Whatever you do, please do not send Hugh Bonneville any marmalade — unless it’s got some booze in it.
The British star of the two “Paddington” movies — who coincidentally was born in Paddington in west London 54 years ago — says that his “larder is now bursting with marmalade from very thoughtful friends who thought it would obviously a hilarious and apropos present for me when the films have opened.”
“But my favorite one was actually marmalade vodka,” he adds. “Do please send me that. That’s fine.”
Marmalade is, of course, the favorite treat of the young bear Paddington, who comes to live in London, where he is taken in by the Brown family. Bonneville plays the patriarch of the family, Henry, who went from being an uptight risk analyst to a vastly more open and warm figure.
“When [director] Paul [King] was playing with the storyline, he said it would be silly to just reset the dial to have Mr. Brown being an anxious parent again,” Bonneville says. “It wouldn’t sort of make sense because he’s learned the error of his ways, matured through the help of Paddington.”
Instead, Henry is having what Bonneville calls “a full-blown midlife crisis.”
“That was a really fun starting point,” he says “He gets passed over for a promotion, which triggers a spiral of doubt and self-loathing conviction that his life is zooming past him and it’s a young man’s game. . . . Of course, by the end of the film, he realizes he’s still got his mojo, let’s put it that way. It was a lot of fun playing around with some ideas for that.”
Most of the cast of the original film return for this sequel, though they’re joined by a new antagonist in the form of thespian Phoenix Buchanan played by another prominent Hugh: Hugh Grant. It was a reunion of the Hughs after nearly two decades.
“We worked last together nearly 20 years ago on ‘Notting Hill,’ and so it was funny to be reunited and just to sort of realize, well, he hadn’t aged at all because he had a huge amount of work done on his face,” Bonneville deadpans. “I’ve aged graciously and he just looks about 23. But it was a lot of fun to be on set together again and I think his comic instincts are just fantastic.”
Sadly, the production had a tragic moment when Michael Bond, the author and creator of Paddington Bear, passed away at the age of 91 on June 27, 2017 — the last day of filming. But Bonneville and his wife got a chance to get to know the author and his wife Sue.
“His wife and my wife bonded over guinea pigs,” he says. “Champagne was Michael’s tipple. So I’d sit at the table with him. I’d then have a glass of Champagne while our wives played with the guinea pigs on the floor. He was a twinkly man — just like his creation.
“But I think my favorite [memory] . . . everyone was nervous when he watched the first film because it’s a big step to take a much-loved children’s character from a book and put it on the big screen,” Bonneville continues. “His quote from the first film was, ‘I came, I saw, I was conquered,’ which I thought was rather lovely.”
With countless books, television series and, of course, plush toys, Paddington remains a timeless, beloved character.
“I think it’s quite a simple thing really,” Bonneville says. “We’ve all been Paddington in our lives. We’ve all been strangers in a strange place in various situation either moving from one country to another or from one town to another or even just moving schools. We’ve all felt nervous and alone and needed the help of strangers, the kindness of strangers.”