Emma Thompson: You know what I had for the first time today? Collard Greens. And it took me about 6 hours to get it out of my teeth (big laughs)…..What a lovely city you have, Its great here! I’ve only just arrived and I love it here, its gorgeous…
How long did it take to get the moles (warts) on?
ET: It takes and hour and a half to do all of it. When she (Nanny McPhee) first turns up, she’s got the wig, she’s got the monograph, she’s got strange earlobes, she’s got a huge nose, she’s got the two warts and she’s got two things she puts in her mouth and you can’t move your teeth very well (she garbles her speech and gets big laughs)…Its about an hour and a half.
Are those robot pigs?
ET: What a good question, because the donkey in the first film was a robot donkey. In this film, all the piglets when they are running are real and when the piglets are being carried by the children and caught, are real. But when the piglets run up the tree and do synchronized swimming in the pond, well, they are not exactly real. Those are computer piglets. The computer piglets are very, very good friends with the real piglets. So it’s a combination of real piglets and drawn piglets, but we didn’t have any robot piglets.
I will tell you what we had that was very interesting. We had plastic piglets that were so realistic because they had glass eyes and real hair and every single hair (and there were thousands of hairs) were punched into the plastic piglets and they cost $10,000 and they were just in case you needed to carry a piglet and they looked so real, we would sometimes leave them in people’s car and give them a terrible fright.
What was it like working with the kids?
ET: Well, I love working with children because they are so honest and energized and full of ideas and initiative and the only child who had acted before was Asa Butterfield and he was in something called the Boy in the Striped Pajamas…and they (the kids) were absolutely fantastic to work with. Very clever. And very comic, so it was my great treat.
Was it dangerous to fly (the bike) in the sky or was it held by a string?
ET: Very Good Question. That’s a real bike and it’s an old one from the second war world… So I learned how to drive it and when we did the flying bit it was on a hydraulic…you know when you go on a ride to Disney Land and you get in those things where you have to watch a film and it moves you about. It’s a bit like that. There is a big pipe thing and it moves it about. And behind it is a piece of green material ….A green screen. So it’s not dangerous, but it is exciting.
Were there any jokes played on the set?
ET: There was. This little boy wearing the bucket (Oscar Steer) was very naughty. So on the first day there was mud, and the mud is two feet thick…we said we would give a $10 prize to the first person who falls on their face and they kept doing it on purpose. And we all have trailers and outside the trailer there were little steps and you could take the steps away from the trailer and Oscar moved all the steps away from the trailer so when I stepped out, I fell flat on my face. And then he (Oscar) pretended one day to have a terrible wound on his forehead and he painted blood onto this bandage and they said he was waiting for an ambulance and I absolutely believed them. For twenty minutes, I was running around saying oh my god, oh my god and it just turned out that he painted some blood on his bandage so there was quite a bit of naughtiness.
Where does Nanny McPhee live?
ET: That is an excellent question, to which I do not immediately have the answer. I’m not entirely sure. I think she is a very mysterious person who isn’t normal (someone calls out from the audience “Like Mary Poppins?”)… A bit like Mary Poppins… I think it’s kind of important that you don’t know where she lives because if you did, it would make her slightly more ordinary. But I would love to know what you think, so if anyone has any ideas about where she might live…Where do you thinks she might live? (someone answers “Up in the clouds”?) It could well be. Because she does tend to do that odd disappearing act. She kind of dissolves sometimes which is very uncanny. (Someone asks “Maybe she’s Mary Poppins sister?”) Could be! Goodness knows what those parents look like?
Do you have a lot of costumes to put on?
ET: I did….When I am in my full get up its quite substantial because first of all I have to put on a big fat suit which zips up the back and then I put a hump on the front and a hump on the back and then there are these pockets in the front of my fat suit where I put these pretend boobies…and then you put a jacket over that and then three skirts and then a big bustle which is a strange thing that ladies use to wear to make them look bigger, how times have changed. It’s a big old costume.
Were you filming on location or on a set?
ET: Both. The farmhouse was a real farm…The only thing new was the barn. The designer built the barn around the old farmhouse, so you couldn’t tell the difference. So when visitors would come on the set they couldn’t tell the difference between the old and the new. And there is a whole sequence at the end in a barley field. And the barley field we planted it 8 months before we started doing the film so everyday the art department would go to the barley field to see if it was growing. So all the things you see on the set are real and have been grown by people, like in a garden.
ET: What did you like better, writing the movie or acting in it?
I like doing both. Can you imagine writing something and then seeing it come to life in three dimension, it’s terribly thrilling. And you can’t imagine what its like when you’ve been writing something for 4 years..Its like doing your homework over and over again, which sometimes makes you want to throw things to the carpet. If you do it and it you get to the end of it and it worked, you feel such a sense of satisfaction…
Why does Nanny McPhee have those badges on?
ET: Those are medals. Because this is set in War Time, I thought it might be interesting to have something that soldiers might have. I fancy she has a lot of courage in a crisis…Go see the film and you’ll see what they are for….
Do you like acting with adults or children better?
ET: I like acting with children because when they do something original or spontaneous they do it better than any adult ever could. I kind of love that!
How did you get the warts to disappear?
ET: The warts are real and then at the end of the scene where the warts have to disappear, I just pull them off my face and they cut that bit of film out and they add a bit of film where the CGI team have done a melting thing where it will melt right into the face. So it’s a combination of two things, something real and something computer drawn.
How long did it take to film the movie?
ET: Four months. Four years to write, four months to shoot. It’s a long time. For those of you who are 5, I started writing it before you were born.
What is Nanny McPhee’s favorite food?
ET: Spinach. That is why I was so interested to taste the collard greens. Because it’s her kind of thing. She loves greens.
Where was the movie shot?
ET: It was shot in England.
Is there going to be another Nanny McPhee?
ET: If you all go to see it, then we’ll have the money to make another one. I’d like to make another one and I’ve got a story, well at least I think I’ve got a story, set in modern times. So if anyone can think of good ideas…drop me a line.
ET: Thank you so much! You’ve been such a good audience.
NANNY McPHEE RETURNS opens in theatres on Friday, August 20!
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