film Manhattan

Goodbye Christopher Robin Q & A with Director Simon Curtis

I was invited to a special media screening of Goodbye Christopher Robin at the Fox Screening Room in Manhattan.  The film gives a rare glimpse into the relationship between beloved children’s author A. A. Milne (Domhnall Gleeson) and his son Christopher Robin (Will Tilston), whose toys inspired the magical world of Winnie-the-Pooh.

Goodbye Christopher Robin – At select theaters in NYC on October 13th.

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The opening scenes of the film take place after the First World War.  A.A. Milne, known as “Blue”, an established playwright prior to the war, struggles with returning to a postwar normal life.  Blue convinces his socialite wife Daphne (Margot Robbie) that having a family would make them happier.  After a difficult birth, they welcome Christopher Robin, known as Billy Moon, into their lives.  The young family moves out of London to rural Sussex for some peace and so that Blue can write.

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Olive, the nanny (Kelly MacDonald) is hired to take care of Billy and is closer to the young boy than his parents.  When Daphne leaves for a few days out to push Blue into writing and Nanny has to go away for family matters, Blue is left alone with young Billy.  The two are forced to connect with each other and the magic of Winnie the Pooh and Chistopher Robin begins.

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Daphne, Nanny Olive, Christopher Robin, and his family are swept up in the international success of the books; the enchanting tales bringing hope and comfort to England after the First World War.   But with the eyes of the world on Christopher Robin, what will the cost be to the family?

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Will Tilston, Domhnall Gleeson and Margot Robbie in the film GOODBYE CHRISTOPHER ROBIN. Photo by David Appleby. © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

I found the story of Blue and Billy Moon to be very moving and bittersweet.  It’s an interesting example of how public life affects private life, which is very relevant to our modern lives.  It also made me think of how important it is to be present with our loved ones.

Q & A WITH DIRECTOR SIMON CURTIS

QUESTION: What made you decide to film this?

SIMON CURTIS: “I just loved the script when I read it. So many films this day and age are absolutely about nothing and this seemed to be about so much.   And so many things that are important to us.  Noticeably, family actually. And is has a message which is to say you know as the nanny says on the bridge ‘pay attention to the people who are around you as they are not going to be around forever’. And I think that’s a good message to be reminded.”

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QUESTION: What was filming like at the original place where A.A. Milne lived with his family?

SIMON CURTIS: “I think it’s kind of moving that we were thinking that if they would have sat on that actual rough foot bridge, the bridge, the pooh sticks bridge, is the bridge that the father and son would have invented that game on.  It was meaningful for us to go back.”

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QUESTION: How did you find Will? That boy is just magical.

SIMON CURTIS: “We were very very lucky with him.  He, well first of all, we were told that we had to have a 9 year old boy.  Because 9 years olds in the UK, I don’t know what the rules are here, can work more hours in the day than an 8 year old. And I was terrified because some 9 year olds come in and they are like teenagers, you know, but when I saw him he was definitely a candidate.  But, he’d never acted before, he had joined the drama club two days before the casting people just wrote to the club saying do you have any boys and it wasn’t like he was their star person,  he was just a boy.  And we did lots and lots of auditions and lots and lots  of rounds and but eventually we settled upon him and it was a very happy accident because he is a wonderful kid. He’s a magical kid actually, in real life as well.  And then I would just kind of watch him and found my job was to keep out of his way somewhat you know because he just had an instinct.”

AUDIENCE: His looks you will never forget…

SIMON CURTIS: “Yeah that’s right.  That’s exactly right. And also, I was very struck when he was playing with the toys.  It wasn’t like an actor playing with the toys it was actually….  He was just playing with them…totally.”

QUESTION: The last scene, is it a real place?

SIMON CURTIS: “Yeah, that’s right.  I was just saying.  That rock they are sitting on is the rock that AA Milne would sit on.   It’s the 100 acre woods.  It’s a view of England.”

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QUESTION: Was that house the real house?

SIMON CURTIS: “No the house isn’t the real house.  It’s very like the real house. But it’s not the actual house.”

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QUESTION: The Margot Robbie character. I know that period of time the fact that she left him for all this time to sow her oats.  That part of the story was really interesting.

SIMON CURTIS: “It’s really interesting.  You must remember that they were parents in a particular class in a particular time.  And I know someone who is the age that Christopher Robin would have been. You know he’s passed away recently. But he’s an old man in England who says he only remembers his mother touching him once. It was perfectly natural to for kids to be handed over to the nanny day one and kicked off to boarding school age 8.  That’s why England is a mess. “

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QUESTION: I think also what is so surprising is that you come in thinking this is going to be this heartwarming, happy story and its not. It’s so the opposite, It’s so shocking.

SIMON CURTIS: “Yeah it’s a sad story in some ways.  But, you know someone said to me that it’s the story of England. Because in England, so many of the great stories have been created in the UK but people can’t say I love you in their own family. I think that’s interesting.  I think it’s more complicated than you might think. And actually I’m proud of that. “

QUESTION:  What is your favorite scene?

SIMON CURTIS: “I love the sequence when father and son play together in the summer. You know it’s like, that’s the kind of those images of childhood that we are lucky we have. You know. And you can see him almost falling in love with the idea of being a father and I think that is the heart of the film. And we were lucky because the two actors bonded really well in the film. When we were filming in the forest, which actually was the Queen’s special woods.  It wasn’t actually a forest. One of the crew found this frog and handed it to him and suddenly Will just walked in with a frog.  It was totally improvised. I’m quite proud of that.”

Goodbye Christopher Robin is out at select theaters in NYC on October 13th.

Directed By: Simon Curtis

Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Will Tilson and Kelly Macdonald

To learn more, visit – www.foxsearchlight.com/goodbyechristopherrobin

FACEBOOK – www.facebook.com/goodbyechristopherrobin
TWITTER – www.twitter.com/GoodbyeCRobin
INSTAGRAM – www.instagram.com/goodbyechristopherrobin

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