Idol Chatter

Following the worldwide hit “Paddington,” one of the most successful family films of all time, much-anticipated sequel “Paddington 2” is creating plenty of buzz. We recently had a chance to talk to Hugh Bonneville about his experience making the sequel, working with Hugh Grant again and what inspires him the most about that little brown bear.

What are your thoughts on the continuation of the Paddington Story?

Delighted at the appetite for more of the big screen versions of these wonderful stories is there. I think the second installation is even more delightful than the first and, in a funny way, more in line with some of the stories from the books that Michael Bond created. I think fans of the first one will be tickled pink and fans of the books even more so.

Do you view this movie any differently after the passing of Michael Bond? How do you think his passing will influence any work you may do on Paddington 3?

It was a very poignant day; our very last day of filming was the day that Michael Bond passed away. He built this wonderful legacy of stories that will, of course, live on; but it gave us a sense of poignant responsibility to make sure that we honored his creation sensibly and properly. His daughter, who had taken on the mantle of his estate and keeping his memory was thrilled, and said that her father would have been delighted with the second film. So, we miss him hugely, because he was the head of our family really and created this great fit to the world. Luckily, it lives on.

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You’ve said in past interviews that you were a fan of Paddington as a child. Do you feel Paddington continued to stay true to the original book character in this film?

Absolutely. I always viewed them as perfect bedtime stories. Each little story is about eight or nine pages long and self-contained, but obviously contained all of the same, regular characters. Those who know the books will see a lot of little episodes popping up that they will recognize from books; particularly of Paddington doing some odd jobs. He’s trying to raise some money to buy a present, so he does some various jobs which often go catastrophically wrong. [laughs] Those are very much drawn from the stories.

How does your character of Mr. Brown develop over the two movies?

In the first movie, we saw that Mr. Brown was a very nervous parent. The over-protective dad who would see danger lurking around every corner; he thereby threatens to clip his children’s wings. It takes him a while—and through Paddington’s influence—he learns that you’ve got to let them fly.

In the second movie, rather than harping back on that, Mr. Brown has a full-blown mid-life crisis. He gets passed over for promotion. He decides he’s getting fat. He starts dying his hair. He starts doing an extreme form of yoga. He’s desperately trying to hang on to his youth. [laughs] It’s been quite fun playing all of that, as obviously I’m only twenty-two, so actually it was a stretch for me.

How do you connect and relate to Mr. Brown?

As I said, apart from the fact that I had to age up hugely to play a man in his fifties who’s having a bit of a crisis. [laughs] I think any man of my age will recognize some of the concerns that Mr. Brown has; that it’s all whizzing past him. That the younger generation are taking over. But, by the end of the story, he realizes there is life in the old dog yet; he’s quite happy in his own skin.

How did working on Paddington 2 differ from working on the first film?

I think, in a way, that it was a step up insofar as we knew how the bear worked; how the bear felt; and his relationship with the characters. So, we had a great building block. This was able—with our amazing writer and director, Paul King, and his writing partner, Simon Barnaby—they were able to really let fly now, with some of the innocent fun with Paddington, the scraps he gets into.

I think it was a case of, it ain’t breaks so don’t fix it. So, while there is a new, delicious baddie, he’s probably not quite as scary as Nicole Kidman’s character, who actually wanted to kill and stuff our hero. He’s still a meanie, but I think our younger audience will probably—or parents of children with a slightly nervous disposition—will breath a sigh of relief. While he is a meanie and a baddie, he doesn’t actually want to do harm to our hero, thank goodness.

So, I think really, it’s a bit bolder and more fun and I think actually more touching the second film.

In terms of there being any pressure on trying to improve, I don’t think that was there, because Paul just wants to tell a good story he finds amusing and engaging. I think that’s what he achieved.

What was it like working with Hugh Grant again?

Ah, it was fun. It was strange; we were sitting in rehearsals at one point and [laughs] I said, “Do you realize it’s nineteen years since we’ve been in a rehearsal room together?” We both felt very old and Mr. Brown-like at that moment. No, he’s fun and he’s absolutely delicious in this role. I think it’s one of his finest performances. He’s such a great comedian. I’ve seen the film a few times now and I just relish seeing Hugh; he’s just wonderful in it. It was great to team up again.

What inspired you most about the film and that little brown bear?

I think it’s really simple. What inspires me about Paddington is that we all recognize his plight. We’ve all been strangers in a strange place; a new school or a new town or a new country. We’ve all needed, at some point in our lives, to reach out the hand of friendship and look for the kindness of others. He finds it.

I think that is a great role model for us really; particularly in these strange times that we live in, where a little kindness can go a long way.

You can catch “Paddington 2” in theaters starting Friday, January 12th.

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