'The Borrowers'

26 Dec 2011
TV film
Dir. Tom Harper
Wr. Mary Norton (book) & Ben Vanstone
Role: Pod Clock (heroine's father).

8 Dec, 8pm USA (ABC) - listing
26 Dec, 7.30pm UK (BBC One) - listing

BAFTA preview + Q&A
(T. Harper, B. Vanstone, A. Loftus, R. Sheehan): 29 Nov

DVD release: Jan 9 (amazon.co.uk - hmv.com - play.com)
Includes 'The Making of The Borrowers' (25min)

Sites at Working Title - BBC - IMDb

A. Loftus and S. Dooley on BBC Breakfast + 2 clips
Exclusive trailer


Robert Sheehan interview (youtube)
Extract / preview (Dec 13):

BBC One preview (world alt at CultBox) (Aug 27)
BBC Christmas trail (Dec 3)

BBC One Christmas Drama trail (Dec 3):


Dec 23
Daily Mail Check under your floorboards! Boxing Day's new version of The Borrowers rings so true you'll believe they really do exist, says its star-studded cast (even more quotes)
Dec 22
Digital Spy Christopher Eccleston 'The Borrowers' Q&A: 'Pod wants to be a hero' (CE interview)
Version of below with more quotes from This Is Gloucestershire - Dinky people with big bruises
Dec 22
Press Association Eccleston bruises nose as Borrower
Dec 21
The Guardian My TV Christmas cracker: The Borrowers
Dec 20
The Telegraph Victoria Wood and Stephen Fry star in The Borrowers (incl. CE quotes)
Dec 11
The Independent Heads Up: The Borrowers
Dec 6 What's On TV Chris Eccleston: 'I loved the book when I was 7' (CE interview)
Dec SFX Something borrowed (text; some spoilers)


• Overnights - 5.38m (22.2%) (Digital Spy).

with Working Title Television's Juliette Howell ("[...] The Borrowers is the first [WTT] production to reach the small screen.").

Image gallery at Digital Spy (alt at Unreality TV).

Interview w/ the cast - TV Choice:
Did you know the books as a child?
CE: I did and it's the key as to why I took the job. I'm hoping more people will read them after seeing this.
The Borrowers has been updated to the 21st century, has that changed the atmosphere?
CE: I hope not. All the style, stunts and humour in the world won't matter unless we have that basic core of the book, which is the love between Pod and Homily and Arrietty and their underdog status.
Their whole life is built around borrowing things, are you a borrower?
CE: Oh no, I have this thing that if people encourage me to borrow a book I won't because I fear I'll move on and not return it. Books are so important to people. Neither a lender nor a borrower be.
What are you up to at the moment?
CE: A four-hour drama for BBC1 called The Fuse. I play the central character who is a corrupt politician and it's a series about obsession, addiction, and hopefully, ultimately redemption. It also has shafts of black humour running through it, it won't be traditional cops and robbers.
• Nov 18 Director Tom Harper offered some info on the titles: To be designed by Clemens Wirth (vimeo) and the song is performed by Hafdis Huld (website).
• Nov 15 BBC MEDIA PACK - CE interview (light spoilers):
On The Borrowers book…
The Borrowers is one of the very first books I remember reading as a child, and I loved it. I would have read it around 1971 or 1972 I think at the primary school I went to. They formed a little book club and gave us a magazine where you had to choose your own book. The Borrowers was the first book I bought and I can picture seeing the brochure now, seeing the graphics on the front of The Borrowers novel – I went for that first and read the book two or three times. As a child if I liked a book I tended to keep reading it. The film is a contemporary take on the story and still retains all the original elements of the book, which is really about a loving family – a dad learning how to let go of his daughter so that she'll come back.

On becoming Pod…
As the book was such an important part of my childhood, I was very familiar with the character of Pod. Ian Holm, who I've worked with, is one of my heroes, as is Jim Broadbent – both fantastic actors, so it was nice to think that I'd play a role that those two great actors have played. I also thought it was interesting, because I'm obviously a very different type to Jim and Ian and I like the fact that Pod can adapt like that. Pod borrows his clothes from an action figure of the 80s, perhaps loosely based on a character from Raiders Of The Lost Ark. I think that appeals to Pod's image… he's quite an adrenaline junkie, he likes risk and adventure. Pod is also a lovely dad, and a hero. I've played lots of troubled men and 'anti-heroes', but Pod's a straight hero. There's a great sense of humour to him, and a gentleness. That's what attracted me to the role.

On the stunts…
Playing the role of Pod is unlike anything I've done before. There was a huge amount of green screen and I've done little bits of green screen in the past, but not that much. I would say it's the most challenging role I've done physically, because one of the conditions for me playing the part was that I did all the stunts. My favourite stunt was where I ran along a gigantic bookcase and just threw myself into mid-air and onto a crash mat. I was very excited about doing that and they had to tell me to stop because I kept doing it for fun. I also flew out of a gigantic drain into 12ft of milkshake mix, but that was not as pleasant.

