Last week I had an amazing opportunity. I was able to go to Los Angeles as part of Disney’s #TheBFGEvent and walk the red carpet at the world premiere as well as interview talent from the movie including the talented newcomer Ruby Barnhill (Sophie) and the spectacular director Steven Spielberg.
Steven and Ruby walked into the room with big smiles on their faces and we all immediately fell in love. It was so surreal that someone like Steven Spielberg would take time to talk to me…well my group…but still it was amazing! When they sat down at the table we had a The BFG POP! Vinyl Figure sitting there and both Mr. Spielberg and Ruby took turns looking at it. I loved seeing their faces because they, like myself, loved the The BFG toy.
After they were settled Steven looked at all of us with a happy face and said “I’m Steven and this is Ruby.” Of course we all knew who they were…but it still so cool being introduced to Steven and very nice of him to include the cute Ruby Barnhill. Steven continues “We’re happy to be here. Now, can everybody see us in the back?” After answering that we could Steven goes “Whoop”. We all laughed. Steven looked at us seriously and says “Well…when you drink too much Frobscottle, that’s what happens.” And then laughed. This got us all laughing. If you are wondering what Frobscottle is, you will find out when you watch the movie or read the book.
Looking to Ruby we said “Congratulations. The film is spectacular. You’re amazing in it. “ She is so cute and smiles and says “Thank you” in her British accent. We wanted to know a little bit more about how she got the role, so we asked “Can you give us a little background of how and why you?”
Steven answered first and told us “I kinda believe in fate and I really believe that they save the best to last. We had not found Sophie after eight months of casting. I believe that Nina Gold saw maybe a couple thousand of qualified young people, both unknowns and working young actor– actresses. And I was not giving up hope that I would find her, but I was starting to look at my third and fourth and fifth choices to accommodate people I had seen who I had liked but hadn’t reached my heart yet. And I was about to compromise when all the sudden I saw the audition that Ruby Barnhill and her parents had sent in to Nna Gold. And my whole life changed for the better in that instant. Everything was okay with the world at that point. And I was so excited.” He continued “And I was shooting Bridge of Spies, but I didn’t care at that moment about Bridge of Spies. I didn’t care that Tom Hanks saw me so excited and it wasn’t about a movie he was gonna be in.” We all burst out laughing as he continued “It was about another movie. I had already cast Mark Rylance. He was already our BFG by that time. And I came running in and I said I found her. I found her. I found her. That’s what happened.” Still laughing he turns to Ruby and asks “And then what’s your story?”
She smiles at Steven and then us and told us “When I heard that I got part, I was so, so happy. From the look on my mom and dad’s faces, I thought it was gonna be good news. They were literally like jumping up and down they were so excited. And they said, Ruby, Ruby, here’s the phone for you. Here’s the phone for you. And I was like okay. I thought they were just kind of like pretending, like they were trying to trick me or something. I didn’t know what was going on. Then Nina Gold said, ‘Ruby, how old are you?’ Steven jumps in with “You were ten at the time.” And Ruby continues “I’m ten. And she said, ‘oh, well, that’s a shame’. And I said ‘why is it a shame?’ And she said ‘because you’re not gonna be able to drink champagne when everyone’s celebrating, because you got the part’. And I was like oh my gosh. And I was so happy. My Nana bought me like 100 balloons and it was so great. I was so, so excited, because I had always wanted to be an actress since I’d watched my dad’s as an actor. I’d watched plays of his since I was like three or four. And so it was really, really amazing for me to experience that same way. And my mom and dad were also really, really pleased.”
Steven told us “I put her dad in the movie, too. The scene where BFG first enters the palace and he’s on his hands and knees crawling and there’s a guy guiding him saying slow ahead” Of course we all knew what he was talking about cause we had seen the movie the night before so we were like yeah. Steven continued quoting some of the script “– slow ahead. Okay, hard to port. All right, up, up.” Then Steven said “That’s her dad, Paul.” Then he laughed. We loved it! That is a fun bit to know about the movie, so when you go see it this weekend, you can look for him at this part. It is towards the end of the movie when they are in the Queen’s castle.
