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PETER RABBIT

About The Film
"When I was a kid, my dad read me the Peter Rabbit books, so I always had an emotional tie to him - and when I had kids, I read the books to them," says Will Gluck, the co-writer/director of the famous bunny's first big screen adventure, Peter Rabbit. "The thing I love most is that Peter is a little mischief-maker. He's depicted in a beautiful old-fashioned style, but the Trojan horse is that Peter Rabbit is a little son-of-a-gun. I thought it was a great opportunity to take that little nugget, what Beatrix Potter gave Peter, expand that personality trait and make it our own contemporary story."

And who better to give Peter his voice than James Corden, a mischief-maker in his own right, who puts aside the wit and gets emotional when it comes to playing the impish rogue in a little blue coat who wreaks havoc in Mr. Thomas McGregor's vegetable garden. "It's a wonderful story that owes everything to Beatrix Potter," he says. "I felt incredibly honored that Will thought my voice could lend itself to this adored rabbit. I met a kid who was so excited - he said, 'You're going to be Peter Rabbit,' and I said, 'No, Peter Rabbit is Peter Rabbit, he just needed a voice for this film."

In the film, Peter's war with Old Mr. McGregor, keeper of the vegetable garden, takes a turn when the old man kicks the bucket (a victory Peter is all too happy to claim for himself). But when his great-nephew, Mr. Thomas McGregor (Domhnall Gleeson), inherits the place, Peter realizes that the battle for control of the vegetable garden - and the heart of their next-door neighbor, Bea (Rose Byrne) - has only just begun. To help, Peter is enlisting his family and friends - sisters Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail, cousin Benjamin Bunny, Jemima Puddle-Duck, Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and other characters author and illustrator Beatrix Potter created in her original tales.

And because Peter Rabbit is so beloved, especially throughout the British Commonwealth, Gluck was able to attract an all-star cast to bring these famous characters to life, including Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Debicki, and Daisy Ridley as the triplets, Grammy winner Sia as Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle, and David Wenham as Johnny Town-Mouse.

In addition, the live-action cast did double duty behind the microphone, as Domhnall Gleeson plays the frog Mr. Jeremy Fisher, Rose Byrne voiced Jemima Puddle-Duck, and Sam Neill - on camera as Old Mr. McGregor - gives voice to Tommy Brock, the badger.

For the animation, Gluck and fellow producer Zareh Nalbandian partnered with Nalbandian's Animation and VFX studio Animal Logic, who's previous credits include The LEGO Movie, Happy Feet, and other films, for a film that would combine animation with live action. "We wanted to use as many of the Beatrix Potter characters as possible to honor what she created," continues Gluck. "We're all familiar with the beautiful watercolor paintings - if they were to come to life in the real world, we hope this is what they would look like."

The inspiration was Potter's original illustrations. "Will and I went to see the original pictures at the Beatrix Potter archives in London. She literally painted them at the size that they are in the books," Nalbandian explains. "The challenge was to start with such small works and to maintain the integrity of the characters that are so beloved in the books, while we bring Peter into the 21st Century. It was a huge opportunity for us to do something that's never been seen before."

One way of maintaining the integrity of the original paintings was to refer to the illustrations whenever possible. "Our goal was to make the rabbits and the other animal characters look like real animals but with clothes and expressions that the books suggest," says Gluck.

The look of the film was only one part of maintaining the integrity of the characters - just as important was ensuring that Peter behaved as Peter - a character who takes risks and enjoys a good prank, but one whose good heart shines through.

"Peter is told not to go into McGregor's garden because his father was put into a pie for going into the garden. What does he do? He goes into the garden. That's who Peter is - there's nothing more you can tell someone who's like that," Gluck explains. "He has that impishness, but also a bold confidence and a self-delusion that he's always right, when he's actually often wrong. He's never in doubt, though, so he keeps charging forward until he realizes he's gone too far."

But even as Peter faces the music because of his daring bullheadedness, his true character emerges. "He comes to realize that he has to take care of his cousin and his three sisters, and although he wouldn't admit it to himself, he realizes that there might be shades to Thomas McGregor," Gluck continues. "Peter is adolescent who starts to appreciate that things aren't always black and white."

