Compiled by: Jack Foley
Q. You’d played Wendy in a drama school production
of Peter Pan, so playing Sylvia Llewelyn Davies was quite apt,
A. I’d always loved the story of Peter Pan, I really
grew up on it. So when this came around I was so thrilled to read
something that for the first time gave us some kind of an insight
into who JM Barrie was, and what motivated and inspired him to
create the story of Peter Pan. I’m tremendously proud of
the film, because I think it is very subtle, loving and affectionate,
offering a take on Barrie and his life that I don’t think
we’ve necessarily seen before.
Q. Was Sylvia’s life easy for you to research?
A. There isn’t a huge amount on her. I gathered
as much background information as I could in terms of her family
and where they had come from, and obviously there were some actors
among them, so I was very interested in that. But there wasn’t
a lot on Sylvia herself. The one thing I did find was an account
in a book on Barrie which said that at dinner parties she always
insisted that her children were there as well.
This was a pretty outrageous thing back then, because children
were supposed to be seen and not heard. I really loved that because
it reminded me of my own mother, and of myself too. I’ve
always got my children hanging off me so I loved that insight
because it made me feel that this was a hands-on mother who would
just be herself and not do something in terms of what society
dictated she should.
Q. So you identify your own mum with Sylvia then?
A. I drew a lot of inspiration from my mother. I’m
one of four children, and my mother did everything with us. I
remember all of us being bundled onto buses and going on day trips,
and tearing around in fields and adventuring in the same way that
the Llewelyn Davies boys do.
Q. As you have suggested, being a mother yourself must
surely affect how you play a role like this, doesn’t it?
A. I don’t think I could have played Sylvia if
I wasn’t a parent. Finding Neverland was shot during the
summer of 2002 and my daughter hadn’t even turned two when
we started making the film.
She’s four next week, and my son will be nearly one by the
time the movie is released, so it is particularly odd for me watching
it again because what I noticed in myself is that the instincts
that I had as an actor, with the boys, do in fact mirror my own
instincts physically with my own son.
It’s extraordinary to see how I seem to always be physically
in touch with the boys in some way, which I really love, I was
delighted to see that I had done that when we made the film. I
was constantly moving their hair out of their eyes, or straightening
up their clothes. I like that, because it is similar to me, I
am a hands-on parent in those sort of ways. So yes, being a mum
in real life made a huge difference to me.
Q. How does motherhood affect the choices of roles you
A. It makes me respond to different things in different
ways, and it also makes me pull away from doing things that are
particularly violent. I find that recurring a lot, with scripts
that have a lot of violence, or anything happening to a child
in them, I almost can’t finish reading them. I find them
Q. You and Johnny Depp share
a rather chaste on screen relationship here. Was there no pressure
from anyone to have a more conventional romance between you?
A. I always really felt that it was wonderful that we
didn’t, that they didn’t kiss, simply because it kept
the story very much about the relationship he had with all of
them as a family. If there were more scenes written in about the
romantic attachment between Sylvia and Barrie then it would have
become a love story about two people rather than a love story
about a man who was in love with life, whilst remaining in some
sort of childhood.
Mind you, that didn’t stop the boys from asking why the
two characters didn’t snog! But I was always pleased that
it wasn’t in there, even though some of my girlfriends think
I’m mad to do myself out of kissing Johnny Depp.
Q. The final sequence with Barrie and young Peter, played
by Freddie Highmore, packs quite an emotional punch. Were you
there for the filming of it?
A. I wasn’t, but doing this Q&A with Marc [Forster],
I was reminded that they had to shoot that scene twice because
the first time they shot it there was a problem with the negative.
Marc knew it would be okay telling Johnny this, but he got into
a panic about explaining this to a 10-year-old boy and, more importantly,
would he be able to come up with the same level of performance
It turned out that Marc approached Freddie and told him that his
performance in that scene was wonderful but unfortunately it would
have to be done again for technical reasons. Freddie said ‘I’m
pleased actually, because I just didn’t quite get it’.
He was only concerned when they would be doing it, so he could
get back and do it again in the way he really knew that he could.
Q. Did Johnny Depp live up to his reputation as a practical
joker during filming?
A. He is a big practical joker, and there was one that
worked an absolute treat. For the scene where we all go to dinner
at the Barries’ house, it’s all about unspoken tension
and at the same time how amusing the environment is to the boys.
We knew that there were going to have to be some spontaneous bursts
of laughter coming from them, but how can you tell a group of
small children to laugh between this line and that line?
So Johnny brought a fart machine to work. He placed it somewhere
out of sight, and operated it by remote control. There are about
six different types of fart on this machine, and throughout the
scene he would press the button and there’d be this noise.
The boys had no idea that this was going to happen, I really thought
that one of them was going to wet himself, he was laughing so
much. And so we had this constant stream of explosive giggles
and sniggers. They just thought that someone was farting, in fact
they thought it was Julie Christie! Then I said that actually
it was me, and that made them laugh even more.
Q. Ten years on from Heavenly Creatures, do you ever
have to pinch yourself at all you’ve achieved?
A. Sometimes I do. I feel like a cracked record, because
I keep saying that in terms of my career I feel incredibly lucky.
But, to put it bluntly, when you go home from work and you’re
straight into changing dirty nappies and pureeing the baby food
for the next day, I have that wonderful constant reminder of what
my life is really about. It’s that part of my life, my home
life, that I have to pinch myself about because it’s really