Matilda opens the London Film Festival

English actress Emma Thompson poses on the red carpet as she arrives to attend the world premiere of Matilda The Musical by Roald Dahl, during the BFI London Film Festival 2022 in London on October 5, 2022. — Stock Photo AFP

Oscar-winning actress Emma Thompson hailed acclaimed children’s author Roald Dahl’s “darkness” on Wednesday, as an on-screen musical adaptation of her classic “Matilda” kicked off the London Film Festival. London.

The latest dramatization of Dahl’s 1988 novel about an extraordinary little girl with a vivid imagination and a sharp mind is based on the award-winning musical which launched in London in 2011.

The trio behind the onstage success – director Matthew Warchus, writer Dennis Kelly and composer Tim Minchin – have reunited to bring the long-awaited rebroadcast to the big and small screen via Netflix.

The streaming giant has acquired Dahl’s entire works from the late British author’s family, with new adaptations of ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ and ‘James and the Giant Peach’ also imminent.

For Thompson, who plays terrifying headmistress Agatha Trunchbull, the legendary children’s writer has been “extraordinary” at balancing fantasy with the darker realities of life.

“There’s a real darkness there and you don’t want to sugar coat it, but it can’t be too real,” she said at a press conference ahead of the premiere of ‘Matilda: the Musical. ” in the British capital.

“It has to be scary, but you have to be able to contain it and feel some kind of thrill from it…because kids see everything.”

The two-time Oscar winner said doing work for children was ‘sacred’ because ‘they have to bring out the best in us as artists’.

“Then they’ll take this as they get older, and everything useful will be taken away from them by the school,” she seemingly half-joked, before asking, “Can I say that out loud?”

Thompson, who wore prosthetics and various creative costumes to play a hulking version of Trunchbull, called it the most physically demanding role of her award-winning career.

It took six people and several hours to prepare for each day’s shoot, she said.

Like the book, the film is a celebration of childhood, creative freedom and rebellion, but this time through performances of stunningly choreographed ensemble songs made famous by stage success.

Australian comedian-songwriter Minchin has penned a new song to lift the curtain on the new film, which follows a 1996 version starring Danny DeVito.

Although at first glance a family musical, this narrative is heavy with socio-political messages as it unravels in a world plagued by cost of living fears, rising inequality and war in continental Europe. .

British actor Stephen Graham, who plays Matilda’s heartless and uncaring father, said he was initially unsure if he was suitable for the role, recalling telling Warchus he was sticking with it. to the roles of “gritty social realism“.

‘(He) said, ‘That’s gritty social realism!’

The cast is very diverse, with the newest actress in the James Bond franchise, Lashana Lynch, playing Miss Honey, Matilda’s beloved teacher and eventual guardian.

The 34-year-old black British actress told reporters the role felt like a spiritual gift after having her own inspirational teacher growing up.

“I’m grateful that we changed the movie and have a black woman playing Miss Honey,” she added.

“Because even if it doesn’t matter – it’s just a person playing it – it’s a clear message to me and my childhood that the black woman who gave me a lot of wisdom in the school did the right thing.”

Despite the A-list cast, they risk being overshadowed by 13-year-old Alisha Weir, who dazzles as Matilda.

“I was really nervous because it was my first big movie…working with these amazing people is pretty scary,” she admitted, adding that her accompanying co-stars were fantastic people and “so kind” on the set.

By playing the lead role, Weir said she was simply trying to step into her character’s shoes and show “how smart, brave and courageous she is”.

After its unveiling in London, ‘Matilda’ will hit cinemas from the end of the year before hitting the small screen via Netflix.

Now in its 66th year, the 12-day London Film Festival also features the premiere of the streaming platform’s animated version of the classic ‘Pinocchio,’ directed by Oscar winner Guillermo del Toro.

Another Netflix blockbuster “Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery” – a sequel to the 2019 edition and again starring Daniel Craig – will close on October 16.

About Bernice D. Brewer

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