It would be easy to dismiss Paddington and its sequel as silly kids films that adults have to endure rather than enjoy.
Even their titanic Rotten Tomatoes scores of 98% and 100%, respectively, don’t come close to underling just how magical, hilarious, and poignant an experience they are for both children and grown-ups alike.
Key to this success is Ben Whishaw, who voices the titular bear. Whishaw wasn’t the first choice to play the iconic literary character, who was created by Michael Bond, debuted in 1958, and has since featured in over 150 books.
In fact, Whishaw replaced Colin Firth in the role during post-production on the original, immediately bringing a youth and innocence that it’s hard to imagine the Oscar winner matching.
When I spoke to Whishaw about “Paddington 2” he admitted that he loves the opportunity to tap into his innocence through the character. “I think like ever character I play he is part of you somewhere. It is a nice self to go to. He’s an innocent, and innocence is such a beautiful quality in people.”
But it doesn’t just come naturally. “It always takes us a little while to get cooking. It takes a while to start finding the right voice again, the right tone, the right feeling. You have to treat it like any character. ‘Would he say that? That word doesn’t sound right for him? What’s he thinking in that moment?’ You’re just trying to identify every second of what’s going on inside him.”
Whishaw insists that his job is made much easier because of Paul King, who has written and directed both installments to the “Paddington” franchise.
“He’s really the protector and spirit off Michael Bond and those books. He’s such a brilliant interpreter of the spirit of Paddington really. He’s a very Paddington very like human. He’s completely delightful and very, very funny. I just bow to him really. If it weren’t for him I don’t know that these films would be half the success they are. “
King rose to prominence as the director of the cult BBC comedy “The Mighty Boosh,” and Whishaw believes that his innate understanding of the genre has helped to make the “Paddington” films unique. Especially since Whishaw is a complete novice when it comes to comedy.
“Paul’s background is completely in comedy, I think that’s what’s brilliant is that the film’s are genuinely funny. Paul is brilliant at understanding how comedy works.”
“Which I don’t understand. It’s quite mysterious to me. I don’t do a lot of comedy. I can see that he naturally grasps the mechanics of how you grab a joke.”
“What is so beautiful is how he balances the comedy with the poignancy of this little bear and his quest to find a present for his Aunt. Without it ever feeling like it is trying to pull on your heartstrings. But it does. I just have so much admiration for how Paul does it.”
You can appreciate Paul King and Ben Whishaw’s efforts when “Paddington 2” is released on January 12.