Protecting these elements of Peter's character was extremely important to the filmmakers; every step of the way, they worked closely with the guardians of the Beatrix Potter legacy, the publishers at Frederick Warne & Co., Ltd., a division of Penguin Random House, which has published Beatrix Potter's Original Peter Rabbit Books™ since 1902.

"We're hugely excited about this new adventure for Peter Rabbit and the opportunity to bring him to a whole new generation of fans via the big screen." says Susan Bolsover, director of licensing and consumer products for Frederick Warne & Co. Ltd, part of Penguin Random House. "We were thrilled that Will Gluck was keen to capture the essence of Beatrix Potter's books and particularly the mischievous and loveable nature of Peter Rabbit, which is hugely important."

Hugely important, because through Peter's mischief (and their own), children learn how far they can push their boundaries - and how to face any consequences with grace. "Although there's a moral to the story, I don't feel children feel they're being preached to in that moral," she says. "I think that's why it particularly works. And who doesn't love a bit of mischief?"

Bolsover thinks that the PETER RABBIT™ movie will connect with 2018 audiences in a similar way that the book did for readers in 1902 because those themes of adventure and mischief are timeless. "I think Beatrix Potter was able to reach so many people with The Tale of Peter Rabbit because it's a funny, timeless story that captures children's imaginations," she adds. "Beatrix understood the importance of talking to children on their own level and created a story, set in the natural world that all children would recognize with themes that would be universally appealing."

Another way that the filmmakers honored the Potter legacy was by filming scenes in England's Lake District, a part of the English countryside where Potter lived and became a huge influence on her work; after her death in 1943, Potter bequeathed most of her estate - her farms, her land, her artwork, her sheep - to the National Trust, which has been looking after that legacy for more than 70 years.

John Moffat, General Manager for the National Trust's Beatrix Potter places, notes, "Beatrix Potter left the National Trust a large legacy and caring for her home, Hill Top, many original artworks and farms and land are a huge part of our role as a conservation charity in the Lake District. She was an amazing woman and we're keen to share her work and tales with families everywhere. We're all very excited about the movie, and hope that the film will bring new audiences into contact with Beatrix and inspire them to make a visit to the places in the Lakes that inspired her to write her classic tales."

"It was incredibly important to go to the Lake District," says Gluck. "That's where the movie is set; it's where Beatrix Potter lived, where she wrote her stories and painted her pictures. We tried to create a world that looks exactly like it did in all her books; we were inspired to take every little moment, everything she ever wrote or painted, and construct our world around that."

CASTING AND CHARACTERS

"The cast of the film is an embarrassment of riches," says Gluck. "We were very lucky to get all these people, and we used the actors' expressions when we started building the animation, so the characteristics of Peter and the other animals are embodied by the voice cast."

PETER RABBIT - VOICED BY JAMES CORDEN

Peter Rabbit is an impetuous, mischievous, but good-hearted rabbit who lives in a burrow with his sisters and cousin Benjamin Bunny. Even though his father was put in a pie by the old farmer McGregor, Peter can't help himself but sneak into his garden to steal fruits and veggies for his family and his lack of fear and stubbornness gets him into trouble often.

The film's eponymous hero is voiced by James Corden, who brings a perfect balance of mischief and charm to the role.

"It was always the dream to have James as Peter; we essentially wrote the role for him," says Gluck. "He has the ideal combination of exuberance and sweetness and is of course very, very funny. He can be biting, yet he gets away with it."

"He's a rascal," says Corden. "He thinks he has power and ability beyond what's in him, as all young people do. He has that confidence and zest for life - the type of rabbit that doesn't say 'why,' he says 'why not.'"

"Peter had to feel timeless," says executive producer Jodi Hildebrand. "The key to it was a voice that we wanted to follow on any adventure he chose to go on, and James Corden is that voice and that personality. He's funny and charming and mischievous, and for us that was the linchpin of bringing Peter to life."

Corden says, again, it all comes back to the character Beatrix Potter created. "I think Peter gets away with his mischief because of his sweet and adorable nature," he says. "You just can't help but smile when you see him."

BEA - ROSE BYRNE

McGregor's next-door neighbor, Bea, has given up the city life to move to a small cottage to attempt to prove herself as a painter. She feels isolated, save for a set of diminutive, furry friends: the rabbits. Peter is her favorite, and she is his.

