Will Dahl and Spiel­berg be a match made in heaven?

SFX - - The BFG - Richard Edwards

Un­til this sum­mer, the only BFG to make it to the big screen was the Rock’s Big F**king Gun in the Doom movie. In the mean­time, Roald Dahl’s fa­mous Big Friendly Gi­ant has some­how re­mained con­fined to the clas­sic novel, an in­ge­niously staged the­atre adap­ta­tion, and a 1989 car­toon adap­ta­tion from DangerMouse cre­ators Cosgrove Hall. That’s about to change cour­tesy of Steven Spiel­berg, who (per­haps sur­pris­ingly) is ven­tur­ing into the world of Roald Dahl for the first time – armed with a script from his ET screen­writer, the late Melissa Mathi­son.

It’s been a long old road bring­ing the book to the screen, with fre­quent Spiel­berg col­lab­o­ra­tors Frank Marshall and Lu­cas­film head hon­cho Kath­leen Kennedy hav­ing first started de­vel­op­ing a movie in the early ’90s – at one stage Robin Wil­liams was at­tached to star as the BFG. But the lim­i­ta­tions of film­mak­ing tech­nol­ogy at the time – how do you con­vinc­ingly place So­phie, a nor­mal 10-yearold girl, next to a 24-foot gi­ant? – meant an ex­tended stay in de­vel­op­ment hell for the gi­ant. En­ter the magic of per­for­mance cap­ture, which is be­ing used to turn Spiel­berg’s Bridge

Of Spies star (and awards-mag­net) Mark Ry­lance into the gi­ant.

“One of the most im­por­tant things for Steven was to have the ac­tors in the same space so they were re­lat­ing to each other, so Mark, as the gi­ant, was re­ally talk­ing to So­phie,” Marshall tells En­ter­tain­ment Weekly. “Even five, 10 years ago the two ac­tors would have had to be in dif­fer­ent stages to do this. That wouldn’t work very well.”

Along­side Ry­lance, new­comer Ruby Barn­hill (best known in Blighty for CBBC show 4

O’Clock Club but mak­ing her movie de­but) plays or­phan/gi­ant ab­ductee So­phie; Flight Of

The Con­chords’ Je­maine Cle­ment plays the won­der­fully named Flesh­lum­peater, leader of the child-eat­ing fac­tion of giants; and Pene­lope Wil­ton is wel­comed into roy­alty as a queen who – cre­at­ing a con­sti­tu­tional night­mare by dis­play­ing rather more power than a Bri­tish monarch usu­ally would – helps the BFG and So­phie un­leash the full might of the UK mil­i­tary to take the nasty giants down. (No UN res­o­lu­tions here...)

Ry­lance’s big-eared BFG looks re­mark­ably faith­ful to the Quentin Blake-in­spired pic­tures in our head, and it seems the story will stick sim­i­larly closely to Dahl’s novel – even down to “Gob­ble­funk”, the BFG’s unique take on English, with all its trog­gle­humpers, snoz­zcum­bers, whiz­zpop­pers and frob­scot­tle.

“We’ve kept very loyal to Dahl. It’s a very loyal in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the book,” Spiel­berg says. “The chal­lenge is go­ing to be in dif­fer­ent for­eign coun­tries, do­ing the dub, finding the equiv­a­lent word in the lexicon of Ital­ian or French or Ger­man or Span­ish, you know what I’m say­ing?”

Ruby Barn­hill’s So­phie is go­ing to have this ex­pres­sion a fair bit.

Give So­phie a big hand…

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