The Cast Comments
Matt Lucas describes playing Toad in The Wind in the Willows as a prize role -- even though it meant being dressed in green with a false belly and stick-on warts:
Toad is a wonderful iconic character, very proud and arrogant but lovable. He's a dandy and a wastrel and I'm very grateful to have done it. It really is a prize role even though I feel a real responsibility as I am bringing to life characters that everyone grew up with.
When Gub Neal approached me about playing Toad in a script written by Lee Hall it was a bit of a no-brainer really. I said, 'You'd better let me do it!'
I didn't know at that stage who else they had attached to it, but to be honest, I wanted the role so much it wouldn't have mattered. When I eventually found out who the rest of the cast were, it was the icing on the cake.
Toad is a fanatic -- he loves boats, planes, horses, whatever. He pounces on something and evangelizes it, then gets bored in a few days and moves on to the next thing. He is a buffoon and he is pompous, but he's also affectionate. I also have the shape of Toad with my own little belly, and then another one added by the costume department!
It's not great in terms of personal vanity, but then I have played a watermelon and been in the romper suit in Shooting Stars, so after that you don't have an ego or vanity. Costume is sometimes cumbersome, but always worth it.
I have green marks on my head and transfers for tattoos which I had to get done every day. It took about an hour in makeup. I have strange eye sockets that make me look quite different with enlarged eyebrows. To get inside the skin of Toad, I used gestures that were toad-like. I did a lot of work with Marcello from Theatre de Complicite and we explored the movements of animals and the noises they make.
In the script, Toad leaps over a fence and those are the moments when you can embody the animal in the character. I did look at a lot of toads and they don't move that much, whereas Mr. Toad is terribly excitable and moves a lot. So I tried to make the eyes go big, and kept the neck stiff.
Bob Hoskins suffered for his art playing Badger:
My shoulders, joints and back all ached from playing this part. It's because I gave Badger a certain walk, all hunched shoulders and moving from side-to-side. I wanted to get the correct Badger posture but as a result I've got all the aches and pains!
I always wanted to play this role. I like him because he is a miserable old bugger, but he's very caring. Even with Toad and his recklessness, he feels this huge responsibility to protect him. Badger is irascible but he is a good sort and looks out for all his friends. He is about the only one that Toad will listen to. Badger has to come down hard on him sometimes to make him see sense. He is avuncular and I feel I have made him my own.
This was one of those parts where you can't go over the top. The further you go, the better it gets.
The wig was a bit Last of the Mohicans but I loved putting all the stuff on. I loved Badger's clothes -- I wear a cream shirt with a stripe that is made out of old-fashioned tea towels. We thought that's what Badger would have done. It's a lived-in kind of granddad shirt; he would make do with whatever he could get.
I wanted to make the film a child's dream. When a child dreams, it's often about people who are animals and I wanted to make it their story, reflecting their imaginations. I love the whole idea of storytelling. I was an only child and I developed a very strong imagination and I still much prefer reading a book to seeing a film. The Wind in the Willows is a finely tuned Rolls Royce. You can take it anywhere you go. Even though it's from 1908, the language is perfect.
I treat every job as a great adventure... I like to go in clean and be open and receptive to the director. Filming The Wind in the Willows was great work and I loved doing it.
Playing Rat in The Wind in the Willows was a dream come true for Mark Gatiss:
I was extremely excited to be asked because The Wind in the Willows has the reputation and excitement of something like Hamlet! As a child, my favorite character was always Ratty, and I've been waiting for this part all my life. It could be the pinnacle of my career!
I just like the idea of him. He has a great attitude to life -- sunny, lazy days by the river, a bit of rowing, and then getting down to the serious stuff like gins and tonics and a decent picnic with plenty of bloater sandwiches, pies, cold meats, pickled gherkins and ginger beer. I am giving it lots of David Niven...
I watched Ring of Bright Water because it was the closest to researching rat behavior I could find. Did you know that there aren't many movies with water rats as stars? But otters are brown and furry and like water, so that was my preparation. I decided to give him tics and scratches and sniffs. We are humans with whiskers and in real life they do tickle my cheeks, so I'm forever scratching and that got me into character.
