Emma Thompson looks unrecognizable as the tyrannical headmistress Miss Trunchbull in “Matilda the Musical,” but achieving this look was no small feat.
At the New York premiere of the Netflix film on Wednesday, Thompson revealed that she spent about three and a half hours a day with the makeup and wardrobe departments as they applied extensive facial prosthetics and padding.
“‘Cruella’ was a long time, actually, but this was the longest,” Thompson told Variety. “There’s an actual body suit, which is to give her the heft and the muscle. And then a massive weighty underwear and pretend chest and all of that. It was a lot to walk around in.”
Alisha Weir, the 13-year-old actor who plays the titular role, said she was initially frightened when she saw Thompson in her Trunchbull costume.
“I had first seen without all the makeup, and then when I did see her in the makeup, it was a bit scary,” Weir told Variety. “But I knew that when she [opened her arms], I could come in and give her a hug. I knew that under all the makeup, there was Emma.”
As for director Matthew Warchus, he wasn’t keen on Thompson hugging the kids during filming.
“Matthew got very annoyed with me for doing that,” Thompson laughed. She recalled him saying, “The children are supposed to be frightened of you and hate you. Stop hugging them.”
With about 210 children on set, Warchus said he sometimes felt like Trunchbull trying to quiet them down before a new take.
“In between action and cut, [the children] were always brilliant, but in between those times, there’d often be quite a lot of noise,” Warchus told Variety. “I tried various techniques like ringing a school bell or blowing a whistle. I thought I was getting a little bit Trunchbull, so in the end, we used microphones and pleaded with them to stay still.”
Warchus and scriptwriter Dennis Kelly started discussing the idea of transforming their stage adaptation of “Matilda” into a feature film shortly after its West End debut in 2011. To keep the runtime under two hours, some of the original songs had to be removed. Kelly said he wasn’t afraid to cut out sections from his stageplay due to its theatrical nature.
“We were willing to be quite brutal,” Kelly told Variety. “The whole show gets wrapped up by two or three characters telling the audience what happened. You just can’t do that on screen except with a voiceover, and we didn’t want to do that.”
Meanwhile, Thompson is finishing the musical stage adaptation of “Nanny McPhee” based on the 2005 film that she wrote and starred in.
“I’m doing what Dennis did with [‘Matilda’],” Thompson said. “He was doing it from theater to film, and I’m doing it from film back to theater. And actually, we’ve agreed that both directions are really hard.”
“Nanny McPhee” is on track to premiere in the West End sometime in 2023. Thompson revealed that the stage production will eventually launch in Los Angeles, but a Broadway run is still up in the air.
“We don’t know [about a Broadway run] yet,” Thompson said. “Let’s get it up in London first or outside London and then in LA. I mean, who knows? We might be doing it in my back garden. There’s no guarantee of anything in this life.”
“Matilda the Musical” begins streaming on Netflix on December 25.
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