Winnie the Pooh was a childhood imaginative fascination for many decades particularly post-World War I and still relevant with today’s children. A.A. Milne was best known for writing the series of books for his son, Christopher Robin. The characters were inspired by the stuff animals given to his child and the setting is best known from the Ashdown Forest for the Hundred Acre Wood.
LRM sat down with director Simon Curtis on creating this biopic about the well-known author in Los Angeles. Curtis is best known for directing Woman in Gold, a biopic that starred Helen Mirren, Ryan Reynolds and Daniel Bruhl.
The biopic was based on a book written by Ann Thwaite of the same title. The heart-warming and touching book is about the relationship between Milne and his son that inspired the stories. But, it also delved deeper into the PTSD and anti-war sentiment from Milne and the fragile relationship that developed with his own child–in particular with the celebrity popular status of Winnie the Pooh.
“The fact that Winnie the Pooh became so famous so quickly was because it was for readers to reconnect to the innocent days before the trauma of World War I,” Curtis told us on what he learned about A.A. Milne, “He, himself, had been suffering that we know to be PTSD. Writing it was his way of coming through with that as well.”
The adapted screenplay was written by Frank Cottrell Boyce and Simon Vaughan. Cottrell is one of Britain’s most respected screenwriters with 24 Hour Party People and The Railway Man under his belt. And Vaughan written and produced another relatable project A Bear Named Winnie, a war drama about the Canadian from Winnipeg that inspired Winnie the Pooh.
For Curtis, he jumped on board to Goodbye Christopher Robin after being sent the adapted script.
“It wasn’t like the other films I’ve did that I pushed into existence,” he said. “I thought it was just a wonderful script. It’s about so many different things–family, the impact of war and creation. I wanted to get the complexity of family–which at times were very happy and at times were very miserable.”
One of the most important aspects of the film was recreating the scenes from actual locations rather than rebuilding everything on a set. Most of the production was on actual location Ashdown Forest, which is the actual location that inspired the Hundred Acre Wood.
Certain scenes included in the film such as the rock and the bridge are actual places that A.A. Milne and his son frequented. Curtis explained that they filmed on the same bridge that Milne played Pooh sticks with his soon. The rock, today, has a plaque that is dedicated to Milne, in which he sometimes would stare out into the vast countryside of England.
The best recreation for the film will be with the famous stuffed animals that Winnie the Pooh and friends were based on. The actual toys are currently on display with the New York Library.
Curtis explained, “The toys had to age with time. I can’t say [on how many toys we used], but it’s a lot.”
The cast of Goodbye Christopher Robin included versatile actors of Domhnall Gleeson, Margot Robbie, Kelly Macdonald and introducing Will Tilston as the eight-year-old version of Christopher Robin.
Gleeson is a rising star after his supporting role in the Harry Potter movies. He has starred in many successful films that show a vast acting range for his talents with Ex Machina, The Revenant, About Time and even with Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Gleeson plays the author A.A. Milne, in which he captures the emotional intensity of the author going through his struggles with PTSD and ever-changing relationship with the son.
“He’s a super smart guy. Very versatile,” Curtis said of Gleeson. “He brought the complexity to a complicated man.”
For this film, Will Tilston steals most of the scenes playing Billy Moon or better known as Christopher Robin. Goodbye Christopher Robin marks Tilston’s acting debut.
“The last time I cast a nine-year-old boy, who never acted before, was with Daniel Radcliffe in his first job. So I was confident that I could do it again,” he told LRM. “I was very lucky to found Will. He never acted before. He is a very special kid. He did a brilliant job I think.”
The qualities Curtis looked for included that the child needed to look like Christopher Robin and be able to play a range of emotions. Tilston fitted that description and requirements.
“He had to be a happy child, but with a sadness to him as well,” he said. “His own instincts were so good when we do a scene. My job was to not get in his way and just to help him recreate it.”
Curtis intended to capture a lot of the emotional moments through this family drama.
“Anyone who find themselves as a child or a parent would find something in this film,” he said. “It’s very emotional. Kids do grow up.”
Goodbye Christopher Robin is currently playing in select theaters in America.
Source: Exclusive to LRM