We asked Ruby “How would you sum up your experience working with Mr. Spielberg?” Ruby didn’t miss a beat! She answered “It’s so amazing, because from working with Steven, I’ve learned so much not only about acting and directing but also just general things that are helpful and useful in general life.” Steven has 7 kids of his own, so it doesn’t surprise me that he would treat her like one of his own. Ruby continued “One of the things that I’ll remember is that, and I kinda struggle with this a bit, I don’t like making mistakes. Like I had a parent’s evening recently and my art teacher was saying whenever you make a mistake you panic. Like you get worried and you mustn’t feel like that, because everybody makes mistakes and it’s fine. But Steven really helped me realize that it’s kind of more — it’s okay to kind of make mistakes, and being onset like making mistakes but like making it funny. Nobody minded at all and it was just really good. Like even if you have to do like 100 takes nobody would mind. And so that was one thing I learned and it was amazing. And I had a great time, so it was great.” Steven chimed in with “I don’t even call ‘em mistakes. I call them happy accidents because sometimes they wind up going into the movie. They just do.” I also loved hearing about this and wondered what scenes from the movie they added.
We asked Steven “How does it feel that you’re translating now to another generation?” He told us “I think of it in a way as having a very, very large extended family. And I didn’t even understand when I was first starting out making movies about the power that film has. I wasn’t really appreciative or even aware of the outreach of cinema until I was actually older. I thought Jaws was just a freak of nature, that that would never happen again.” He tells us laughing “And then when, when ET suddenly happened and lightning suddenly struck twice, I realized that cinema outlives the filmmakers. Everything becomes a part of the extended family of people from all walks of life who speak different languages and believe in different things, ’cause sometimes movies come along that make you see the same thing with the same feeling. And it doesn’t matter what languages we share or who we are and what our backgrounds are. Sometimes a feeling can be communicated all over the world without any signage. And that power that film has is something that really intimidates me and I respect it a lot.” He says laughing “but it also scares me, because it’s pretty awesome when that happens.”
“With all that said, you were still telling Dahl’s story and under the Walt Disney name, what was that like?” Steven told us “I had never made a movie under the Walt Disney name as a director before, and it just turned out that way. I don’t know why, because Disney had been in my life for a number of years, releasing some of our DreamWorks films over the last six or seven years. They don’t do it now, but when they did do it. And then the other thing was that Disney had such a profound effect on my childhood, because I was raised in the world of Walt Disney. His movies scared me to death, thrilled me to pieces, and made me laugh and made me cry, and I never cried in a movie before I saw Bambi. My parents took me to see Bambi in a reissue. And eight minutes into the movie they kill the mom, and I’m sitting here crying my eyes out, you know. But it also redeemed itself in the time span of the story. That was a powerful, powerful time in my life. And Mickey Mouse Club came on television and I was like an extended Mousketeer. I was like millions of kids who watched TV back in the ‘50s and wanted to be Mousketeers” he said laughing. “To finally make a movie that has Disney’s name on it, I’m so proud when the film begins and the castle shows up and my movie follows the castle, and that’s something I’ve been waiting for in a way all my life. Through BFG and through Roald Dahl’s genius I got the chance to do it.”
We asked Steven “so we noticed that you put a lot of detail into trying to make the giant and, and Sophie really mirror each other. Was the pigeon toe walk in various scenes of the movie, was that intentional?” Steven told us “I think Mark had known Ruby and gotten to know Ruby before we ever made the picture. They did a little audition session together for Ruby just to help Ruby get to know Mark better. And this is after she had the job, but she sat with Mark for a couple of hours on video tape. And Mark watched her and I think observed her. Mark is a fantastic observer. He observes people he doesn’t even know and I think he just is a sponge. And he doesn’t maybe remember the exact moment he takes something from someone else’s life, maybe a person walking down the street. He remembers the walk. And maybe he took something from the way Ruby walks. But I didn’t direct the walk. Mark showed up the first day of shooting and he suddenly was walking like BFG” he told us laughing. “So I have to give Mark some credit for maybe just being open, big ears — Mark has small ears” Steven said laughing “but he really hears like BFG hears in real life. And I think maybe he found something similar. That’s a good observation though.”
Looking to Ruby we said “you are a beautiful mixture of child and yet you are wise beyond your years. How do you feel about becoming a new kind of Disney hero, a princess even for a new generation?” Ruby responds with a laugh “Wow. I never thought of it that way? That’s quite cool, Disney princess maybe. It’s so exciting, because a lot of Disney films now, which I’m really happy about and I know like lots of my friends are happy about, like have very like strong female leads so it’s really great to be a part of that and it’s really cool, because I’ve watched Disney my whole life. I was in the cinema and we saw the BFG trailer and like all the kids Nobody knew it was me obviously, but all of the kids behind us were like, ‘oh, that looks so good. Oh, we’re gonna go see that.’ It’s really nice to know that people are gonna enjoy it and appreciate it. So, I’m very excited.”
