#TheBFGEvent Special Feature…
After tackling stage and screen (both large and small) in a career that has found her facing off against zombies in SHAUN OF THE DEAD, performing Shakespeare in HAMLET, becoming a part of the time-traveling DOCTOR WHO legacy, and recently having been a part of DOWNTON ABBEY, Dame Penelope Wilton has amassed a wealth of experience over the years, certainly giving the veteran actress some choice in finding her next role, but sometimes the decision comes without question: “If Steven Spielberg wants you to do a movie, you do it! Wouldn’t you say?” she says with a laugh, recalling the moment her agent pitched her on playing The Queen in Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG. “Yes, I would!” agrees co-star Rebecca Hall (IRON MAN 3, THE GIFT), noting that her call came with the note that “it’s not a very big part ,but he has asked specifically for you to do it.” Having loved Dahl’s 1982 book as a child, Hall signed on without even looking at a script.
Coming into the filmic version of a beloved tale of a 24′ giant (“The BFG”, played by Mark Rylance) and his human companion (young “Sophie,” played by Ruby Barnhill) facing off against 50′ man-eating giants, both Hall and Wilton took queues from the late Melissa Mathison’s screenplay for their performances, shaping their characters in a slightly more modern form that what the book may have presented. “Mary in the book is very much a maid,” notes Hall. “I mean, she’s drawn by Quentin Blake in a maid’s outfit — even with a feather duster. It’s a very different sort of character that Melissa and Steven sort of created and I think that was a conscious decision to create something of a potential mother figure for Sophie, that she’s more of a P.A. — the sort of right-hand woman, and that gives her a bit more authority I suppose. “
“I think that you can’t always do exactly what’s written, and it’s a disappointment to some people because they have made up their own minds as to how they see that person when they read the book,” explains Wilton. “Children do it with pictures in their head. I know I do, but I thought the best way to play the Queen was to try and be the Queen – our Queen as best I could. If I had made a fantasy Queen in a fantasy, they would have cancelled each other out – but if you have a real Queen in an extraordinary situation, then it’s a much more interesting story. So that’s what Rebecca and I did, we’ve played them very straight and then we were put into this extraordinary situation. It works better because then there’s a change. Something happens.”
Since seeing the film, both Wilton and Hall have zeroed-in on some favorite scenes. For Penelope it’s the way that dreams and Dream Country are presented so beautifully and vibrantly. For Rebecca, she says it’s something a little “more basic” — Whizzpopping. At the end of the day, you just can’t go wrong with a whizzpopper or two, something that it seems the entire cast would agree on.
Disney’s The BFG is in theaters in the U.S. on July 1, 2016. Get tickets now via Fandango.