Are you familiar with Roald Dahl books? His stories were some of my absolute favorites when I was growing up. When I heard that Steven Spielberg was teaming up with Disney to bring Dahl's "The BFG" to life on the big screen, I was instantly at ease. That's basically three of the best storytellers in the history of the world, so it could only equate to cinematic magic. If you haven't already read it, check out my review of The BFG to learn more about the story and the special features you'll get with the newly released Blu-ray Combo Pack.
On my recent visit to Los Angeles I had the honor to sit down with Lucy Dahl, the daughter of Roald Dahl, to talk about The BFG. To sum up our brunch in one word, I'd say it was fascinating. Ms. Dahl was kind enough to give us a glimpse into her childhood and what it was like growing up with parents Roald Dahl and Patricia Neal.
1.) She wasn't fond of the idea that The BFG would be made into a film.
This took me by surprise, but once she explained her viewpoint it totally made sense. Ms. Dahl told us, "So it was really amazing growing up with Roald Dahl as my dad because everything was a fairy tale, because we were sort of his lab rats. So, he would test his ideas and his characters and people on us, although we didn’t know it at the time. We just thought that we were getting great stories and he created this whole sort of kingdom of where we lived." She went on to say, "The BFG, he is real to me. He lived under our apple orchards, which was beyond our garden, and every single night, he would blow dreams into my sister and my bedroom... Even in the middle of winter, even if it was snowing outside or blizzarding, we would always have to leave our little old bedroom window open a crack, and our bedroom was tiny." Describing how her sister would always get her dreams blown to her first, Ms. Dahl said this made her a little jealous, but it carried on this way for years and years, until some of their friends started questioning their belief in The BFG. She said, "We questioned and Dad said, 'You mustn’t. The minute you stop believing in magic, it will never happen,' and it also must have worried him tremendously because the next morning when we woke up [written across] his precious lawn in huge brown letters said 'BFG.' He'd done it with week killer. And he said to us, 'You’ve made the BFG cross that you’re not believing in him and he obviously wanted to tell you that he’s here.'"
Later, we asked her what parts of the book that didn't make it into the film would she have liked to see included. She told us that it was quite the oppostie way around. Ms. Dahl said, "There was no Giant Land in BFG’s story. So when it became a book and the BFG didn’t live under our orchard - he lived in Giant land - I didn’t like that. Just like, 'No, that’s not the way that goes.' But I was actually a little offended when he put our childhood story into a book because he was my BFG and Ophelia’s BFG and nobody else’s and you don’t really want to share. It’s kind of like a husband, you know... So, I sort of never really embraced the book that much because I was 17 at that point. But, then when the film was made and I was invited to the set, I couldn’t wait to go. I was over the teenage issue at that point. And it was really incredible and I loved being on the set. Steven Spielberg treated me, honestly, like a queen which I didn’t expect."
2.) She realized The BFG wasn't real on a night when her dad a bit too much to drink.
Expounding on how her dad made The BFG real to them for so many years, Ms. Dahl told us, "We realized that it wasn’t the BFG sticking a dream through our window one night when I think dad had a bit too much to drink and he fell off his ladder. One night the bamboo stick was coming back through the window and we heard this enormous crash. And we were told never to go to window to look, but we did and there was my poor old dad at the bottom of the ladder saying 'I’m fine, I’m fine.'"
3.) Her dad made them BFG eggs when they were little.
We asked Ms. Dahl what memories she had of her dad preparing them food. She's a renowned foodie, and with her father's unique creativity it would onlymake sense that he would have prepared them magical dishes. She told us, "He spent a lot of time as an actor would in character, but he was sort of in fantasy land I suppose, or in his imagination. We would wake up in the morning and open the door, because it was in the days when the milkmen would deliver the milk early in the morning, and we’d go get the milk and sometimes there were a little bowl of teenny, weenie little eggs. Now I know they’re quail eggs, but he said that the MinPins, which is another story that he wrote - little people that lived in our woods beyond the orchard - had delivered eggs to us overnight and sometimes there were big eggs, duck eggs. Now I know they’re duck eggs, but they were BFG eggs. What Dad would do is, once a week, he would go to London and go to the Harrod’s food halls because we didn’t have specialty shops and get all these wonderful things and we would all use our imagination with them."
4.) She felt like her dad was with her when she toured the set of the film.