Steven continues with “Disney really doesn’t get enough credit for in all of its earlier animated feature films just the virtue, the virtue of a strong, young, female protagonist was very important to Walt Disney’s films. And you just go back and look from Cinderella to Snow White from the earlier animated films. And you can even look at the strong female role model of the mother in Dumbo which is just an incredible character. And he kinda put that on the map. You know what I’m saying? To a great extent he did a lot for women and the empowerment of young females both onscreen and off.
Since the movie is so good, we wanted to know what was their favorite part of making the movie. Steven turned to Ruby and said “What was your favorite part of making the movie for you? And then I’ll say what it was for me.” Ruby told us “I think my favorite part of just making the film was kind of being able to come on set every day and see everyone. And even though I’d get a bit tired and things like that I think I also liked it, because it was really nice. I got to act every single day, which I had wanted to do my whole life. And so that was really, really great. And I also got to be with Steven and Mark every day. And it was always so exciting. There’s such a magical feeling on set. It was so much fun to be directed by Steven and to work with Mark. And it was, it was great. I really enjoyed myself.” Ruby then turns to Steven and asks while laughing “What was your favorite part?”
Steven looks at her at says “I think I have to hug you right now.” and then proceeds to give her a big hug. You could hear a collective “awwww” in the room from all of us. This was such a tender thing to witness. You could tell they have an amazing relationship and I loved being witness to it.
Steven then turns to us and continues “I think every time there was a scene where they spoke to each other and every time there was a scene where they were in conversation with each other where Sophie’s courage was growing and her empathy for BFG’s problems with his older brothers and the horrible things they were doing all over the world that Sophie said we must find a way to stop the other giants. Any time they were engaged in any kind of conversation and even disagreement or even semantics about BFG being so ashamed of his use of the Wigglish language. He speaks terrible Wigglish he said. And Sophie says, no, I think you speak beautifully. He says really? That’s the greatest thing anybody’s ever said to me in my entire life. Any time they were in kind of conversation, all those scenes were my favorite scenes.”
Ruby then said “Yeah, it’s great. It’s just great to be part of a film that has such a warming and meaningful story. It takes you a while, after you’ve watched the film, you usually don’t think too much about it, but then you think more about the story and kind of the meaning of it. Now I’ve realized more about what the actual kinda meaning of the story was, which is two people who find each other and BFG gets bullied and Sophie doesn’t have a family and she’s very alone and upset. And so, it’s really amazing to be a part of that type of story actually.” and Steven adds “It was a good message.”
We asked Steven “What made you choose BFG?” He answers us “I had read it to all my kids. That’s why I chose it, because I was very familiar with it, ’cause I am the first BFG that ever spoke those words I think at least in the world” then he starts laughing and continues “Of course, I’m not. Every parent thinks they’re the first to play BFG. It’s really great when the dad reads BFG in BFG’s voice to his daughters. I have four daughters and three sons. And I read it, all my girls heard me read BFG. A few of the boys heard me read it. So I bonded with it a long time ago back in the late ‘80s. But then when Melissa Mathison, who had written ET for me, adapted Roald Dahl’s book into a script that Cathy Kennedy was gonna produce and they showed me the script, I fell in love with all over again. And that was the first time I saw that it could be a movie then.”
Our last question was “What is one thing you want this generation to get out of this movie?” and Steven told us “I just want people to understand how important it is to both give and receive hugs. And it doesn’t matter how different the person looks or how tall they are or how short they are or what color they are or what language they speak or what their different beliefs are that we all need to hug each other and we have to hug each other more when we’re so different from each other. That’s what I hope people get from this.”
What a great interview. He is so amazing and nice and I love that he took the time to talk to us about the film and share life stories with us. Disney’s The BFG movie comes out Friday July 1, 2016! Here is the trailer if you haven’t seen it yet:
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THE BFG hits theaters everywhere on July 1st!
Today we shared our interview with Steven Spielberg and Ruby Barnhill. This week we will be sharing more interviews with the cast of the movie as well as other fun things we were able to do on the trip.
This trip is sponsored by Disney. This does not affect my opinions and they are 100% my own.