Rose Byrne takes the role. "Bea is stubborn and determined, but she's also torn. Her talent lies with her animal paintings, not her human portraits, but she doesn't take that form seriously and hence doesn't feel like a true artist," she says. "The animals are her friends and her family, a bit like Snow White meets Jane Goodall."

"Will's ambition was a very modern take on a classic tale, which is hard to do," Byrne continues. "It's so beloved so you have to be really tender, but I thought it was genuinely very funny."

"Rose is luminous," says Hildebrand. "She is that person who everyone loves, which was so necessary for our film because Peter loves her, the triplets love her, Benjamin loves her and Thomas McGregor falls in love with her. The audience had to believe the strength of that love, and with Rose they can."

The challenge for Byrne would come in acting in a film against a lead character that would be animated after photography. "You have to harness your imaginative powers as much as you can in those scenes," she explains. "It's incredibly technical, so besides the director, there are so many heads of departments who need to be watching your every movement - visual effects, special effects, camera department, art department. There are so many complicated steps to creating a successful portrayal of the character and her interaction with her screen partners, a lot of moving parts."

THOMAS McGREGOR - DOMHNALL GLEESON

Thomas McGregor has risen through the ranks of London's famed department store Harrods, working diligently - some might say obsessively - towards the post of Associate General Manager, only to find that the position has gone to a man who doesn't deserve it. When he inherits the McGregor manor (and its attached vegetable garden), Thomas sees a chance to sell it in order to finance his own toy shop.

A man who wants everything neat, tidy, and in its place, Thomas is about to meet his match in Peter.

"What's the worst place you could put someone like Thomas? In a dirty garden with little rabbits trying to mess it up," says Gluck. "He's driven to distraction."

"He's a bit uptight, and then he gets fired through no fault of his own - he flips out when he loses a job that should have been his, and I could understand that. I can understand that frustration," he notes. "And then he meets somebody who changes his life."

Two somebodies, actually - there's Bea, the sweet and generous next-door neighbor who sees something in Thomas, and then there's Peter, the rabbit who turns his garden (and his life) upside down.

In fact, at the beginning of the film, Thomas' motivation is centered around revenge. "He has been swearing to himself that he would find a way to get back at Harrods," he notes. "When he finds out he's inherited the manor, he sees it only as an opportunity to fix it up and sell it, to make enough money to start his own toy shop." It's no surprise that when Peter begins to make a mess of the garden, he similarly begins a vendetta - no matter how crazy that is.

And Thomas McGregor's feud with Peter starts with vegetables, but it's taken to the next level as they rival for Bea's affections. "It's a really tricky balance to have a villain who becomes a love interest," says Hildebrand. "Domhnall was perfect for this part because he can do it all - he gets huge laughs out of this tightly wound character... then turn into an Irish Buster Keaton with big physical comedy... then melts like a puppy in Bea's arms. He can truly do it all."

"Thomas and Bea are very different people," says Gleeson. "She's kind and caring, and sees that he's strange but doesn't treat him badly for it. Any other woman he's shown interest in has been immediately put off by his uptightness. Bea seems to find it funny and sweet, and she's relaxed enough for the two of them. He tells her that he likes her art, and that means something to her."

Gleeson says that Gluck's approach to the comedy of the part was what attracted him to the role. "We operated on the principle that it needed to work for everybody, but we never said, 'We'd better do this because it's a kids' film' or 'We'd better add a joke in here for the adults,'" he notes. "Will approached the film with the perspective that funny is funny, and funny will be funny for people of every age."

OLD MR. McGREGOR - PORTRAYED BY SAM NEILL

As the film opens, Peter's longstanding family feud with Old Mr. McGregor is at full tilt: all the rabbits want to do is eat the bountiful produce that he so diligently grows in his garden, and all Old Mr. McGregor wants to do is catch them and bake them into a pie (as he successfully did with Peter's father).
Sam Neill, who portrays the curmudgeonly farmer, wryly notes that Potter's stories, which he'd read to his own children, are told with bias from the rabbits' point of view. "If you look at it from Old Mr. McGregor's point of view, what have rabbits ever done to contribute?" asks Neill. "They've eaten, they've bred, and they want to come in and take the fruits of his labor. He sees them as barbarians beyond the gate; what's outside is chaos. I see him as a much beleaguered, industrious man, and a hero for our times," he kids.

