The BFG: Robin Williams did 'hilarious' cast readings as the big friendly giant

Technological limitations ground the project to a halt in the early Nineties

Jess Denham@jess_denham
Wednesday 13 April 2016 09:43
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Robin Williams attended cast readings for The BFG in the early Nineties
Robin Williams attended cast readings for The BFG in the early Nineties

Mark Rylance will undoubtedly do a brilliant job as the big friendly giant in The BFG this summer, but it was Robin Williams who producers originally wanted for the role.

The late actor, who sadly died in 2014, was in line to play Roald Dahl’s famous character before technological difficulties pulled plans to a halt. The live action adaptation was first discussed in the early Nineties, but producers Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall struggled with how to make the 24-foot BFG interact with little orphan girl Sophie.

“Robin spent a lot of time with us actually doing cast readings and he was hilarious,” Kennedy, now president of Lucasfilm, told Entertainment Weekly. “He would have been a great BFG.”

The BFG - Trailer

Williams had been making a name for himself in family movies, notably as Mrs Doubtfire and the genie in Aladdin, but unfortunately, the challenges proved too tough despite “lots of different kinds of effects and techniques” being explored. It was impossible for the actors to record their parts on one stage together, making a sense of chemistry hard to capture.

Twenty years later and, thanks to advanced filmmaking technology, The BFG is finally set to reach UK cinemas on 22 July. Steven Spielberg is directing from a screenplay by E.T writer Melissa Mathison. Ruby Barnhill will play Sophie, with Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader and Flight of the Conchords’ Jermaine Clement also starring.

“The fact that [Sophie] and [the BFG] were acting in the same space and Steven was able to see the environments that they were in on the monitor made it incredible,” Marshall said. “I think that you get performances that are really, really magical.”

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