Monday, January 24, 2022

How Waterskiing Played Crucial Role in Hayley Atwell Going From ‘Agent Carter’ to ‘Christopher Robin’ [EUR Exclusive]

*Hayley Atwell says it’s all in the jet skis.

The actress is best known for playing Marvel Cinematic Universe heroine Peggy Carter in film and TV. Yet, in a roundtable discussion with EUR/Electronic Urban Report, she revealed how she needed to exhibit some real-life adventure in order to land the role of Evelyn, the wife of “Christopher Robin“, in the family-friendly tale of the titular boy and his friends, including Winnie the Pooh.

It all began, she said, when she wanted to get in touch with the film’s director, Marc Forster, about the “Robin”.

“He had done many different genres and I thought, ‘That’s very interesting’, that he would take on something that has a Disney look…that childhood kind of story,” said Atwell. “He’s such a visual (filmmaker) and takes such incredible photograph sand is…artful with what he does.”

“Anyway,” Atwell continued. “I said I would Skype him, but I was in this bit of a dust bowl in terms of Wi-Fi near this Greek island (and) the captain of the boat I was on said….’You see that rock? Go 10 minutes past it and you’ve (gone past) all visuals of civilization, you may be able to Skype.”

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Hayley Atwell and Ewan McGregor attend the European Premiere of Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’ at BFI Southbank on August 4, 2018, in London, England.
(Source: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Europe)

“So, I got my life jacket on and got on a jet ski, went out in the ocean, revved up the engine and the next thing I knew I was out in the ocean, bobbing up and down, and then Marc was like, ‘Hello’ and I laughed and I said, ‘Let’s get down to business’, Atwell exclaimed, laughing.

After breaking the ice with the director in the middle of the ocean, Atwell said she quickly realized she wanted to do the project among the many she’s been offered.

“He (wanted) to make sure (“Robin”) was not too sentimental..to just have the obvious things to talk about,” she said. “It really just goes with the wisdom of Pooh. It’s something that’s very gentle and tender and (about)…friendships, especially ones you have when you’re younger, those innocent friendships – and how to make that innocence survive.”

“I thought Marc was willing to bring those elements to it (and) make it have a universal impact on both children and adults,” she added. “So I said, ‘Yes!’ and went back to the boat.”

With a decent amount of screen time being given to the adult Christopher Robin and Atwell’s Evelyn, the actress still feels there is plenty in the film to captivate children.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “Even in the beginning of the credits, there’s this underlying sense of sadness, without it being depressing, but just being the facts of life and dealing with them and move on.”

“Children start to grow up and when they do have that experience of having to move to a new place or a new school or losing a friend, that’s all very relatable for kids.”

“I do have a couple of kids who are coming to the U.K. premiere with their families and I warned the parents that there will be a time where (Chris and Evelyn) get into a domestic that the kids are not going to be interested in – and that’s all right – because it does come back and there is a wit and visual charm to the story that I think the kids will definitely be interested in.”

Hayley Atwell attends the European Premiere of Disney’s ‘Christopher Robin’ at BFI Southbank on August 4, 2018, in London, England.
(Source: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images Europe

In fact, Atwell said she had an extremely positive reaction upon seeing the film for the first time.

“Well, the first time I laughed out loud – because I saw it last week – was when (Chris) does the ventriloquism thing in the park (to cover for a talking Pooh),” she said. “It’s at that moment that Christopher Robin starts to see he’s been programmed into this sort of ultra-responsible, post-traumatic stress disorder adult (behavior) and then (finding himself) having to get out of that kind of tricky situation, which is kind of ridiculous…and that’s the first time I laughed out loud.”

Atwell said she was very familiar with Winnie the Pooh, another factor that drew her to the project.

“I had the books (when I was young)…So, my grandparents’ generation, my parent’s generation, my generation, up to the kids today, Pooh seems to be very much a part of our world – a cross-generational thing,” she said. “It was passed to each generation growing up, really – and I believe I had the cassette tapes as well, which I listened to at night.”

Atwell’s connection to Pooh was so strong that she said it came out the first day she heard the long-time voice of Pooh, Jim Cummings.

I was in the trailer and he says, ‘Hello, Christopher Robin’ and I went ‘ooooo’ (mimicking crying)”, she said. “because that’s the voice I remember..and it just felt so authentic.”

“He speaks with this kindness and warmth..there’s a complete innocence about what he’s saying,” Atwell continued. “Everything is said..without an agenda, with no judgment. he’s kind of like a Zen master, a Yoda, a Buddha. He’s just this beacon of unconditional love.”

“Jim has been associated with that since the ’80s and now he’s part of the legacy that’s so well-known in the culture,” Atwell went on. “So, when we started to film, to hear that voice is what made us comfortable and felt we were all part of this together.”

In the end, Atwell feels the simplicity and idealism of Pooh is a reason kids of all ages love him.

“He does the same thing every day,” Atwell concluded. “He’s like an antidote to the modern day. He’s a sentimental dreamer (as opposed to modern day) which tends to promote..professionalism and working really hard and never turning off our phones – and Pooh’s just going,’Why?’…There’s a lot of people who can relate to that, I think.”

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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