On working with green screen…
I love green screen work because for me it's like being a child again – having to imagine that something is there and act with it, it's a slightly different skill. It pulls more on your imagination and your ability to express yourself, and that's all I did as a kid was run around the garden pretending I was in a polar ice cap, or on the ocean waves or in the middle of a James Bond film. I enjoy it because you have to create something with your imagination, and also it's funny if you take a step outside it and take a look at what you're actually doing, it's pretty comic.

On the sets…
The sets are very simple and very classic, and the production design on this was beautiful and subtle. For me the most impressive set was a section of a room where you saw just the floor and the skirting board. Now that does not sound that dramatic, but when you see it built to scale it was remarkable. It reminded me a lot of the Fred Quimby produced Tom and Jerry cartoons, the very early ones, where you would never see the human beings, just their feet. When you do something like this it's really important that production design and make-up and costume are all pulled together so there's a unity, and I felt that particularly with the production design.

On the costumes…
Pod's costume is very torn, tattered, spattered in mud, and half hanging off him. He's a typical fella, he's not too concerned with what he looks like and when they go on this extraordinary adventure, Pod is reduced to rags really. He's nearly dissected and his shirt is taken off him by the human beings… he starts off pretty Harrison Ford-ish, and ends up like Steptoe and Son.

On the film…
I think it's a testimony to Mary Norton's vision that there have been so many versions of the piece – because what is important about the piece is the heart and soul of it. It seems to me that the Borrowers are written as an example to the human beings of what’s best about being a human being. You've got Stephen Fry's character that's obsessed intellectually and seems completely divorced from his emotions, and then you've got the grandmother who is all about emotion and anger. The Borrowers seem to take in both those things and have brought them together – they are written as the best we could be as human beings, as little examples of how we could be better. It's very adventurous and extraordinary – but it's also magical. It's about a family, about a young girl's journey into adulthood, and the way her parents accept that, and that of course is always going to be a story that people will respond to.
Also, Synopsis and cast (heavy spoilers).
• Nov 11 Ben Vanstone on the film and possible future (sfx.co.uk):

"There's always the hope that we can take it on further. We are talking about the possibility of doing it as a series and working up ideas for it. There's so many more things for us to explore," says writer Ben Vanstone, adding that it has a lot of potential, especially as it includes a world where the Borrowers have been parachuted (literally) into the 21st century.

"Our starting place is very much the same – Arrietty's a girl living with her family under the floorboards in their house. Then, through an encounter with a human boy, their world gets turned upside down and they're forced to move somewhere new. That's in essence what the novel is, but we take quite a different trajectory. I came to think about it as what Mary Norton might be interested in if she was writing it now. It's very much bringing it up to date."

As well as adding a "modern-day action take on it", that means Borrowers living underground in London, contemporary technology (some Borrowers have appropriated a laptop as a cinema) and 21st century special effects.

They might be pint-sized people but it's something that thinks big. With an all-star cast and new faces thrown together in one jolly Christmas special.
• Aug 27 BBC One controller Danny Cohen's Media Guardian Edinburgh International TV Festival blog with a preview video, including clips from 'The Borrowers'.
• Aug 26 Preliminary American TX added, as stated on production designer Paul Cripps' site (also including small image, see here).

• Jun 26 Filming started in South Africa (scroll down for more details in the notes); borrowers' scenes were finished by Jul 15; continued with 'human beans' until Jul 30.

• Jun 20 BBC press release:
Stephen Fry, Victoria Wood, and Christopher Eccleston have been cast to star in The Borrowers alongside Robbie Sheehan (Misfits), Aisling Loftus (Dive), Sharon Horgan (Free Agents, Pulling) and Shaun Dooley (Exile, South Riding) in an action-packed adventure film for all the family on BBC One this Christmas.

Written by Ben Vanstone (Merlin, EastEnders) and produced by Working Title Television, the 90-minute film is an adaptation of Mary Norton's classic children's books that brings the world of the tiny Borrowers who live under our floorboards into the 21st century.

Aisling Loftus plays Arrietty Clock, a head-strong teenage Borrower who is desperate to explore life outside her hidden family home. Her parents, Pod and Homily – played by Christopher Eccleston and Sharon Horgan – are terrified of the world of the 'human beans' and are fiercely protective of their daughter. Arrietty sneaks out one night and befriends James, a lonely boy who lives above her in the house with his father Robert Millman – played by Shaun Dooley. This leads to a world of trouble when the Borrowers' hidden home is discovered by his formidable grandmother and they are forced to abandon their home and venture into the big wide world.

