The British actor lets loose in his latest role and reminds us why a certain children’s book series is still relevant.
- Posted on Jan 11, 2018
The new film, Paddington 2, brings us another wild, joyful installment of the classic children’s series created by author Michael Bond.
This time around, after the marmalade-loving bear from Peru becomes fully acclimated into his cozy, quaint British neighborhood with the Brown family, he’s framed for a crime he didn’t commit. Paddington must prove his innocence by catching a thief, all in time for Aunt Lucy’s 100th birthday party.
The first Paddington film was a lesson in the true meaning of family and acceptance. The sequel, according to Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville, who reprises his role as family patriarch Henry Brown, is about embracing your differences and the differences of others.
In 2001, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I wasn’t a good candidate for chemo. I took tamoxifen instead and gave my trouble to God—just as Dr. Peale suggested in his book, "Thought Conditioners". Since then I’ve remained cancer free. -Guideposts Magazine reader
“As Mr. Brown says at one point, Paddington looks for the best in people, and somehow he finds it. And that's a pretty good set of values to hold onto,” Bonneville tells Guideposts.org. “I think the simple tenets of trying to be tolerant and inclusive, and see the best in others rather than running them down is a wonderful thing to have a bear from Peru teach us.”
Bonneville was excited to embark on another storybook journey with the cast that has become “quite a little family” to the actor. He was also itching to stretch his comedic muscles.
In the first film, Mr. Brown transformed from a crusty, uptight overprotective father to a man who learned to actually enjoy his life, family, and friends without worrying over their safety and social status. Bonneville knew his character couldn’t repeat that arc in the sequel so, along with director Paul King and writer Simon Farnaby, they crafted a creative storyline for the husband and father of two.
“We all got together and just picked over some of the beats ofwhat might happen to Mr. Brown,” Bonneville explains.“They've had this idea that he's passed over for a promotion and has a bit of a crisis about that, and feels everything else in his life is going wrong. He's beginning to creak and get fat and gray and old, and life is passing him by. None of which, of course, occurs to me as a mere 23-year-old actor,” the 54-year-old jokes.
Bonneville was thrilled to take such a relatable stage of life to laughable extremes.
“It was a lot of fun to explore and embrace the crisis management. He was doing a lot of juicing and trying to get fit and dying his hair and all that sort of thing,” Bonneville says. “Of course, by the end of the film, Mr. Brown has realized that maybe he's still got a bit of his mojo left after all.”
One of Mr. Brown’s new-found hobbies, chakrabatics, even required a bit of physicality from the actor.
“Chakrabatics is this extreme form of mystical yoga that we decided Mr. Brown had embraced. The day we shot the tiny little snapshot of when Mr. Brown tries to join in was very, very funny because the guy who led the class is a man in his 60s. He can do things with his legs that no human being should be allowed to do,” Bonneville recalls. “I can barely touch my toes, so it was a bit of a wake-up call.”
Of course, now he’s hooked.
“By the end of the film, all that training paid off. And, in fact, I'm now launching my own chakrabatics for beginners line,” the actor jokes.
As for any real mid-life crises, Bonneville said this past year forced him to take stock of his life.
“I had a couple of turning points this year where I thought actually life's rushing past,” he says. “I've got to do two things that I've been meaning to do for ages. One was I bought a convertible, and two, I planted a particular type of horse chestnut tree that I've always wanted. I thought, ‘Why am I waiting? Just get on with it.’”
In June of last year, Bond, who wrote his first Paddington novel 60 years ago, passed away, just as production for the second film was ending. Bonneville, who calls Bond the “godfather of the project” hadn’t seen the finished product, but the cast and crew worked hard to bring the spirit of the first film – one Bond wholly approved of – to the sequel.
“When Paul [King] showed the first film to Michael, he couldn't sit in the screening room with him. He had to go walk around the block until the film had finished because he realized that the only person he was making the film for was Michael. He's the only person that matters,” Bonneville says. “In fact, Michael's verdict was, ‘I came, I saw, I was conquered,’ which I think is a charming comment to have made on his own creation being recreated in a different genre.”
Speaking of different genres, Bonneville, whose character, Robert Crawley, became a fan favorite on the popular British TV series Downton Abbey, says he’s very aware that fans are still hoping for a follow-up film. He just doesn’t know when it’ll happen.
“There's certainly a lot of affection towards the notion of doing a movie, and we're all still pals. I think the sense is if we can just herd all the cast from around the world, then there's a good chance, but we are literally all over the place now and that's quite tricky to try and plan. But where there's a will, there's a way, and there's certainly a positive message,” Bonneville says. “If you could just let me know when we're starting, that would be even better.”