Disney invited me to attend the #ChristopherRobinEvent, this Hayley Atwell interview is a result of this trip. The opinions expressed here are my own. Some interview questions and responses have been edited to improve readability.
Chatting with Director Marc Forster on a Jet Ski
How I became involved was I was on holiday on a boat in Greece. I was sunbathing and I got a call and from my agent saying Marc Forster, the director is directing Christopher Robin. Will you skype with him and I said yeah of course. I have quite erratic reception here in the Aegean ocean so I went to the captain and I said I need to find a spot where I can Skype someone and he went you see that rock over there. I went yeah, yeah. He went go passed that for about ten minutes and you’ll find a spot.
So I got my life jacket on and I went on a jet ski and I put my phone down the life jacket like this (motions into the front of her shirt) and I went very far until pretty much couldn’t see any form of civilization and then I was able to get reception and I remember answering. I never met him before a I just went welcome to my office. It’s just how I work here. It’s just what I do and so we broke the ice that way but he was just talking about how he wanted to tell a story that was classic to the philosophy of Pooh Bear that everyone knew so that these characters are familiar to everyone, not doing anything kind of left field with any of these characters because they’re complete in themselves.
Marc’s idea for Christopher and Evelyn Robin
But wouldn’t it be interesting to explore the idea of what happened when Christopher Robin grew up and have that being the access point for adults who would identify with being an adult now and being I think, being burdened by and lost a little bit by the pressures of everyday life and being on a bit of a hamster wheel and not realizing that your ambitions are kind of getting the better of you and so we talked a little bit about that. And then he talked about wanting to create the relationship between Evelyn and Christopher as one where it began with genuine love and joy and he set it up at the beginning then you know that what is at stakes for him to lose and you kind of root for them.
So we wanted also that any scenes or any moments with Evelyn for her to be someone who had compassion to know that this man who’s come back from war, who’s struggling to provide for his family, whose heart’s in the right place he’s struggling within himself rather than anything that she could probably criticize him for and she’s taking on the pain of what, the cost it’s having on the child as well. So rather than in her in any way seeming kind of unsympathetic or moaning or whining or anything like that, just someone who she’s taking care of her own feelings and experiences in this, feeling lost and left behind by her husband but knowing that he’s in a lot of pain as well. So we spoke a little bit about that really and then I got back on the boat, just about find my way back yeah and here we are.
On playing the role of a strong mother
Well, I have a strong mother and I have strong women in my life. one of them is my auntie Randy who’s over there who’s visiting from Virginia, my father’s sister and I think it’s from those experiences of being with older women who set the way and the safety that I have felt from them at times when the feeling the world is a big place and the kind of the calm, the calm kind of voice of reason and strength but a gentleness that comes with that is something that I’ve had experienced over the women in my life and felt that, that felt the right kind of time for this movie as well that she’s not sentimental.
She’s not, she’s not passive. She doesn’t kind of sit there, you know, allowing things to happen but she also doesn’t attack him for it. I think she’s aware of the complexities of his situation and also being heartbroken about the effects it’s having on her daughter but also not turning her daughter against her father as well. And I think for me that was a very emotionally intelligent character choice to make and one that was much more realistic. I think that’s what parents have to do and have to struggle with.
I’m not one myself but I’ve seen it with my godchildren and their parents and the people in my life who have kids of that dialogue of going how do we help our children navigate these very emotionally, tricky times with an open heart still and able to process pain in a loving and healthy way. So I think although this is a good feel children’s movie it does touch on things that I think families will identify with.
Favorite Pooh Wisdom
I do think it’s the one that’s in the trailer actually of the people saying nothing’s impossible but I do nothing every day because actually I find doing nothing is really hard and I think a lot of people would resonate with that today whereas there’s this constant need for living in today where there seems to be now such a praise and celebration for productivity and perfectionism and attaining of goals and achievement and success that I think it can create Piglets in us of having anxiety and neurosis which also seem to be sometimes not the healthiest response to a world that seems to want so much of us that we can’t ever be enough. So that quote in itself of, you know, in the humor of him not really understanding what he’s saying and what that actually means. He’s actually saying the profound thing which is he’s able to just sit with himself and it be enough and that life itself is enough and that we’re enough and so I think that was my favorite.
Nothing’s impossible but I do nothing every day
Souvenirs From Christopher Robin set
Yes, I had two souvenirs. So the first thing that I was given was the gramophone which is really beautiful and that’s in my living room but then weeks after we wrapped I got a package in the mail and Marc Forster had commissioned the art department of the film to paint me, a beautiful painting about this size of Pooh and my dog and then because my dog was on set every day and he was very welcome on set and he would come into the rehearsals with us and he’d sit on some of the set and he would just be one of the animals and Marc adored him and would always go oh, bring Howard and I found that dogs like — my dog’s very calm and very quiet so had a quite a therapeutic effect in the workplace so Marc took a real shine to Howard so he had this painting of Howard and Pooh in matching red sweaters. It’s really cute.
Talking Silly On Set
There was a moment where Marc Forster was saying in a small picnic scene and I knew a lot of the dialogue wouldn’t be used. I knew the scene was more of an establishing shots and he said, you know, talk to the animals. I said well I’m not gonna really give him much back. I don’t know how to improvise with stuffed animals but I ended up kind of going on a bit of a rampage talking to Kanga and going Kanga, I just wanna say like kudos for you for being a single parent here. I was like you’ve done a great job with Roo and I was also going like where is Roo’s dad in all of this actually and Marc going I don’t think that’s gonna make it into the film. It’s an interesting spin.
Kudos to Kanga on being a single parent.
I remember kind of offering Owl a sandwich and then the voice saying oh, no thank you I’m fine and I go oh, are you gluten free? That probably wasn’t a concept in the 1940s that people knew about. So and then we, you know, had an ongoing gags that, you know, Piglet was the diva who never came out of the trailer and was addicted to haycorns and was a nervous wreck and also kind of and also the fact that I thought in my ignorance a very valid conversation which is how does Piglet identify. Like I’m interested to know like how does he, she identify? I don’t know.