark marbles on us and battery packs and about 45 minutes of having dots painted on your face through a like a tight hockey mask. There was a lot of time to think and listen to music or, you know, just get yourself in a certain head space, but apart from that it’s just playful — it’s the same as ever, you just start to play like a child really.”
“While Mark was filming all the time, the bad giants — we would get to rehearse our motion capture and just walking around like big, lumbering lumps of meat,” says Clement, stating that “smashing things and intimidating people and being stupid is fun.”
While the giants might come off “stupid” at times, there’s a magical silliness at play in The BFG that comes across particularly in the “giantspeak” that can come across both lovingly childlike, and disturbingly buffoonish depending on the context. One such word that readers have enjoyed for years will no doubt soon be on the tongues of many children after The BFG hits theaters, one that exudes “total happiness” according to The Big Friendly Giant himself… whizzpopper. In fact, one whizzpoppin’ moment early on is but a small taste of what follows – a third act scene of epic whizzpoppery! Yes, we’re talking about flatulence… or simply, farts.
“Are you happy about your kids having the whizzpopper word?” Rylance asks, met by overwhelming approval. “An English mom just told me that her son went into school with a story and it included the word fart, and the teacher rejected the story and said other parents would be really offended… that fart was a swear word. I don’t think fart’s a swear word. Is whizzpopper a better word?”
“I think it is,” says Clement with a grin, undoubtedly knowing that come July 1, whizzpopper is about to have its moment, becoming a part of the global vernacular when Disney’s THE BFG arrives in theaters everywhere.