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Nicole Kidman and Sally Hawkins: Paddington’s Villain and Cool Mom!

Jan 12, 2015

By: Lynn Barker

For those who aren’t familiar with the stories, Paddington is a small, talking and clothes-wearing bear from darkest Peru who is sent to London hoping to be taken in by a loving family. Finally, he’s being brought to life in a new live-action film!

Paddington at the Brown homePaddington at the Brown homeCourtesy of Weinstein Co.

Except for a turn as the evil, child napping Mrs. Coulter in the 2007 film The Golden Compass based on the novel, actress Nicole Kidman often plays women in jeopardy or powerful but kind ladies in her films. Having loved the stories of Paddington bear when she was a kid, Nicole jumped at the chance to be in the current Paddington film. The fact that she plays cruel villainess Millicent out to do harm to our fave little bear upset her two pre-tween daughters a bit but they saw and loved the movie.

Nicole Kidman as the evil MillicentNicole Kidman as the evil MillicentCourtesy of Weinstein Co.

Sally Hawkins is an English actress whose parents were authors and illustrators of children’s books. You might recognize her as a lead scientist in the recent Godzilla movie. Sally gets to play the kind, eccentric and loveable Mrs. Brown who loves Paddington from the moment she lays eyes on him and campaigns to make him a part of her family.

Sally Hawkins as loveable Mrs. BrownSally Hawkins as loveable Mrs. BrownCourtesy of Weinstein Co.

Kidzworld wondered what it was like for these ladies to play their roles and, for Sally, what fun it was to act opposite Hugh Bonneville (Lord Grantham from “Downton Abbey”) as her husband Mr. Brown. Check it out!

Q: Hi, Nicole. How much fun was it for you to play the villain in the movie and did you read the Paddington books as a kid and have you read them to your two girls?

  • Nicole: This was awesome to do. I had the best time. Yeah, my kids have now read the books, but I grew up with Paddington Bear; reading the books and wanting my own little Paddington Bear. So finally, I got one.

Paddington about to cause a messy accidentPaddington about to cause a messy accidentCourtesy of Weinstein Co.

Q: What was it like really camping it up for this character?

  • Nicole: Was I camping it up, Paul?
  • Paul (Director): Well, it’s a pretty gritty, realistic portrait of a demented bear-stuffer (laughter).

Q: Was there any research for your role?

  • Nicole: I did learn to throw knives which they subsequently cut out of the film, right? I just remember (Producer) David (Heyman) going “It’s a children’s movie!” I throw one knife now. I’ll save my knife-throwing technique for another film.

Nicole Kidman on set during a breakNicole Kidman on set during a breakCourtesy of Weinstein Co.

Q: You play the villain, but you have two little kids. Were you concerned that one might say "Oh, mom, it's so scary?"

  • Nicole: Well, it was good because they were on the set. Initially they were like, "Oh, no, no, no. Please don't be the one that wants to hurt the bear." But now they understand (from being) behind-the-scenes and strangely enough now, my six-year-old really loves the villain character, which kind of worries me (laughter). She's also like, "Oh, I love the blond hair." That was her main position.
  • But it was really great because I got to watch the film with my mom, who is 74, and my four-year-old and my six-year-old and all of them were laughing at the same things. That's amazing. So I just love that I've made a film that my family can enjoy.

Mrs. Bird (Julie Walters) happily cleansMrs. Bird (Julie Walters) happily cleansCourtesy of Weinstein Co.

Q: Nicole, as an actress, how did you use your character’s distinctive “look” (blonde hair, severe outfits etc.) to create your villainess? She’s bad but she’s fun.

  • Nicole: Yeah. Well, I was lucky because they had a pretty strong vision for it when I came in and they created me. They put me upside down on these wires. I sent a photo to my family in Australia. They were like, "What are you doing? Are you in the circus?” And they always say if you have a great time making a movie, the movie isn't going to be any good. But this movie is good and we had a really good time, so that refutes that, right?

Q: Sally, can you talk about working with your great co-stars? And then about working with a tennis ball or whatever represented Paddington on set.

  • Sally: Working with Hugh (Bonneville of TV’s “Downton Abbey”) was fantastic fun. We were very lucky that we had rehearsal time before filming. I think that was key and so important to make those relationships believable and improvise around the script. (The Browns) are true and funny and their relationship you recognize.
  • Hugh just makes me laugh. He’s very funny. I loved that chemistry. You never quite know how it’s going to work so it was just a delight really. I loved that rehearsal period. It was almost like working in theater, blocking key scenes. It adds a richness. I love the cast. Working with Julie Walters (who plays Mrs. Bird, the Browns’ kindly nanny and housekeeper) (was great). She’s such a huge icon of mine, a hero. She was one of the reasons I wanted to be in this business.
  • And working with Paddington himself was quite difficult. He got a huge trailer so that was an issue (laughter). He didn’t want to come out so we got a tennis ball to play him.
  • Paul (Director): He ate most people’s lunch all the time. It wasn’t just marmalade (he ate).
  • Sally:  (Being serious) As an actor you use your imagination all the time. We’re in a world of make-believe and that’s what’s exciting, really. Working in theater you have wolves and sets that aren’t there so it’s part of the magic. I really loved it. You “see” the bear there. You have to see the bear. (NOTE: Director says they also had three actors helping. One performer was 3’6”, the size of Paddington and one actor doing Paddington’s dialogue and another actor for physical things).
  • The protagonist isn’t there (added by computer later) and it’s the key role so it’s easy to forget that he’s (supposed) to be there.

Mrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) tries to help PaddingtonMrs. Brown (Sally Hawkins) tries to help PaddingtonCourtesy of Weinstein Co.

Q: What was your most feel good moment of this film?

  • Sally:  I loved working on the bike (motorcycle) with Hugh. It was a lovely little flashback scene. Seeing Hugh with sideburns, loving and rocking it was a lovely moment for me. Also playing in the (fake) snow and seeing Nicole’s kids watching.

Q: Nicole, so your kids have seen the film?

  • Nicole: Yeah. They love it.

Q: Do they have Paddington Bears?

  • Nicole: They do.

Hugh Bonneville as Mr. BrownHugh Bonneville as Mr. BrownCourtesy of Weinstein Co.

Q: Do you still have your original?

  • Nicole: No.

Q: I had one but I lost it.

  • Nicole: Get another one!

Paddington PosterPaddington PosterCourtesy of Weinstein Co.

You can see Paddington in theaters starting January 16th!