Although only on set for a short time, Neill was seen by the filmmakers and crew as the perfect embodiment of this much-maligned character. "Will wanted to stick to the original Beatrix Potter creation, literally down to the shirt buttons," says the film's costume designer, Lizzy Gardiner. "I dressed Sam in a fat suit, cashmere and wool. Given the heat, we had to use a complex air-conditioned suit underneath, and plug him in between shots."

Rose Byrne, the one live actor Neill played against, says, "Sam is hilarious and such a professional. I think he really enjoyed himself underneath all the make-up and the fat suit and the weird collars. He had a twinkle in his eye; he was having a lot of fun."

FLOPSY, MOPSY and COTTON-TAIL - VOICED BY MARGOT ROBBIE, ELIZABETH DEBICKI and DAISY RIDLEY

Beatrix Potter's The Tale of Peter Rabbit begins with the now famous words:
"Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter."

The three sisters are as much part of the landscape of many childhoods as their brother is. As PETER RABBIT™ opens, their mother has passed away, and Peter is determined to be a responsible older sibling and caretaker to the trio. (At least, that's his intention.)

"We approached the characters by imagining that Peter Rabbit is about 16 (human) years old, and Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton-tail are tweens," explains Gluck. "Even though they're triplets, they're very distinct. Flopsy is nervous about everything. She's insecure and fighting for her place among her sisters. Especially with Mopsy - the oldest, bossiest and most-refined. She likes being in charge...when Peter's not around. Cotton-tail quite simply marches to the beat of her own drum. She ultimately ends up being the greatest warrior but is a little bit off-kilter; every time she says something, all the rabbits think, 'Wait, what?'"

"Flopsy has a bit of a middle child syndrome," says Robbie. "She's very jealous that she's not the oldest sister, and I think she feels that she gets bossed around by Mopsy. She has a nervous energy - she sometimes doubts herself."

Robbie says that she was a massive Peter Rabbit fan as a child. "I had little teacups and saucers with Peter Rabbit and all of the other characters painted on them," she recalls. "I've kept all of those, and I want to give them to my children one day. These characters are so timeless; it's a magical, simple world, and it's nice to escape into that."

Debicki agrees that her character, Mopsy, "is a little bossy," she says. "Maybe a better way to put it is that she's headstrong; she's an adorable, one-foot-tall rebel. She's smart, she's feisty, and she's very adorable."

Debicki says that she was thrilled to be part of a film based on these timeless stories. "I think that Beatrix Potter's stories have lasted the test of time because the characters are so beautiful and genuine, charming and funny and mischievous," she continues. "Kids have always been able to project themselves into those characters and into these lessons about love, family, community."

"Cotton-tail is a loose cannon," says Ridley. "She's a bit mental and scruffy around the edges. The sisters are all integral to Peter's success for the garden; they love each other very much, but they argue hilariously along the way. They each have a vital role to play."

Like her co-stars, Ridley grew up admiring Beatrix Potter's creations. "My sisters and I used to go to a violin course in the Lake District - we'd go to the Beatrix Potter museum all the time," she says.

Audiences can also expect many of Peter's friends to make appearances in the film. Peter's cousin, Benjamin Bunny, is very sweet and loyal and always by Peter's side, even if he's warning him against some mischief; the role is voiced by Colin Moody. Johnny Town-Mouse, an overconfident city mouse, way too proud of his home town, is voiced by David Wenham. Pigling Bland, voiced by Ewen Leslie, is posh, meticulous and judgmental, but will accept an invitation to fun if he gets the chance. Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle - an aging hedgehog who's always looking for a little spice in her life - is voiced by pop superstar Sia.

The film's live action cast also got in on the fun with Sam Neill voicing Tommy Brock, the badger, a lovable lug who's not always the sharpest hoe in the shed, Rose Byrne giving voice to Jemima Puddle-Duck, a bit of a worry wart, until a party helps her loosen up, and Domhnall Gleeson bringing life to Mr. Jeremy Fisher, a gentlemanly frog.

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