Like its predecessor “Paddington 2” has been a critical darling. It has somehow even managed to outdo the 2014 original to become only the 4th film with over 100 reviews to boast a 100% score on Rotten Tomatoes.
While this acclaim hasn’t really transferred to the box office, where it only grossed $15 million over the elongated Martin Luther King weekend, the spirit, humor, poignancy, and positive, inclusive message of “Paddington 2” means that it’s destined to resonate with audiences for years to come.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to speak to Ben Whishaw, who voices the beloved bear. While the 37-year-old actor took this opportunity to discuss the impact of Trump and Brexit on the sequel, why he struggles with comedy, as well as depressingly dampening hopes of a potential third installment to the franchise, he also broke down exactly how they bring Paddington Bear to life.
It turns out that Whishaw has to step into co-writer and director Paul King’s shoes when he first voices Paddington. And while Whishaw has received unanimous praise for his vocal efforts in the films, he insists that King’s turn is just as impressive.
“Basically Paul does a mock-up of the whole thing, with him playing Paddington. He does it very well, too. And I am always like, ‘You should just do it.’ Because he is so good.”
Things quickly become very meticulous, a little exacting, and even peculiar, though.
“Then I watch a version of it. Then we start trying to piece it together. At that point there’s no bear, there’s no animation. It’s quite a strange process. I will lay down a bit of the voice, and then they’ll start to build a bit of animation around the voice and a whole army of animators will build the body.”
“Then we’ll perfect a bit more of the voice, they’ll perfect a bit more of the animation, and it goes on and on and on. It takes quite a long time. It took all of last year really.”
Since Ben Whishaw replaced Colin Firth as Paddington just a couple weeks before the release of the original, this was the only time that the actor was given an extended period to find the right tone and cadence for every single line and word he utters. Whishaw took full advantage of this freedom, too, despite the fact that it can be rather "painful."
“The challenge is finding the correct ‘thing’. It’s painful. Because you’ll spend ages over a line, doing like a 100 takes, knowing it isn’t working. So the biggest challenge is identifying why something isn’t working.”
“One of the things I loved this time, because I wasn’t involved in the previous film from beginning to end, I was involved in the whole dramaturgy of it. I was very much included in working out the plot.
“That’s the biggest thing for me. And for Paul as well, because he makes the whole film, but the lead character isn’t there for most of it. So it’s this really strange thing in post-production where you have to add Paddington and keep bringing it back to him.”
You can revel in the beauty of both Ben Whishaw’s performance as Paddington, and everything else about the glorious “Paddington 2,” now, as it was released into cinemas over the weekend.