Following our interviews with Steven & Ruby and Mark & Jemaine for #TheBFGEvent, it was time for us to talk with Penelope Wilton (“Queen”) and Rebecca Hall (“Mary”). I was still reeling from being starstruck with Mr. Spielberg and entertained by Mark as we began the final interview.
Momerish received an all-expenses paid trip to Los Angeles to cover #TheBFGEvent. All opinions are still 100% mine!
Both of these ladies from the movie were very nice. Penelope was a bit more outspoken and comedic. Rebecca was very calm and interesting as she discussed her role in the film. The interview started with a question for both actresses, asking them to tell us how they got involved in the film.
Penelope Wilton: I got a phone call from my agent, saying Steven Spielberg wants you to do this film, “The BFG.” And I said yes. If Steven Spielberg wants you to do a movie, you do it. Wouldn’t you say?
Rebecca Hall: I had exactly the same thing. I got a call saying it’s not a very big part but he [Spielberg] has asked specifically for you to do it. I was like, I’ll do it…of course I will. Also, The BFG is a book that as a child I loved, so even before I’d read the script or knew what the part was, I was like yes, certainly I want to be a part of that.
Penelope was asked about “Downton Abbey” and if she had let everyone know she was now the Queen.
Penelope: I hadn’t started the last series, so they were very accommodating. Julian hadn’t written it all so he sort of worked around me for just over a month and that was fine.
And no, I didn’t. They weren’t too interested. In fact, they were rather envious. There was silence around the whole thing when I came back. She’s been making a film, who with? Oh, yes…”
She was certainly a lighthearted and funny lady to interview!
When asked what it was like to be a dame, Penelope stated:
Penelope: It’s rather surreal actually, to be quite honest with you. When they asked me to do it about seven weeks ago – they write to you – they sent it to the wrong address. So, then another one went out to my agent and it said priority, because obviously they hadn’t heard.
They ask you, if the Prime Minister puts your name forward to the Queen, would you accept it? So, I said I would. And then they said you must not tell anybody until it’s released which was six weeks after. And then there was a total silence, and of course then I thought, ‘I dreamt that. That didn’t happen. I made that up. I just had a dream.’
Then, a week last Saturday it came out on papers and it did actually say my name. Then I thought, ‘Oh thank God.’ I hadn’t told anyone but my daughter and my sisters. They would have been a bit disappointed as indeed I would have been.
Q: What was it like working with Ruby (Sophie)?
Penelope: Oh she’s a darling. We both loved working with her, and will Rebecca will tell you, she’s got the most wonderful sense of humor. She also takes direction very well, doesn’t she? And she concentrates and when you’re young, repetition is really boring. I mean, you do it twice and then why would you ever want to do it again? And she sort of managed it, didn’t she?
Rebecca: Yeah, she was a consummate professional. She was also brilliant at just being a person on the set, like I remember her knowing everyone’s name, the crew and like coming in in the morning and being like ‘how are you doing, Jim, all right?’
I remember her being astonishing and she just really, really made me laugh all the time. She made me do all sorts of things. She made me work out, like dance routines. She gave me a nickname because of my purple dress. I was Purple Swan for some reason. And she called Rafe something else. I can’t remember what it was. But she was wonderful and Steven worked tremendously well with her.
We also asked both ladies if they had a favorite scene from the film.
Penelope: I like the dreams, because it’s written in the book that they catch the dreams. Steven made the dreams so beautiful…and then the angry dreams, the red dreams, when they get caught in the bottle and when they go under the water then, I loved that. I thought that was a lovely sequence.
Rebecca decided that her favorite scene was when Penelope (the Queen): “had have a problem with wind”. Hint: whizzpoppers! She continues by saying: “It’s brilliant. It’s so funny.”
Penelope added: “We had fun playing that scene because Rafe had to do his “proper moment” before we did ours. We all gazed at him while he did his. The effect of how it would come in silence, then all right, Rafe, the camera is on you and then he, right, go, and he had to do whizzpopping. It’s a private moment that you don’t often see.”
Q: What is something you want people to get from this story, or from the movie? What do you want people to capture from it?
Penelope: On the very basic level, I want people to enjoy being taken to that world. It’s a wonderful story written by a great storyteller meeting a great visual storyteller, so if you get those two together, it’s a wonderful combination. Also, like all these stories, it is people learning to understand themselves and learn that you have to just believe in yourself.
And little Sophie, who doesn’t have much, meets somebody who has even less than she does and he’s 20 foot tall. They sort of work as a good team and, and both of them understand that they are outside the norm. They give each other confidence and when you have confidence in yourself you can take on the world. I think that’s the overall message of the movie, which is the message of a lot of very good childrens’ literature.
Q: Kids have read the book and kind of come up with this idea in their head of what each character is. Did that kind of play into how you chose to play those characters at all?
Rebecca: I couldn’t, because actually, Mary in the book is very much a maid. She’s drawn by Quentin Blake as sort of in a maid’s outfit, even a feather duster. So it’s a very different sort of character that Melissa Mathison and Steven sort of created. I think that was to create something of a potential mother figure for Sophie at the end and the sense that also that she’s more of a P.A.
Penelope: 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. 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, wouldn’t you say? I had the Queen’s glove maker make my gloves and the Queen’s bag maker made my bag.
Q: What makes this film special for each of you?
Penelope: I’m lucky Steven Spielberg has done great things in my life, in my career actually, so that was special. Also, this is a wonderful story, and wonderful to be part of something that I hope a whole generation of young children will remember like they did “E.T.” because it will be a stand up moment in the film. So for all those reasons and also I met and worked with Rebecca here, so that was lovely, too.
Rebecca commented the two had met when she was a child. Penelope agreed and mentioned she had worked with Rebecca’s father, Sir Peter Hall, when he ran the National Theater.
Rebecca: I’ve always admired and loved you from afar, so it was a real treat to get to work properly with you. But yes, I very much second what you said, for me personally it’s the combination of two such hugely influential people in my childhood, Roald Dahl and Steven Spielberg. As a child, the creative output of both those people really influenced me, so to have both of those together was wonderful.