Article by Louise Jury
Hugh Bonneville talks Paddington bear and why Colin Firth was ‘incredibly gracious’ for bowing out.
From causing chaos with a lawnmower to making a mess in the bath, Paddington Bear has always got into all sorts of scrapes.
But in his new live-action incarnation he has a bigger problem than runaway soapsuds — in the form of a “very icy” villain played by Nicole Kidman.
Hugh Bonneville, who plays Mr Brown in the upcoming film version of the much-loved Michael Bond books, says Kidman is an unscrupulous taxidermist “so you know where the plot is heading”.
He added: “The jeopardy ramps up throughout the story. She is very icy. She is loveable really even though she’s evil.”
In an interview over Paddington’s favourite marmalade sandwiches, Bonneville said Ben Whishaw, who plays the bear, was perfect for the part.
He explained that Whishaw’s voice had an “innate vulnerability” that was just right: “You want to look after him.” The Downton Abbey star also praised Colin Firth, who was originally picked to voice Paddington, as “incredibly gracious” for bowing out.
Firth agreed with filmmakers in the cutting room that they should “in the nicest possible way” part company because he did not feel he was right for the part. Bonneville said: “He handled it with great dignity.”
Mr Brown and his wife, played by Sally Hawkins, take Paddington in when he arrives from darkest Peru. Their housekeeper is played by Julie Walters, who explained how the cast often found themselves performing opposite a ball on a stick because of the live-action technology which added the bear in afterwards.
But she said she was used to working in strange ways after Harry Potter: “Sometimes I wish the person was there, sometimes I think maybe it’s a good thing. There have been films I’ve been in where I’ve thought a ball on a stick would have been better.”
Other cast members include Jim Broadbent and Peter Capaldi.
Bonneville said there were lots of “thrills and spills” but the spirit of the books is preserved: “It honours the original story while embracing some of the issues of the present day.”
His colleagues suggested there was a resonance in a foreigner arriving looking for a home. “He’s a refugee almost,” Hawkins said. Walters said it was an accessible way at looking at the immigration issue. “It’s great it’s about a bear,” she said. “It’s a different way of coming at the problem.”
The film was shot at locations in London including the Natural History Museum, around St Paul’s and Paddington station itself, where a platform was closed for 90 minutes.
Paddington will be released on November 28.