The red carpet has been rolled out.
It is a chilly Sunday morning outside The BFI Southbank in London. The stage has been set to the theme of a steam fair. The red and blue decorations mirror the uniform of the small teddy bears lining the carpet. His rain coat and wellington boots are his iconic uniform and the gathering crowd are all waiting to see him on the big screen one more. Paddington 2 will be released in cinemas on November 10th and the entire cast and crew have returned for a triumphant follow-up to the 2014 hit.
This time round Paddington and his adoptive family, the Brown’s, must help clear the poor bears name, when he is blamed for a crime he did not commit. With Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Hugh Grant and Ben Whishaw as the voice of Paddington himself.
With the tune of the Calypso band playing, the stars start arriving and making their way up the red carpet. First up for us is co-writer and cast member Simon Farnaby. Many know Farnaby from his work on Horrible Histories as well as his brilliant cameo as Barry the security guard in the original film. I have to ask what he watched as a youngster and what inspired his family friendly writing.
‘Well I did watch Paddington the TV show.’ Of course. ‘Bagpuss was a big one for me, Chorlton and the Wheelies, that was amazing.’ Despite not hitting cinemas for another week, the flood of five-star reviews means that Paddington 3 is already on the table. Would Farnaby come back for another sequel? ‘Possibly, if the public demands it. Maybe Barry the security guard will be back to.’
Next up is Ben Miller who plays a new character, The Colonel. As a grumpy neighbour in Winsor Gardens, his encounter with Paddington opens his eyes and his heart after a down period. But what was it like joining such a successful cast and crew?
‘It’s funny, I mean I’m probably a little odd as I didn’t really think about that. I just was thinking about the character I was playing and loving playing my scenes with the other actors. I think you’d go a bit mad if you started thinking about the exterior of the whole thing, you can’t do anything about that. All you can do is turn up, brush your teeth, have a shave, it’s basically all you can do.’
Despite my belief that that bear is real Heyday and StudioCanal have assured us that he is a CGI creation. What is it like working with a character that is essentially not there?
‘Well there is an actor there, so there’s two or three people on set. Actors that would wear Paddington’s clothes. They weren’t in shot but maybe they would just be Paddington’s shoulder, they would be dressed as him and you would do your lines and actually act with them. Or there would be a puppet there and someone would do the voice of reading Paddington’s lines. Or there was another actor that used to get down on his knee’s and would do Paddington’s voice, so you always had someone there. I think that’s what’s so cleaver because if you just had to imagine somebody being there, I don’t think it would work. You’d be looking in different places. It wouldn’t work.’ Finally as the potential for a sequel is more than likely what would Miller like to see for his characters if he returns in Paddington 3? ‘What would I like to see him do. Well I’d love to see him spread his wings even further, maybe even leave the street. Let’s see how that goes.’
Next up is the man whose script brought Paddington and the Brown’s to the big screen. Paul King returns as writer and director and first off I have to congratulate him on not merely matching the heights of the first film but actually surpassing it. ‘
Thank you, it’s great to hear you enjoyed it.’
The first film was in development for almost ten years yet Paul with producer David Heyman have got the sequel done in three. What inspired this film for a second outing?
‘We started out saying, last time Paddington sort of got a home and house to live in with the Brown’s but we didn’t really know much about the wider world. There was a shot at the end of the original where he is having a snowball fight with the Brown’s and I always thought, I wonder where the neighbours are. I wonder who the friends are and wanted to know more about that. So this is really a film where we send Paddington out into the wider London. The sort of big, sometime scary, sometime cynical London that is not always as friendly to talking bears as perhaps it should be. And when we started thinking about this lovely, innocent, kind creature, we started to think about Frank Capra movies. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and suddenly there could be the shape of a story there. Then a mere three years later here we are.’
King’s background is not the most conventional for a family film with credits such as The Mighty Boosh and Bunny and the Bull. Just what family entertainment did he enjoy as a youngster?
‘Paddington of course, I’m duty bound to say that, but it really is one of my first memories, watching the Ivor Wood 1970’s animation on the living room floor. My mum and dad are here today, they bare all responsibility.’
They must be so proud. ‘I hope so or disappointed, we’ll find out. We’ll find out later, they haven’t seen it yet. In two hours I’ll come and give you an update.’
They’re in for a treat. I have to ask King, as the film is dedicated to the memory of the late Michael Bond, (Paddington’s creator) he has a huge responsibility to look after his creation. Did he leave him any instructions, on how to take care of his bear? ‘Michael obviously wrote Paddington for almost sixty years, it’s his birthday next year. Nobody knew Paddington like he did, obviously and when we made the first film we showed it to him. I was too nervous, I couldn’t watch it with him at all. I had to walk round the block, pacing anxiously. Rose Allison our producer, who’s idea is was to make a Paddington film in the first place, phoned me and said he liked it. I literally doubled over. Thank God. And so that’s was wonderful. I know he got a lot of pleasure from the film and I got a lot of pleasure from him getting pleasure from it. It’s very sad that he’s not here today but I’d like to think he would have loved the film and one of the last things he said to me was I trust that you’ll do the right thing with this. I very much hope he’s smiling down on us.’
I’m sure he is. With that, I tell him the bears in good hands and wish the lovely director well.
Next up is renowned actor and gentleman Jim Broadbent. The actor plays Mr Gruber, who runs an antique shop and the actor is currently sporting the most impressive facial hair I have ever seen. While congratulating him on the brilliant sequel he reveals he has not seen it yet. I have to tell him I think it’s better than the first, and I really loved the first one. ‘Oh good to hear.’
What was it like returning for the sequel, after the success of the first film?
‘I had such a good time on the first one, it was easy to come back and coming back you know exactly how brilliant the whole thing is going to be. You know who Paddington is, you recognised him and just know it’s gonna be great fun.’
What would he like for the future of his character in the franchise?
‘Well I wouldn’t like anyone else being Mr Gruber.’
That wouldn’t happen.
‘No, I’d come straight back to play him.’
Any ideas on what would be next for him.
‘Well I think the filmmakers would come up with better ideas than I could. Their brilliant they really are.’
The man makes an excellent point before going inside for the screening.
Next up is national treasure Julie Walters. We only get a brief moment with the start who is needed inside to introduce the film. She returns to play feisty matriarch Mrs. Bird, but does she see many similarities between herself and her character?
‘She is a force to be reckoned with, but do I see any similarities, not really. I haven’t had her sort of life.’
‘Well she’s got my body but honestly I think she’s the least like me.’
With Walters whisked away the premiere goes inside. It been great to meet the cast and crew of what is surely the family film of the year. Out in cinema’s November 10th Paddington 2 has done what all sequels should do, but so few accomplished. It expands on all the things we loved about the original, with added development. The film really deserves all the hype around it.