Director Steven Spielberg makes a welcome return to the family film genre with The BFG, an adaptation of Roald Dahl's classic kids book centered on the friendship between an orphan girl and a big, friendly giant. Of course, the prospect of a new Spielberg film already has fans excited, but promises of groundbreaking special effects and a magical story have only helped fuel fan anticipation for the Disney film.
We had a chance to talk with director Steven Spielberg and stars Ruby Barnhill, Mark Rylance and Penelope Wilton at a press roundtable event for The BFG, getting a behind the scenes look at the upcoming movie. Lucky for you, we're sharing everything we learned to help you get ready for the hotly-anticipated movie.
The BFG Could Not Have Been Made Five Years Ago
Needless to say, Steven Spielberg's broken a few cinematic boundaries over the course of his career. The filmmaker understands what you can bring to life on the big screen, and according to Spielberg we're only just now able to bring a story like The BFG to life:
"We could not have made the movie the way you saw the film even five years ago. We wouldn't have been able to get a virtual performance where you actually can feel the emotion from the character [The BFG]."
Not only did the team at Weta Digital transfer Mark Rylance's motion captured performance to the digital character, they brought even the most minute facial expressions and movements to the lifelike creation. The BFG may be a fantastical giant, but you'll have no trouble believing he's real.
You'll Feel Like a Kid Again
The BFG might have that classic Spielberg family film style, but it's not a rehash of old material. When asked how his newer work relates back to his '80s hits, Spielberg said:
"I think the films are a lot different from the way I was making films because I'm a lot different than I was in 1982. But the one thing that doesn't change is when I can find a good story and the story tells me what it needs as opposed to me overruling all the values of the story to somehow impose a kind of 69-year-old maturity onto a piece that needed more of a kid than an adult. A book like 'BFG' or any other movie I see that has young values can just bring the memories of what its like to be a kid back in a flash."
Spielberg didn't go out of his way to change The BFG. Instead, he stayed true to the source material to make a film that'll transport even the most cynical adult back to childhood.
Disney Movies Had a Major Impact on Steven Spielberg
Spielberg's latest also happens to be his first Disney movie. And while it's taken the director a long time to properly collaborate with the House of Mouse it should come as no surprise that Walt Disney's films had a major impact on the director:
"Disney had this incredible power to create images that were so frightening you had to turn away from the screen but then suddenly those images would turn into a beautiful kind of... moment of transcendence. And it's terrifying but when you finally vanquish the foe, you're left with the damsel in distress. And Disney would take the damsel in distress that Hollywood would make the victim and turn [her] into the proactive heroine. So Disney also had strong women in all the animated films. And I find that Disney probably influenced me in that sense. It also made me feel that it was okay to scare as long as there's light at the end of the little vignettes of darkness."
Steven Spielberg Was Challenged by The BFG
The BFG marks actor Mark Rylance's second film with Spielberg, following their collaboration on the Oscar-winning Bridge of Spies. When asked about their latest collaboration, Rylance revealed that production was a challenge for the accomplished director:
"[Spielberg] was challenged on 'BFG' by the technological frontline that he wanted to do, and he's doing it again on ['Ready Player One'] now. But I think initially I could see that even Steven, with all this experience, was quite overwhelmed in the first few days by what he as a director had to keep in his mind. For the first week or so it was technologically challenging for all of us."
Rylance's performance as the BFG is an obvious highlight in the film, and while the technology may have been daunting the final result is a perfect marriage between masterful acting and cinematic magic. We're hoping for similarly successful results with his upcoming appearance in Spielberg's Ready Player One.
The Cast and Crew Respect Roald Dahl
Actress Penelope Wilton brings a unique take to Queen Elizabeth in The BFG, playing a version of the iconic monarch that's more charming and funny than many we've seen before. That's thanks to The BFG author Roald Dahl. As Wilton said:
"This is very much Roald Dahl's queen. To play the Queen and then say what Roald Dahl makes her say is much more fun if you're an actress than interviewing a lot of prime ministers in real life."
And it was obvious that Wilton did her homework on Dahl and his work. Reflecting on the author and his impact on the adaptation, she noted:
"The thing about him is that he doesn't patronize children. They're always quite frightening, his stories. And they're very, very full of incident and character and I think he's very particular in that way."
After seeing the film and hearing Wilton's words, it's clear that the filmmakers and cast of The BFG have some major respect for Roald Dahl. Thankfully, they back it up with solid performances, mind-blowing special effects and all the magic you'd expect from a family film by Steven Spielberg.
The BFG hits theaters on July 1. Do you plan on seeing Steven Spielberg's magical trip to Giant Country? Let us know in the comments below.