Jemaine Clement just reunited The Flight of the Conchords with Bret McKenzie. They’re playing new shows for the first time in three years; they even have a show two days after we speak. But both have been busy. McKenzie won an Oscar for the song “Man or Muppet” from the movie “The Muppets.” And Clement worked with Steven Spielberg. In “The BFG,” a partly computer animated take on Roald Dahl’s grim children’s classic, he plays a belligerent, bullying giant who likes to eat children and bullies our hero: a slightly smaller colossus played by Mark Rylance. That forced Clement to create his performance via high-tech motion-capture.
Roald Dahl has long been a staple for children. Did you read him growing up in New Zealand?
Yeah. I particularly remembered “The BFG,” because my teacher at primary school was really excited about that coming out. We read it the day after it was released. It was a big event in my classroom. We liked that Wellington [New Zealand, where he’s from] was mentioned in the book. When the giants take children from there, they say they often taste like boots. [Ed. Wellington is shaped like a boot.] That made a huge impression. To have New Zealand mentioned at all was amazing. That part didn’t make the movie, even though we tried mentioning it. I wish it had gotten in there, but it didn’t quite fit.
His books are very dark, in their silly way. Sometimes parents today are reluctant to let their kids read books filled with things like human-eating giants.
I think it depends on what’s going on in the world at the time. If they’re not feeling very safe, to read something dark might make them feel depressed. But if you look at those old Brothers Grimm fairy tales, children were dying in them all the time. It’s so scary. But that’s what makes it exciting for a kid. They can feel the adrenaline just by hearing a story.