My real nose looks like a prosthetic nose and I have sticky-out ratty ears, which looked very convincing. I wore a wig; without it I looked like a sewer rat, not a water rat, because my real hair is dark and has been shaved. The teeth were a bit uncomfortable because they were on wire and clip-on, but they gave such a good look. The costume, we decided, would not be terribly neat. Ratty would be suave, but he would have watermarks on his trousers and shoes. It's a bit Bohemian/Edwardian-casual.
We all worked on animal movements with choreographer Marcello Magni (formerly of the Theatre de Complicite). I am mostly human, but I just did the odd thing like standing in a different way, or trying to make my running more animated. We also decided that Ratty would sleep on his back. I thought the twitches, as long as they are kept subtle, would be good, and I held my hand, or paw, in a certain way.
We shot in the summertime but, in the winter scenes, we were wearing balaclavas and everyone was almost fainting. In one scene, as we approached Toad Hall, I was wearing three layers of tweed and then an outercoat. It was 40 degrees, out in a sunny field with all that on, so you do lose a bit of weight.
Also, Rat is a water expert, unlike me. When I read in the script that 'Rat sculls excellently across the river,' I realized it would have to be a long shot with lots of closeups of my hands, as I can't row.
Lee Ingleby likens Mole to a child embarking on an adventure:
The first scene in the film is Mole coming out of the earth; he wants a breath of fresh air after living underground for a year. He opens his myopic eyes, goes for a walk, meets Ratty and sees the world. He comes into the world wide-eyed and is mesmerized by the characters he meets and life in the countryside. He's na•ve, almost childlike in a way, because of his awe with the world. You see it in his eyes. It's quite enchanting.
The audience is Mole's eyes in a way. He's just a simple guy, and completely solitary in his own world, but he is the one with the greatest journey. You are introduced to the countryside as Mole is introduced to it. You go a long way with him.
He's an earthy, working-class, grounded guy. I based him a bit on my granddad who always had that earthy, grimy look about him. We show him as an observer, rather than trying to control. Mole is a bit sheltered, a simple soul. I really like him and will miss him.
I wore brown contact lenses over my eyes, which are naturally blue, and my hair was dyed dark black from its usual light brown and grown over my ears, because Mole doesn't have ears. They also added a widow's peak and put mascara on my beard. So I was very dark black all over. I quite liked it. For my teeth, they put an enamel paint on, which I also had for Nicholas Nickleby. I am destined to have bad, brown teeth but I don't mind the look. It just comes off when you are talking sometimes, which is disconcerting. My nose was prosthetic. I had to wear a big fur coat, and it was incredibly hot walking into the Wild Wood.
I decided to take the characteristics of moles, their habitat, their movements and then Marcello, from Theatre de Complicite, gave me a few simple animal movements, keeping it subtle without being ridiculous. Moles use their hands as their main tools through life. So I had some claws which I used to tunnel. We decided to keep him short-sighted, but not blind. Because he can't see so well, he uses his nose and his touch instead.
Anna Maxwell Martin found it hard to stop laughing while filming The Wind in the Willows:
I didn't know Matt Lucas before but he is truly hilarious and so creative and talented. I found it hard to keep a straight face and corpsed with him all the time. I am quite naughty anyhow, but being around Matt gave me license to misbehave! Also, comically, he is the most brilliant person to bounce off.
The Gaoler's Daughter, who meets Toad after he has been sent to prison, is simple and sweet and she has a bit of a glint in her eye. That was the fun thing about playing her. You wonder if she is going to be a bit evil, like in Stephen King's Misery. I had great fun playing the scenes where you wonder whether she will let Toad out or not. She wears a little cap and rags. I am used to bonnets and corsets, but hers had seen better days. I was given yellowy-brown teeth -- lovely!
I auditioned for the role the day after the BAFTA awards. [Anna won for her portrayal of Esther Summerson in Bleak House]. I was a little high on emotions from the night before, and feeling a bit fragile, so I was giddy and relaxed at the audition. It's always nice going to a meeting and having something to talk about. It's not every day you win a BAFTA. I was shocked by the reaction I got for Bleak House. It was very intensive but one of the best jobs of my life. It was a chance to play a character that grows and develops and I was very enmeshed in it. But I didn't realize how stylish it was and how much people would love it.
The Wind in the Willows was one of my childhood favorites and it gets a response from every generation, even the little ones. All my friends remembered the Gaoler's Daughter. It's also a good thing for me to do some comedy. You get pigeonholed very quickly, so it's nice to break away from it. I absolutely reveled in it.