April 29, 2014
Steven Spielberg to direct an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG
by Nick Davies
Director Steven Spielberg has confirmed plans to make a film adaptation of Roald Dahl’s children’s novel The BFG (short for “big friendly giant”). In an exclusive for the Hollywood Reporter, Kim Masters and Rebecca Ford write that he’s the latest of several directors to be attached to the project, and has committed to start production in early 2015.
The BFG, first published in 1982, tells the story of Sophie, a young girl who meets a giant — the only friendly one of his kind, in contrast with the likes of the Fleshlumpeater and the Childchewer. Together, they enlist the help of the Queen of England to travel to the giants’ homeland and attempt to put a stop to their child-hunting once and for all.
The film will be a live-action feature produced by Frank Marshall for DreamWorks, which acquired the rights to the book in 2011; since then, various directors have been involved and dropped out, including Chris Columbus and John Madden. The BFG is one of several projects that Spielberg has signed on for, not having made a new movie since 2012’s Oscar-winning Lincoln. He’s also committed to an adaptation of David Kertzer’s novel The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara and an untitled Cold War thriller starring Tom Hanks.
The BFG has actually been made into an animated film already, in 1989, but it had minimal impact; its page on Rotten Tomatoes only lists two reviews by critics. Dahl adaptations have been a rather mixed bag, overall. There are, of course, the two takes on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder in 1971 and Johnny Depp in 2005, the latter of which is more faithful to the source material but less compellingly insane. The Matilda movie is a bit too warm and sunny, especially compared to The Witches, which is suitably sinister. And then there’s Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, which, while enjoyable, is Wes Anderson-y to the point of distraction.
So what can we expect from Spielberg’s take on The BFG? The good news is that he’s reuniting with screenwriter Melissa Mathison, who’s written the screenplay, and also wrote the script for E.T. That’s at least one point in their favor when it comes to making a classic family movie. As for casting, I’m going to go out on a limb and wager that—for no other reasons than the actor’s ubiquity and something of a gangly, oddball physical presence—the titular giant will be played by Benedict Cumberbatch.
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.