// you’re reading...


Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang DVD – MSN exclusive Susanna White interview

by Andy Gibbons

Acclaimed family film Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang arrives on DVD and Blu-ray today so we grabbed a chat with director Susanna White to talk about sequels, animals and the appeal of a bygone age…

You weren’t part of the first Nanny McPhee film so how did you get involved in the sequel?

Well I was working on (Iraq war mini-series) Generation Kill in Africa when I was sent a brown envelope from my agent and I was completely transported by the script. I thought it took you back to an England I remember from my childhood; there was a freedom about it that I loved and also I really loved the character of Mrs, Green, this working mother who’s struggling to hold it all together. So I went and met first of all with the producer Lindsay Doran and with Working Title and then I went round to Emma’s house and met her and rest is history.

Susanna White (Director) at the camera.

It’s quite a large leap between Nanny McPhee and Generation Kill. Was it a tough transition for you?

Yes, (laughs) they are very different worlds. Actually it was much harder making Nanny McPhee than making Generation Kill because there was a real structure to working with the Marines and filming the big explosions and working in the desert – it was more of a military operation whereas there were more unpredictable elements on Nanny McPhee, working with children, working with animals.

They say never work with children or animals but on Nanny McPhee you worked with both. Which were more troublesome?

The children were really lovely, really wonderful and really picked things up very quickly; they became very good actors very fast by watching the people around them. They were working with some great actors like Maggie Smith, Ralph Fiennes and Emma Thompson. But the difficulty really was the hours they were allowed to work. We had to work very short days and then they had to have breaks every so often so you’d just be getting into a scene but then everything would have to stop while the children went off and had lessons for a bit so that was challenging. The animals though were just incredibly unpredictable; the script would say ‘A pig runs from A to B’ and then the pig would run from A to Z and you just had to accommodate that. I think I was very lucky to have a background in documentaries as I was able to go with the flow of it.

With the kids playing such a prominent role, how hard were they to cast?

It was my biggest worry going into it because I knew with Emma’s script we could attract really good adult actors but I’d seen a lot of films with bad acting from children and I really, really didn’t want to make one. So thousands of children came through our doors and I must have seen hundreds myself. But we had a mixture like Asa Butterfield, who I’d loved in The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas and I thought had a great screen presence and knew he could act, to someone like Rosie (,who plays Celia) who had never been in a film before but just walked into an open audition; I put the camera on her and thought ‘My goodness, this girl’s got something special’. They had a wide level of experience but all got there in different ways?

The film got a great reception. What do you think it is about Nanny McPhee that appeals?

I think there are very few films that you can all go to and everyone in the family gets something out of it. I remember as a child going to see things like Fantasia or The Railway Children where the film would work on different levels and adults would get a lot of pleasure out of it as well as children and I think those film are very rare now; I think the great thing about Nanny McPhee is that it’s a film that Granny’s going to want to see, men are going to want to see it for the gorgeous Maggie Gyllenhaal , women want to go see it because of the character of Mrs. Green or Rhys Ifans or Ralph Fiennes and hopefully your kids are giggling away at flying pigs and the delight of that world. And I think also there’s a mythical quality to Nanny McPhee that appeals to people – the idea that she starts out ugly but then as the children learn to behave she becomes beautiful and I think people respond to that.

You’re a mother – did that shape your approach to the film at all and especially to Nannies?

Yeah, it did. Generation Kill isn’t something that my kids could watch and I wanted to make a something for them that they’d get a lot out of and they came to the set a lot and were very involved. And I’m sure my own experience of having Nannies would our children feed into it. One of my favourite scenes is at the end when Nanny McPhee is leaving and Maggie Gyllenhaal says ‘Please don’t go, I need you desperately’. There have been scenes like that when I’ve had a Nanny leave and I’ve been due on set somewhere.

How hands on are you when it comes to decided what extras go on the DVD?

Well I kept an eye on the deleted scenes and what we showed there and I did the commentary myself so I was quite involved in packaging all of that.

Finally,any chance of a third film?

There’s talk of it if this film carries on doing as well as it has done; it opens in America in August so we’ll see how that goes down but Emma has certainly started dreaming up scenarios for Nanny McPhee 3 so we’ll see.

NannyM_50963_DVD3DPackshot_28132_ 1

Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang is released on DVD and Blu-ray on 19 July from Universal Pictures


No comments for “Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang DVD – MSN exclusive Susanna White interview”

Post a comment