Victoria Wood plays Grandma Driver. She knows the 'little people' exist, she's always known, and is determined to hunt them out of her house. Stephen Fry plays scientist Professor Mildeye who also knows of the little people and their existence. Determined to restore his reputation and resurrect his academic career, he'll go to any length to capture them and reveal their identity to the world.

Robbie Sheehan plays Spiller; a leather jacketed tearaway who takes quite a shine to Arriety. She's not quite sure what to make of this, but when her parents are captured by the evil Professor Mildeye, she is forced to enlist both Spiller's and human bean James' help. They go on a series of daring adventures to try and outsmart Mildeye and return the Clock family to their former home in time for Christmas.

Danny Cohen, Controller BBC One, says: "The Borrowers will be part of a really special family Christmas on BBC One and with with its stellar line-up it is set to be a truly wonderful programme."

Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning, says: "A brilliant and bold contemporary version of this classic tale with all the charm of the original but with a thrilling, moving and funny modern sensibility written and directed by two of our most exciting young talents with an amazing cast – it's the perfect Christmas present!"

Juliette Howell, Head of Television, Working Title, says: "I couldn't be more thrilled with Ben's take on this classic story. It feels fresh, original and above all funny. The perfect Christmas treat."

Filming begins this summer for five weeks.

The Borrowers was commissioned by Ben Stephenson, Controller of BBC Drama Commissioning and Danny Cohen, Controller BBC One. The executive producers are Juliette Howell, Tim Bevan and Eric Fellner for Working Title Television and Polly Hill for the BBC. The producer is Radford Neville and the film will be directed by Tom Harper (Misfits, This Is England).
• Jun 20 C21Media report with more company focus.

• Jun 18 2011 Christopher Eccleston has been cast in children's TV film 'The Borrowers' which will be shown on BBC One around Christmas this year.
ScreenTerrier report with focus on young actors.
Initial report from The Guardian.
• Shooting location See script writer Ben Vanstone's tweets here and here, also ScreenTerrier article.
On June 3 the programme was mentioned for the first time (it was greenlit back in February though) by Stephen Fry on Mayo and Kermode radio show: "Before [The Hobbit] in fact I go to South Africa… Working Title are doing The Borrowers. I was very surprised to get this script because I remember they did The Borrowers not that long ago… I thought "Oh, that's odd" but I read the script and thought it was delightful and I had a really funny part… that starts in a few weeks." (via bleedingcool.com)
Apparently it was initially to be written by Danny Brocklehurst (see his resume).
• Previous incarnations of 'The Borrowers'
1973 - American TV film (IMDb).
1992 - BBC TV version: 6 episode (30 min) mini series, with Ian Holm, Rebecca Callard and Penelope Wilton*, based on the first two novels ('The Borrowers' and 'The Borrowers Afield') and shown on BBC Two and TNT (IMDb). A sequel followed in 1993 (based on 'The Return of the Borrowers').
1997 - feature film with John Goodman, Jim Broadbent and Celia Imrie (IMDb), an updated, but set in a fictional world version - Working Title was behind it too.
2010 - animation film from Studio Ghibli 'Arrietty The Borrower' (IMDb); premièring in UK (with Mark Strong voicing Pod Clock) in July 2011 and USA (with Will Arnett) early next year.
* all of whom CE has worked with - in 'eXistenZ', 'The Fuse' and 'Doctor Who', respectively.


mktackabery said...

I adored these books as a child, and the movie with Goodman was a regrettable error. I believe Eccleston and Fry will make me forget it ever happened.

Vivi said...

Having only been exposed to the story in the form of watching the 1997 movie once as a near adult and hardly remembering any of it, I was a little mystified why they cast Eccleston in this. You know, aside from thinking "I suppose the UK has something of a limited pool of talented actors willing to do kid's movies." and "I guess he's old enough now to do Dad roles. Good for him to get to do something less angsty once in a while, but what a waste that he'll play second fiddle to the teenage heroes."
But now that I read the character description? An adrenaline junkie action hero with a good sense of humour and a gentle soul whose main flaw it is that he's a bit too clingy/patriarchal/overprotective with the young woman in his life - I can see why they wanted the guy who played the Ninth Doctor for that...

Good for him that he gets to act for children again and had fun during the shoot. And when the team genuinely likes the source material it's almost always a good sign for a production.

Alex said...

In the old BBC series and the Studio Ghibli animation, Pod is clever, supportive but also moody - very much a character for Eccleston. Going by Ben Vanstone's comments, they've kept and enhanced this contrast.

It's a healthy project and a really decent role, so good for him indeed.

Anonymous said...

Having attended the BAFTA premiere the essence of the classic children's novel hasn't been lost as this is a fresh interpretation into the 21st century.

It left me with a smile on my face feeling like a child once more believing that are small people under my floorboards.