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Matilda’s Emma Thompson on her transformation into Trunchbull – and why she thinks the film is not a children’s movie | Ents & Arts News

Matilda is back on the big screen – and this time, it’s Lady Emma Thompson transformed into the terrifying Miss Trunchbull.

He’s no stranger to on- and off-screen enhancements, having played Professor Sybil Trelawney in the Harry Potter films, Mrs. Potts’ teapot in Beauty and the Beast, and of course Nanny McPhee, Thompson Unrecognizable in her final turn.

The actress told Sky News she spends up to three hours in hair and makeup every day getting ready to pull off the spooky Trunchbull look – and revealed the secrets to surviving her costume without damaging her prosthetics.

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Lady Emma looks a little less terrifying. Pic: AP

“You feel very hot [the] She said, “A big muscle suit… There’s a T-shirt with these little tubes in it.” And the tubes, you have a little handbag and it has ice water in it, and you pump the ice water around the shirt, which is right next to your skin, so you can keep cool.

“Otherwise you’d feel so hot in your core that all your prostheses would slip off. So it’s a really interesting process because you have to build [the character of Trunchbull]and then after you build it, make it work after three hours and then inhabit it somehow.”

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Being there for several days in a row means having to “brace yourself up,” she adds, “because it slowly takes all of your energy.”

Tyrannical Trunchbull is the villain in Roald Dahl’s classic story. Played by Pam Ferris in the original 1996 film, the character is also portrayed by Bertie Carvel in the West End and Broadway musical written by Tim Minchin and Dennis Kelly.

Such is the continuity of the story of Matilda – a gifted girl who develops telekinetic powers – that the latest version of the book for the big screen remains largely true to Dahl’s 1988 novel. Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough play Matilda’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. Warmwood, while Bond actress Lashana Lynch plays Miss Honey and Alicia Weir in the title role.

Lady Emma said her character, and the tale itself, needed a little updating.

In this book [Trunchbull] She screams all the time, all the time she just screams, and in the movie she’s totally quiet a lot because Matthew [Warchus – the film’s director] “She wanted it to be really evil,” she said. But that thing with Dahl, isn’t it, from something really threatening but in a kind of delicious way — like Aunt Sponge and Aunt Spiker, in James And The Giant Peach.

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“When I was growing up and reading Dahl, I loved that sense of real danger. And I also thought he saw human darkness very clearly, and yet he was able to write it into children’s stories, and make us read it when we were little and we understood it was a real thing — darkness and cruelty to children.”

(L to R) Emma Thompson as Agatha Trunchbull and Alisha Weir as Matilda in Roald Dahl's musical Matilda.  Pic: Daniel Smith
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Thompson stars as Trunchbull alongside Alisha Weir’s Matilda. Pic: Daniel Smith

The appeal of the story is so broad, the film has been selected to open this year’s London Film Festival. This time, it’s based on the play that’s been entertaining families in London’s West End since 2011.

It took on a life of its own, says Minchin, who wrote the songs for the show — and now the movie.

He said: “Matilda was – shockingly to me – so surprisingly culturally integrated in the UK in particular, that I don’t feel very possessive about her”.

“The fact that there are school productions, a Finnish version, a Chinese translation, a South Korean version, and then a movie… It’s not mine, it’s the gift that keeps on giving.”

Roald Dahl’s cultural legacy hasn’t been without controversy – in 2020 his family apologized for anti-Semitic comments made by the late author.

(L to R) Andrea Riseborough as Mrs. Wormwood and Stephen Graham as Mr. Wormwood in Roald Dahl's musical Matilda.  picture.  Daniel Smith
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(L to R): Andrea Riseborough as Mrs. Wormwood and Stephen Graham as Mr. Wormwood. picture. Daniel Smith

But that hasn’t stopped Netflix from buying the rights to his property, and depending on the writer’s continued appeal — to adults and children alike.

Lady Emma says she does not like to think of them as different audiences.

“I think the way we’ve divided the generations is not helpful or healthy for humans — I think the generations belong together,” she said. “So the things I like to write are often watchable across generations, what I don’t like is children’s entertainment that is childish.”

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The actress says this is a trait she inherited from her father, Eric Thompson, who created the beloved show, The Magic Roundabout.

“He didn’t believe there were children – he says there’s no such thing, it’s just that someone hasn’t lived as long as you do.

That’s why he wrote things that were enjoyed by children and adults alike – he said if a child didn’t understand a word or phrase – like he once used the phrase ‘the crane with your little animal’ in Magic Roundabout – he said, ‘Well, the kids will find out what it is because Kids love adult things.”

“And that’s what inspires me — I’ve done a lot of things that aren’t for kids too, which I’ve loved, and I understand that we can’t always make things that work for everyone, but I don’t think of Matilda as a children’s movie.”

Matilda: The Musical is now in cinemas

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