THE TALL GUY
Will Dahl and Spielberg be a match made in heaven?
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…