Lovely bunches of yellow balloons, comfy couches, tasty finger sandwiches, dainty desserts, and hot tea. Oh yes, and orange marmalade. Definitely not your typical press conference, but that is exactly what the press was greeted with at The London in Beverly Hills last week during an event for Paddington 2.
The whimsical and oh-so-British setting was the perfect one for director Paul King (Paddington, Come Fly With Me), screenwriter Simon Farnaby (Sky TV’s Yonderland, and also appears in the film), and two of the film’s stars, Bafta-winner Hugh Grant (Love Actually)and Golden Globe Nominee Hugh Bonneville (Downton Abbey), to talk about the much-anticipated Paddington 2.
Both the sequel and the original are, of course, based on the children’s book series by the late author Michael Bond, A Bear Called Paddington, about a young anthropomorphized bear looking for adventure in London. Paddington 2 already opened in the UK in November, and reaction has been overwhelmingly positive from audiences and critics alike. It opens in the US on January 12th, and American children and their parents are chomping at the bit to see their furry friend once again.
King, who directed Paddington as well, talked about the new film’s look and feel, explaining that they made the title character fit comfortably in a real setting by creating a “heightened, story-book…magical London, where a bear walking down the street feels like the most natural thing in the world and of course you hello to him.” Grant contributed that, at a recent screening, the amazingly realistic and organic look of the bear Paddington prompted the question, “Is that a real bear?” from his elderly father.
The pop-up book that features prominently in the story also reflected King’s desire to give the special effects a “homemade, low-fi” feel “to keep the storybook sensibility, so you don’t feel like you’re suddenly in Transformers 47,” something the director is very proud of having achieved.
Hugh Grant kept everyone laughing as he fielded questions about how much, or little, he was like the character he portrays; Phoenix Buchanan is described in the production notes as, “…still-suave but unbearably narcissistic…a former West End headliner whose recent paying gigs fall more along the lines of making dog food commercials and opening local fairs.” While admitting (with tongue firmly in cheek) to possessing all of Phoenix’s worst traits, Grant said that he hadn’t done a dogfood commercial yet, but that it was only a matter of time.
According to Hugh Bonneville, it was a bit easier to act with an imaginary Paddington the second time around, since they had such a visually and emotionally real point of reference from the first film. “In the second film the animators have gone even further in terms of the subtlety and nuances of character…so one knew what this three-dimensional character was. I mean, for me, he was entirely real. I forgot that he wasn’t there most of the time.”
Simon Farnaby spoke a bit about making the transition from actor in the first film to writer (and actor) in Paddington 2. “It’s quite cruel being a screenwriter sometimes. ‘We’re going to send him to prison. That’ll be hilarious.’ Let’s take the nice, sweet bear with these wonderful values of kindness and looking for the good in people and do the worst thing you can possibly do to him, rather than killing him, which is sending him to prison.”
Addressing this reporter’s question about the more diverse makeup of the cast of Paddington 2 than that of the previous film, King went into greater detail: “Well, I hope it is a reflection of the London we live in…I think it is the only city in the world where they say every language in the world is spoken. It is an incredibly diverse place and the street where we film on is that, too…I suppose there was a certain awareness that because of the source material, Paddington spends a lot of time with one family from one…particular demographic and we really wanted to send Paddington out into the world, reflect the city we know and love, celebrate the multi-faceted nature of the city.”
Paddington 2 opens in theaters nationwide today, January 12th, and is rated PG for some action and mild rude humor.
From the producers:
Reuniting many of the original film’s cast while welcoming those in new roles, “Paddington 2” stars Golden Globe nominee Hugh Bonneville (“Downton Abbey”), Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins (“Blue Jasmine”), three-time Golden Globe nominee Brendan Gleeson (“The Guard,” “Into the Storm,” “In Bruges”), Oscar nominee Julie Walters (“Billy Elliot,” “Educating Rita”), Oscar winner Jim Broadbent (“Iris”), and Oscar winner Peter Capaldi (short, “Franz Kafka’s It’s a Wonderful Life”), with Golden Globe and BAFTA Award winner Hugh Grant (“Four Weddings and a Funeral”), and BAFTA winner Ben Whishaw (“The Hollow Crown”) as the voice of Paddington. The starring ensemble also includes Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin, and Oscar nominee Imelda Staunton (“Vera Drake”) as the voice of Aunt Lucy.
Written By DaVette See
DaVette See lives in Inglewood, CA with her husband, Rob, her mother, and her seven (yikes) kitties. She has a BA in English and Theater and a Law degree. When not writing, reporting, and video editing for BGN, she operates Running Lady Studios and produces animated shorts. She was a geek before geek was chic. She loves books, plays, movies, and more than anything, she loves telling stories.