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‘The BFG’: How Steven Spielberg Improvised His Way Through the Roald Dahl Adaptation, According to Jemaine Clement and Mark Rylance

The actors discussed Spielberg's directing style on "The BFG," which opens this Friday.

Jemaine Clement and Mark Rylance

Jemaine Clement and Mark Rylance


Steven Spielberg has spent the past 44-years perfecting his craft as a director, but the master filmmaker still leaves certain decisions to the last second.

READ MORE: Steven Spielberg on Changing the World With Movies and Why ‘The BFG’ Was a Dream Come True

That’s according to “The BFG” stars Mark Rylance and Jemaine Clement, who spoke to IndieWire recently about their experience collaborating with the legendary director. “He plans a lot, but he also improvises directions,” Clement said. “He can sort of draw an action scene as if he was thinking it up on the spot.”

Rylance stars as the Big Friendly Giant who befriends the 12-year-old orphan Sophie, while Clement stars as the carnivorous giant and villain Fleshlumpeater in the Roald Dahl adaptation, which premiered at Cannes in May and opens nationwide on Friday.

"The BFG"

“The BFG”


“He’s very, very well prepared and really conscious of the whole thing, and yet on the day, when a spontaneous idea comes up, he’ll shift and change,” Rylance said.

“The BFG” marked Clement’s first film working with Spielberg, while Rylance previously starred in the director’s 2015 thriller “Bridge of Spies,” for which he won an Oscar, and will appear in the two upcoming Spielberg films: the drama “The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara” and sci-fi film “Ready Player One,” based on the 2011 novel of the same name. “Ready Player One” centers on the death of a video-game developer (Rylance) that sets off a competition to claim his fortune in a virtual world known as Oasis.

“If you look at the advancement of video games, from Pac-Man to the virtual reality images you get now, eventually VR is going to be just as real as reality,” Rylance said. “That’s what ‘Ready Player One’ is about — the hazards and pleasures of a VR world that most people live in.”


Steven Spielberg and castmembers of “The BFG” at Cannes


Though Rylance has a full plate of movie work on the horizon, he insists that he still prefers acting in theater, where he’s performed for more than three decades. “I’ll carry on making films, but it doesn’t match the experience of being in a play,” he said.

READ MORE: Cannes Review: ‘The BFG’ is Spielberg By the Numbers

Clement is also attached to several upcoming film projects, including a feature version of the HBO show “Flight of the Conchords” and a horror comedy called “We’re Wolves,” both of which he will co-write. “I was concentrating on acting in the last year, but I miss writing, so I’d like to get back into that next year,” he said, adding that he’d also be open to directing another film, having co-directed the 2014 vampire comedy “What We Do in the Shadows” with Taika Waititi.

Rylance has similarly branched out of acting to writing for the stage, and is currently writing a TV adaptation of Paul Kingsnorth’s 2014 novel “The Wake.” Though he also has experience directing for the stage, he said that he has no plans to ever direct again.

“The more I work with good directors,” he said. “The more I realize how crap I am.”

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