So can we really trust Steven Spielberg with Roald Dahl's The BFG
We can’t deny that Steven Spielberg announcing he’ll be bringing Roald Dahl’s classic The BFG to the big screen is pretty exciting. Reading Roald Dahl’s works have become a childhood rite of passage and for many The BFG stands tall as one of his best works. As for Spielberg, he’s responsible for more than a few of our favourite childhood memories on screen as well as some adult ones. With that in mind, the combination of Spielberg and Dahl may seem like a match made in heaven. But then why is there that little nagging voice of doubt in our minds which asks can Spielberg really do justice to The BFG?
Steven Spielberg will be directing The BFG
As history has shown, when Dahl goes to Hollywood the results are often mixed. 1971’s Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory remains a well remembered Dahl movie adaptation, thanks in part to Wilder’s stand out performance. Then there was 1990’s The Witches and Danny DeVito’s Matilda which both performed badly at the box office, but were still worthy movies. In his lifetime Dahl himself didn't seem too keen on Hollywood adaptations. He disowned both Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and The Witches due to changes they’d made to his story. What he didn't live to see was Tim Burton’s 2005 version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.
Though a good film, which makes great use of Burton’s imagination, it is perhaps the best example of being just too Hollywood or maybe just too Johnny Depp. Depp’s overdone performance as Wonka tended to overshadow Dahl’s story and push the rest of the characters, particularly Charlie, into the background. The BFG poses a similar problem because of its strong main character, but hopefully Spielberg can find a way of balancing the characters of Sophie and the Giant.
Spielberg’s BFG will not be the first time that Dahl’s classic novel has been adapted for the screen. In 1989 Brian Cosgrove directed an animated version featuring David Jason as the voice of the BFG. Cosgrove did well at capturing the magic of Dahl’s books and for many Jason’s voice is the one they still hear when reading over The BFG. Those who hold this BFG adaptation as an important part of their childhood might pose the biggest barrier for Spielberg’s version. Although his version will be live action, he’ll have to think very carefully about who he choses as his giant, a decision which is bound to be the subject of contention whomever is cast.
Spielberg himself is of course very adept at making children’s films, after all he brought us E.T. and one good sign here is that he’ll once again be paired with E.T. writer Melissa Mathison. The whimsical and fantastical nature of The BFG story should appeal to Spielberg’s strength as a director and see him hark back to some of his early adventure works. One problem his style might pose is that he does have a tendency to be pretty sentimental and whilst the BFG story has a warm heart, Dahl’s writings have a definite darkness which shouldn't be ignored.
So can we trust Spielberg with The BFG
Maybe the problem is that now when we hear Spielberg’s name we think of him as a big budget Hollywood director and a living legend of cinema. This could give us nightmares about the big Hollywood machine destroying one of our beloved tales. But really we have to remember that Spielberg has brought us many classic family films, so why couldn't he do justice to The BFG? Spielberg might be a Hollywood giant, but on the whole he's also a big, friendly one.