Sally Hawkins stars in Paddington, a live-action adaptation of the popular children’s book, as the matriarch of the family that takes in the bear whose wanderlust has led him to London.

Sally Hawkins On ‘Paddington’

Hawkins, whose parents were children’s book authors and illustrators, grew up surrounded by children’s books. And though Paddington wasn’t one of the ones that Hawkins was drawn to as a child, the beloved bear had an iconic status similar to that of Winnie the Poo, which made his story familiar.

“[Paddington] was one of those, for some reason, I didn’t pick off the shelf. I went to Maurice Sendak and Where the Wild Things Are for some reason, so that says a lot about me. I came to it slightly later,” Hawkins said. “Paddington, you can’t really exist without knowing him, especially in London or the UK. He’s a character that is very much a part of our culture; he’s in the air. ”

In Paddington, Hawkins plays Mary Brown opposite Downton Abbey star Hugh Bonneville‘s Henry Brown. The couple, parents to young children, take in the hapless little bear and try to help him acclimate to the strange surroundings of London. While Paddington wreaks some havoc in the Browns’ lives and enjoys the city, he becomes the target of taxidermist Millicent, played by Nicole Kidman.

Hawkins, who has ample experience in comedy, winning rave reviews for her work in Happy Go Lucky and Woody Allen‘s Blue Jasmine, thought that Kidman and Bonneville, who are best known for their dramatic chops, were brilliant. “They are just incredibly smart actors and they can do comedy,” Hawkins vouched.

While Hawkins didn’t get too much time to work with Kidman, she did get to work a lot with her onscreen husband, Bonneville.

“I sadly didn’t get to do much with Nicole. She’s been an icon of mine or a hero of mine for many, many years. I think she is just quite special,” Hawkins said. “Hugh is a very funny man in life…. Improvising with Hugh was just a real treat. I just adore him and he just makes me laugh.”

Paddington is currently in wide release.


Q: Both your parents are children’s book authors. Did you ever imagine you’d star in a movie version of Paddington? -

They are children’s book authors and illustrators. I grew up reading a lot of great classic children’s books and having a lot of material at my fingertips and that was valuable to me as an artist as well. Having lots of books and literature, weirdly despite all that, Paddington, which is a classic, much beloved children’s book, it was one of those, for some reason, I didn’t pick off the shelf. I went to Maurice Sendak and Where the Wild Things Are, for some reason, so that says a lot about me. I came to it slightly later. Paddington, you can’t really exist without knowing, especially in London or the UK. He’s a character that is very much a part of our culture; he’s in the air. It’s like Winnie the Pooh in a way. You are aware of him, of the character Paddington and what he’s about and his story – without perhaps even knowing how you’ve come to the stories or the books.

Q: You got to star alongside Hugh Bonneville and Nicole Kidman who are known a little bit more for their serious work. How did they do with the comedy in the film? -

Brilliantly. I mean they are just incredibly smart actors and they can do comedy, and, as you say, slightly more serious roles. I think great actors can do both. They are just very smart. I sadly didn’t get to do much with Nicole. She’s been an icon of mine or a hero of mine for many, many years. I think she is just quite special. So I got to work with a lot of icons in this. Hugh is a very funny man in life. I hadn’t worked with him before. I didn’t know him, but we improvised and had a lot of rehearsal time – well, not so much – but Paul King, who’s come from the world of theater like I have, he works in that way and knows it’s quite important to establish those relationships so you’re familiar with how each other works. If you are trying to create onscreen chemistry you have to establish these relationships. That was key, and for me, you can never really have enough rehearsal. It’s when you make it really real and truthful and you put in all those details that might not be there in the script that make it a cohesive whole and make those relationships really believable and funny. Improvising with Hugh was just a real treat. I just adore him and he just makes me laugh.