Donald Clarke

Whingeing about cinema and real life since 2009

Paddington Bear comes to the movies

The talking bear from darkest Peru is about to hit the big screen

Mon, Sep 16, 2013, 21:15


Well, it’s about bleeding time. It has been announced that Colin Firth is to voice the Peruvian immigrant in a Weinstein production that will grace cinemas next Christmas. Famously named for a mainline station in West London, the creature is probably best remembered in a TV incarnation that ran on British television from 1975. Michael Hordern’s passed his lovely brown voice onto the kindly animal and, when that actor died, more than a few tabloid obituarists led with the performance.

But the original and best version of Paddington can be found in the gorgeous children’s books by Michael Bond. They still conjure up a very soothing vision of middle-class life in London during the years after the last war. After being found in Paddington Station, our hero is brought back to live with the Brown family, annoy next-door neighbour Mr Curry and share marmalade sandwiches with Mr Gruber in Petticoat Lane. Without getting too sociological about this, it is pleasing to note that — by including that Hungarian (and most likely) Jewish — character, Bond did manage, unusually for a series of children’s books that began in 1958, ┬áto get just a little bit multicultural. (Mind you, when the family visited France in Paddington Abroad, the natives did seem very, well, French.) I am guessing that Jim Broadbent will be playing Mr Gruber in the film. We can only assume that Nicole Kidman is Mrs Brown — which is an odd notion, but at least it suggests the budget is generous. We will just have to hope that the poor animal isn’t made to fight space aliens or appear on stage with One Direction.

At any rate, it’s nice to be able to report that Mr Bond is still around to shepherd the film into production. Just last year, with Paddington Goes for Gold, he invited his hero to celebrate the London Olympics. Good for both of them. The books enlivened my childhood. They will enliven others.