Disney joins The BFG; new casting

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Roald Dahl HQ
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5:00pm, 13th April
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The BFG
The Queen, illustrated by Sir Quentin Blake, from Roald Dahl's The BFG

Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Roald Dahl's The BFG adds Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement, Rebecca Hall, Penelope Wilton and others

As production on Steven Spielberg's adaptation of Roald Dahl's The BFG gets underway in Vancouver, The Walt Disney Studios announced today that it will co-produce and co-finance The BFG. This marks three-time Academy Award winner Steven Spielberg's first time directing a Disney-branded movie.

Previously announced cast for the film includes three-time Tony Award winner Mark Rylance, who will play The Big Friendly Giant himself, and newcomer Ruby Barnhill as Sophie.

They are joined by Bill Hader, Jemaine Clement, Michael David Adamthwaite, Daniel Bacon, Chris Gibbs, Adam Godley, Jonathan Holmes, Paul Moniz de Sa and Olafur Olaffson as The Other Giants - they live alongside The BFG in Giant Country, but are a lot meaner...

Buckingham Palace has also found its residents with Penelope Wilton being cast as The Queen and Rebecca Hall as Mary, the Queen's maid.

"In more than 40 years of making movies, I have been on the producing end of a number of films for The Walt Disney Company, but never as a director," said Steven Spielberg. "It is a special joy to be in the director's chair as we start The BFG, alongside my long-time friends and film collaborators Kathy Kennedy, who introduced me to this project, Frank Marshall and Melissa Mathison. Together with them and Disney, there are many reasons why I am so excited about this joint venture."

"With Steven Spielberg at the helm, The BFG will undoubtedly capture the minds of children and adults alike ­as Roald Dahl's original stories and many of Steven's own films have done for decades," said Alan Horn, Chairman, The Walt Disney Studios. "The team at Disney has tremendous respect for the filmmakers, and we're thrilled to join with them to make what will be a spectacular picture."

"This partnership speaks to the spirit of storytelling and the kinds of movies that we make here," said Michael Wright, CEO of DreamWorks Studios. "Over the years, we have enjoyed a fruitful collaboration, and we couldn't be more excited to be working with Disney in this expanded capacity on The BFG."

The BFG tells the story of the "nice and jumbly" dream-catching Giant with his own special way of talking (known as 'Gobblefunk,' a language Roald Dahl created for The BFG by writing lists of made-up words) and his adventures in Giant Country with Sophie, an orphan he "kidsnatches" after she sees him one night.

The BFG, first published in 1982, has been enchanting readers of all ages ever since, and it was one of Roald Dahl's own favourites. The story is currently published in 39 languages, including Korean, Indonesian, Albanian, Estonian and Welsh. In total, Roald Dahl's stories - also including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, James and the Giant Peach, Matilda and Fantastic Mr. Fox - are available in 58 languages and have sold over 200 million copies worldwide. 

Steven Spielberg will direct the film adaptation based on a script by Melissa Mathison, who last teamed with Spielberg on E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. Spielberg, Frank Marshall and Sam Mercer will produce while Kathleen Kennedy, John Madden, Michael Siegel and Kristie Macosko Krieger are on board as executive producers. Adam Somner is a co-producer.

The Disney/Amblin/Reliance production in association with Walden Media will open in U.S. theaters on July 1, 2016, the year that coincides with the 100th anniversary of Roald Dahl's birth. The film is set for its UK premiere on July 22 2016. The Walt Disney Studios is distributing the film in the U.S. and several international territories while Mister Smith Entertainment will oversee distribution in Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Reliance will distribute the film in India.

Disney and Walden Media previously produced The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, and Bridge to Terabithia together.

The BFG will be the latest major Roald Dahl title to be adapted for stage and screen, following films including Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), James and the Giant Peach (1996), Matilda (1996), Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Fantastic Mr Fox (2009). The phenomenally successful award-winning Roald Dahl's Matilda The Musical continues playing to packed audiences in the West End and on Broadway. In 2015, the show is set to open in Sydney and begin touring the USA. Additionally, over a million people have seen the West End musical production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, since its opening in June 2013.

Discover a few fascinating facts you may not know about The BFG...