Earlier she mentioned that she wasn't thrilled with the book initially, but eventually got over those issues and was delighted to be invited to tour the set of the movie while it was being made. She told us, "He [Steven Speilberg] literally took me with him all day, everywhere he went, and showed me everything and it was really the most incredible experience ever. The thing that I didn’t like was Giant Land... because it wasn’t true [as the way the story was told to her by her dad], but everything else was so true to how it was in my imagination and in my mind that was just incredible. I felt really like my father was walking around with me around the set as delighted as I was."
5.) The BFG was based on a combination of Dahl himself and a great family friend.
Lucy Dahl told us that one of her favorite things about the film was the BFG himself. She said, "Steven took a great deal of trouble in getting the BFG right. For example, (holding up the Blu-ray combo pack and pointing to the shoes on The BFG) these shoes are a copy of a pair of my father’s sandals that he used to wear every summer The BFG’s clothes are copies of my father’s clothes from his cupboard that we still have. My father based him a little bit on himself and a little bit on our great family friend Wally Saunders, who worked for my grandmother. He was a country man and he worked, in our garden helping dad and he would help dad drive us to and from school. And he would build. As the family grew, we built on the house.. So Wally was an extraordinary countryman from Buckinghamshire and he had the big ears and the accent that BFG has in the film. That was taken from Wally’s accent from video clips that we have of [him]."
6.) Roald Dahl helped create the first shunt used in Neurosurgery.
As a nurse practitioner that worked for a decade in critical care and specializing in neurosurgical care, this statement was fascinating to me. Ms. Dahl told us a great deal about her childhood and all of the difficulties her family faced. Her mother, an extraordinary woman and Hollywood actress, had had 3 strokes while she was pregant with her, her parent's oldest child passed away from measles at age 7, and her brother suffered from brain damage at 3 months old due to an accident while in his stroller. Her brother was diagnoses with hydrocephalus which means there is a build up of fluid (or water) on the brain. This condition was fatal at the time but her father would not accept that. She said, "The doctor said, 'There’s nothing we can do,' and this is how extraordinary my father was. My father believed that if there’s a problem, there’s a solution.And he didn’t accept the fact that my brother was going to die and so he got together with three other neurosurgeons and they invented the shunt and my brother had the first shunt put in his brain."
7.) Her dad would do her homework for her... sometimes.
We asked Lucy Dahl what traits or characteristics from her dad's parenting style she passed down to her kids and she replied, "Pretty much everything." She explained that she used to surprise her children in the same sort of style that her dad would have surprised her and her siblings with special trips or events. She went on to say, "He would do our homework for us and I will do that for my children. If it didn’t matter. You know, stuff that they give you that just doesn’t matter. It’s just a waste of time and, and an adult can do it in five minutes and a child, it would steal like an hour and half of their evening where they, for us, we could be running in the woods or doing something and he would say, 'Give it to me. I’ll do it."
8.) The BFG is her favorite adaption of her father's work.
We asked if Ms. Dahl had a favorite and she told us, "I do love BFG. I really do love BFG. I love it. I think Mark Rylance was amazing. I think the team was amazing. I love it. I don’t think it’s any secret that it didn’t kill at the box office and we’ve talked about that and honestly, as a family, it doesn’t matter to us. We would so much rather have a beautiful film than a box office hit and my feeling about that, or us as a family because we have talked about it, is that it’s perfect." She told us that the things she loves most about The BFG is that, "BFG is slow enough to speak to your heart. I mean, the heart speaks to the heart. With this coming out over Christmas, where it’s more of a quiet time, I’m really hoping that children will slow down a little bit and realize that it’s about love. Because it’s really a love story. Steven and I talked about it for an hour, actually. We talked about the difference between BFG and E.T., because it’s the same group of creators, and he said that they’re the same because it’s love. They’re two lonely hearts that find one another. They’re different characters and it’s a different type of love, but really, the importance of this story is that how one heart will find another heart, whatever the world, wherever they live."
Don't forget to pick up your copy of The BFG!
It would make an incredible holiday gift for anyone on your list!
About The BFG: Disney and Amblin Entertainment, in association with Walden Media, present the fantasy adventure film “The BFG,” the first-ever motion picture adaptation of Roald Dahl’s resonant tale of childhood, the magic of dreams and the extraordinary friendship between a young girl and a big friendly giant. Directed by three-time Academy Award® winner Steven Spielberg, the film reunites the director with his Oscar®-nominated collaborator on “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial,” Melissa Mathison, who adapted the children’s author’s timeless adventure for the big screen. This magical tale of an extraordinary friendship loaded with exciting extras will brighten the holidays for the whole family!
Check out the trailer for The BFG here:
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