Casting Call: The BFG

Published May 9, 2014

In which we suggest who should star in the next big adaptation, remake, or historical film.

When you read Roald Dahl’s The BFG in elementary school, you were probably charmed by the snozzcumber (Dahl’s detestable vegetable dramatization of the English cucumber), whizzpopping (glorified farting), and the grandiose tale of an orphan girl who becomes the heralded savior of her nation. But unlike many of Dahl’s classic stories (Matilda, The Witches, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory), The BFG was never adapted into live-action feature film. Whether that’s because filmmakers thought it didn’t have the depth to entertain people, or more likely, they felt they lacked the technology to adequately bring it to life, we’re not sure. That’s all about to change now, because Steven Spielberg is set to finally turn the story into feature film reality.

The BFG starts out with Sophie, a young orphan girl who spots a 24-foot-tall giant blowing good dreams into children’s windows one night. When the Big Friendly Giant notices her watching him, he whisks her away to the land of Giants. There she learns all about the gravity-defying fizzy drink that makes the BFG fart so often, the snozzcumbers he subsists off of, and horrified, that the rest of the rather unfriendly giants—with names like the Childchewer and the Bonecruncher—eat little children. Determined to put a stop to it, she and the BFG decide to enlist the Queen of England’s help in capturing the killer giants.

Looking back on the story as an adult, there are some strange racial stereotypes that missed as kids—most significantly the portrayal of the Sultan of Baghdad as coming from a land of guillotine-happy heathens. Read with knowledge of Dahl’s background as a political cartoonist, though, that cultural misunderstanding seems suddenly more satirical.

The BFG has an underlying theme of pacifism and merciful justice that was probably influenced by Dahl’s service in World War II. At one point in the story, Sophie questions if the giants will kill each other when they fight, to which a surprised BFG answers, of course not, “Human beans is the only animals that is killing their own kind.” When the Queen of England’s advisors wish to attack the giants, Sophie refuses, opting instead to simply imprison them for their crimes, because “two wrongs don’t make a right.”

With a script penned by Melissa Mathison (ET, The Indian in the Cupboard) and backing by DreamWorks, Spielberg’s announced that he wants to release the film in 2016. That’s an ambitious goal for an adaptation of this scale, but Spielberg and the Roald Dahl Estate are intent on releasing the film to coincide with Dahl’s centennial. We’re committed BFG fans here at Interview and gave the casting a go back in 2011, when DreamWorks first bought the rights—but it’s taken a while to come to fruition, and some of our picks no longer seem so appropriate. (Having spent the intervening three years watching Kiernan Shipka learn to smoke and drink and disdain on Mad Men, for example, we think she’s aged out of Sophie.) So here, we offer some updated options for Sophie, the Sultan of Baghdad, The BFG himself, et al.

Casting Call runs every Friday. For more, click here