Ruby Barnhill stars as Sophie in Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Roald Dahl’s The BFG.
This September marks the 100th birthday of beloved British author Roald Dahl, and next Friday fans of the writer, Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg all have something to celebrate. Disney is releasing the film version of one of Dahl’s children’s books, The BFG, which is directed by Spielberg, on Friday, July 1.
Originally published in 1982, The BFG tells the story of a young orphan, Sophie, who encounters a Big Friendly Giant and is introduced to a whole other world full of magic, mystery and, unfortunately, bigger and less-friendly giants. The film version – written by Melissa Mathison (E.T., The Indian in the Cupboard) – features the voice talents of Mark Rylance, Rebecca Hall, Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement and Ruby Barnhill as Sophie.
In anticipation of the July 1 release of The BFG, we thought it would be a great idea to do a marathon of the best film adaptations of Dahl’s stories. Gather some friends, make some snacks and cocktails and be transported to the fantastical worlds created by the legendary writer.
Kick things off with the scrumdidilyumptious Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory from 1971. My favorite of all the screen versions of Dahl’s work thus far stars Gene Wilder as the zany candy baron, Willy Wonka, who offers special golden tickets to a select number of children – future blueberry Violet Beauregarde, TV obsessed Mike Teavee, gluttonous Augustus Gloop, incorrigible Veruca Salt and down-on-his-luck Charlie Bucket – to tour his amazing factory. Just be warned: The Oompa-Loompas’ song is sure to be stuck in your head for days.
Next, join Luke Eveshim as he goes up against the evil Grand High Witch (Anjelica Huston) and all The Witches in the world at their secret conference to turn every child into a mouse. Don’t miss the ever-hilarious Rowan Atkinson (aka Mr. Bean) as hotel manager Mr. Stringer.
OK, maybe Matilda is my favorite Dahl adaptation. I know I’m not the only one who fell in love with little Matilda Wormwood (played by cutie patootie Mara Wilson), booing and hissing her awful parents (Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman) and horrid principal (Pam Ferris) in the film from 1996 because thousands of fans continue to buy tickets to see “Matilda the Musical,” which is also based on the same Dahl novel, around the world.
The next two films on the list tell Dahl’s tales using stop-motion animation. First up is director Henry Selick’s (The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline) highly acclaimed 1996 version of James and the Giant Peach chronicling the adventures of orphan James and his bug friends inside an enormous peach. Randy Newman provides the score, while Richard Dreyfuss, Jane Leeves and Susan Sarandon lend their voice talents to some of James’ many-legged pals.
The other film adaptation of a Dahl novel to feature stop-motion animation is a bit more lighthearted, yet just as alluring. In fact, Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox film just might be my favorite! If it hadn’t been released the same year as Disney Pixar’s Up, it would have swept all the major awards in 2010. I’m such a fan of Anderson, and he was able to successfully marry his aesthetic with Dahl’s tone in Fantastic Mr. Fox, which features the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Willem Dafoe and Anderson stalwarts Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and Owen Wilson.
Wrapping up your at-home Roald Dahl film extravaganza is the other adaptation of Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book, Tim Burton’s 2005 family adventure/comedy. Johnny Depp offers his take on Willy Wonka, while Freddie Highmore (who shines in A&E’s “Bates Motel”) is pint-sized hero, Charlie Bucket. And yes, the Oompa-Loompas are in this version, too.
Once you’ve seen all of the above films, you may have as hard of a time picking just one favorite out of the pack. Who knows, though? The BFG could outshine them all.
The BFG is in theaters July 1.