Casting Iconic Characters
Production and distribution powerhouse STUDIOCANAL came on board to finance
the project after reading Paul King's script and casting began in earnest. The
cast of PADDINGTON reads as a roll-call of the finest in acting talent, spanning
film, television and theatre. Each of the principal cast are recognisable as
many an iconic character, to generations both young and old.
Hugh Bonneville (Mr. Brown) is perhaps best known as Robert Crawley, Earl of
Grantham, in the multi-award winning TV drama, "Downton Abbey". Taking on the
role of a father once again in PADDINGTON appealed to Bonneville on several
levels. "I remember having the books read to me and then reading them myself and
falling in love with them. Paddington is a part of British culture, part of our
DNA really. I read the script and saw how much of that DNA is preserved, even
though it's set in a contemporary world". He continues, "It still has the
flavour of the original books, which is so beautifully captured in Paul's
script. There's also a great deal of humour running though the story - innocent,
uproarious slapstick as well as clever wit - which will resonate with everyone,
whether you are coming to the story with fresh eyes or as an unashamedly
nostalgic parent, like myself."
As one of the first actors to come on board the project and highly aware of
the public's love of the source material, Hugh felt very strongly the need to do
justice to Bond's stories - but any initial concerns were very quickly
forgotten: "Within about five seconds of meeting Paul and David about
PADDINGTON, I was on board. I was struck by how much Paul understood Paddington
- he IS Paddington! He is as innocent, wide-eyed and as delightful as our furry
As Mrs. Brown, the wonderful Sally Hawkins, who was recently nominated for an
Academy Award for her role in Woody Allen's BLUE JASMINE, effortlessly captures
her character's good nature and inability to resist a cry for help. Being the
first to engage with the little bear all alone on the platform of Paddington
Station, Mrs Brown's family is swept along by her well-meaning actions,
regardless of the consequences. Says Rosie Alison of the casting of Sally, "What
we love about Sally is that she gives this very grounded performance. She talks
to the bear just beautifully, as if he is a living, breathing creature. One
believes in her and in turn, in Paddington."
Says Paul, "Hugh and Sally were a joy to work with. They are both
tremendously accomplished writers as well as performers. For someone like me
with a background in improvised comedy, it was hugely reassuring to know they
wouldn't feel straight-jacketed by the dialogue, and that together we could
breathe life into the characters." He continues, "Their performances are the
bedrock of the film: comic but touching, real yet existing in a world where a
talking animal can be accepted. It's a delicate balance, and they hold it
It's perhaps every child's dream to appear in a movie and newcomers Madeleine
Harris and Samuel Joslin, cast as sparring siblings Judy and Jonathan Brown,
took the experience in their stride. Through a long winter shoot in and around
London, often on location and frequently filming through the night, Maddie and
Sam more than matched the stamina of their seasoned co-stars. The strong
connection that developed quickly between the fictional family members is
evident on screen, as is the fun they clearly had working together.
Bonneville is quick to praise his young co-stars "Maddie and Sam have got
fantastic energy and real focus - they're really on the button." And he
continues, "There is that famous phrase, 'Never work with children or animals'.
Well, I can make an exception in this case."
With regards to portraying one of the most famous families in British
literary history, Bonneville adds, "We had the luxury of three weeks of
rehearsal in which Paul was determined that we should not only finesse the
script but work on the characters and explore the relationships of the Brown
family - which was invaluable. You rarely get to have that. So we had a lot of
fun, playing around with the scenes, building up a strong family dynamic, which
I hope comes across. The little ebbs and flows of family life are all there."
Rounding out the Brown household is the eccentric Mrs. Bird, played by Julie
Walters. A distant relative who lives with the Browns and runs the household as
a very tight ship, Mrs Bird is strict, but also compassionate - when she needs
to be! Worldly-wise, she thinks nothing of a walking, talking bear crossing the
threshold of 32 Windsor Garden and turning all of their lives upside down.
Julie confesses to loving the prospect of working on another film which
appeals whole-heartedly to the young - and to the young at heart. Certainly,
knowing that David Heyman would once again be behind this adaptation must have
been reassuring for Julie? "It was lovely to be asked back by David Heyman,
because I had such a wonderful time on HARRY POTTER, you know, so it's a real
thrill to work with him again - and he's a really nice bloke, apart from
Along with Mr. Gruber, played by the prolific British actor Jim Broadbent
(another HARRY POTTER alumnus) and nosey next door neighbour, Mr. Curry (Peter
Capaldi), the Browns are characters as familiar as Paddington himself to the
generations of children that have grown up with these stories. However, a 21st
century PADDINGTON required a villain that could challenge the most savvy of
young audiences. Enter stage left Millicent, the evil taxidermist.
Explains King, "Where Oliver Twist has to survive Fagin and Bill Sykes before
he can find peace with Mr Brownlow, so I wanted an opposition for Paddington,
someone who didn't respond to 'Please Look After This Bear.' It struck me that
for a young bear, the greatest opposition wasn't someone who didn't want him in
the house, or even the street, but who felt that a bear only belonged in one
place in London - the Natural History Museum!"
Nicole Kidman, who has embraced playing the deliciously evil Millicent
explains, "I grew up reading Paddington and always loving the bear and loving
the way that he has to survive on his charm." Nicole admits however that taking
on the role came with its complications: "I had to tell my daughters I wasn't
playing Paddington Bear's mummy - that I'm playing the person that's trying to,
you know, stuff the bear - which is just horrible!". She continues, "But I loved
the script so much, so that really was the driving force for me. That and the
fact I'd been looking for something that my children could come and see and we
could enjoy together."
With the cast in place, several weeks of intense rehearsals began in
September 2013 at Elstree Studios. From the outset, the desire of all involved
was to deliver a PADDINGTON to the big screen for a whole new generation of
fans, whilst remaining loyal to Bond's wonderful world.
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