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About The Production
She's Back!

Five years after the success of Nanny McPhee, Emma Thompson and producer Lindsay Doran have once again combined forces with Working Title Films to bring forth the next chapter in the magical and enchanting fable that has delighted children through the generations.

"We always described the premise of the first Nanny McPhee film as ‘the magical nanny versus the seven most horrible children in the history of the world,'” explains Lindsay Doran, "and I think that's what these films will always be about: badly behaved children and the magical nanny who comes to help them. The chief difference between the first film and the new one is that the first film was about a war between a parent and his children, while the new film is about a war between children and children. Nanny McPhee must teach these children five new lessons, and instruct them not only about how to get along, but about how to solve their problems in a more constructive way than fighting.”

Writer/executive producer and actress Emma Thompson adds: "In both films, there's a prevailing sense of absence. In the first film, the absence is caused by the death of Mrs. Brown who's had too many children, which was very true for that era. In the second film, it is the father's absence in a war, which was true of that era and, unfortunately, of the era we live in now.”

Thompson began creating the story for the new film while the original film was still in production, and wrote the script over the next three years. Throughout the process, Thompson tried to keep to the spirit of the original material.

The Nanny McPhee character began as Nurse Matilda, the central figure of bedtime stories in the family of Christianna Brand and her cousin, Edward Ardizzone (who illustrated the "Nurse Matilda” books). The stories were passed down over 100 years, with each generation adding to the legend of the family's ill-behaved children and the supernatural nanny who arrives to tame them.

Christianna Brand first wrote down the stories in the 1960s, and by that time they had achieved a timeless quality that Thompson has endeavored to preserve in her scripts. The story and characters may be new, but the basic attributes of a Nurse Matilda/Nanny McPhee story—her lessons, her looks that change from hideous to beautiful as the children come to love her, her magic stick, her heartbreaking need to go as soon as she's wanted instead of needed— remain the same.

Director Susanna White, making her feature film debut, came on board to bring Thompson's script to life on the screen. Producer Eric Fellner says: "Susanna's TV films and dramas are stunning, and that's what drew us to her. She brought a unique sensibility to the project and was passionate about doing it. The finished film speaks volumes for her skills and expertise.”

White recalls the moment that she received the script: "I was in Africa, where I'd been directing huge explosions all day for the American invasion of Iraq in Generation Kill. I came back in the evening, read the script and immediately felt a connection with it. I'd loved the first film, but the thing that really appealed to me in the new script was that it is the story of a working mother who isn't coping, who is desperately trying to hold her life together. I'd loved what Emma and Kirk Jones had created in the first film, which was this creature of myth—that Nanny McPhee is a magical nanny—she's scary but she's safely scary, and I felt that they created something iconic. What I wanted to do with the new film was to protect that icon and to use a contemporary shooting style and a very contemporary cast to give it a modern feel.”

White felt that her television and documentary background helped to inform the way that she worked on the film. She explains: "The big thing that a documentary background gave me was an ability to understand people in a huge variety of emotional situations, and I always use that as my touchstone. I've been there when people have been dying, when babies are born, at postmortems, at all kinds of celebrations, and I really know when something in front of the camera feels ‘real.' I wanted to create that in a fictional drama. I also wanted to use my experience with CGI on Generation Kill and take it several steps further, so I had a wonderful and inventive time with the synchronized-swimming piglets and the magical harvest, which I added to the film and which were far from real!”

Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off, Start All Over Again

The decision to make a second Nanny McPhee film necessitated the creation of an entirely new story. Doran explains: "People who haven't read the three ‘Nurse Matilda' books by Christianna Brand might assume that we based the first film on the first book and the second film on the second book. But Emma mined every bit of story and character from all three of those books to create the script for the first film, so there really wasn't anything left. She had to start from scratch.”

But what should the new story be? A decision was made early on not to show Nanny McPhee returning to the Brown family from the first film to solve a new set of problems. Says Doran: "A director friend once said to me, ‘We should only make films about the most important day in a character's life. Who cares about the second most important day in a character's life?' He was referring to sequels in which all the characters are the same, and the problems they're facing just aren't as big or as organic as they were in the original. It seemed like good advice.”

The solution was to have Nanny McPhee travel through time and space to visit a new family. Fellner comments: "She's a bit like Batman in that she has her magic powers and can operate in whatever way she deems necessary for the situation.

Says Thompson: "Nanny McPhee is ageless and timeless. Who knows how long she's been visiting families or how many families she's visited? Once we made the decision to move her through time, I knew immediately where I wanted to put her: wartime. I wanted her to visit a family in which the father was away at war, and the mother was home trying to hold everything together. New problems for the children, new problems for the parent and five new lessons for Nanny McPhee to teach.”

A decision was also made to make the war nonspecific. The period resembles the 1940s and World War II in many ways, but it is a resemblance rather than a strict adherence. Doran explains: "We wanted the war in this film to be a metaphor for all wars. And we didn't want the look of the film restricted by a slavish adherence to what was real in a certain year. So we set it in what we called the ‘sort-of '40s,' a period that has much in common with the World War II era but has a unique look all its own.”

Another interesting aspect of a story set in wartime was that it affected the kinds of characters who would populate the world of the film. In this time and place, most of the men are away fighting. The only ones left are the older men (Mr. Docherty, Farmer Macreadie), and the ones who got around enlisting either through military employment (Lord Gray's chauffeur, Blenkinsop, played by DANIEL MAYS) or cowardice and guile (Uncle Phil). That leaves a world of women and children, many of whom have had to take on roles previously held by the men who are away.

Mrs. Green and her children are entirely responsible for the upkeep of the farm, while the casino Phil frequents has been


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