Maggie Is Magic!
Maggie Gyllenhaal was all too eager to join the world of Nanny McPhee in Nanny McPhee Returns. After all, Gyllenhaal and Nanny McPhee creator Emma Thompson became friends on the set of Stranger Than Fiction, but never acted together. The mother of three-year-old Ramona also reported that unlike Nanny McPhee, who has a set of lessons children must learn, Gyllenhaal figures her child’s lessons will come when her daughter is fully grown. "It changes. I think it will continue to change," Gyllenhaal said of imparting wisdom to Ramona. "I don’t think there’s an overreaching one. I think when I get to the end, I will be able to say: That was a lesson."
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Maggie Gyllenhaal goes UKSheKnows: Your English accent was impeccable. Where did it come from?
Maggie Gyllenhaal: At first I thought I wanted to sound like Susanna [White, the director] who has a beautiful accent. She has a beautiful English accent, which is difficult for me to hear what they hear -- the class that's in the accent. I think that Mrs Green is someone who grew up pretty wealthy in the city and moved to the country. So she shouldn't sound really posh, but a little bit. In the end, it was just the accent that came to me. I don't know why.
SheKnows: Working with Rhys Ifans, this was a unique role for him as your brother-in-law trying to steal the farm. How did you find Rhys?
Maggie Gyllenhaal: Most of my work in the movie was with the children, five children ranging in age from five-and-a-half to 13 and animals and pretend animals [laughs] -- working on real scenes that required proper acting. Emma's script is no joke. I would be driving these huge dialogue scenes with kids and animals and that was most of my experience in the movie and it was fun. But, it was hard. Then, one day, I get to work, deep into the filming of the movie, to shoot this scene with Rhys. They were going to shoot it all in one take, us walking down a road trying to get me to sell the farm. They're just going to follow us doing the scene. It has to be done perfectly. Like in Crazy Heart, for example, there is no such thing as perfect in that movie. If you've done your work and respond to the other person, anything can happen. In a movie like this, if you have to have a vase fall on your head because it's funny and need to say this line, you need to be standing in one spot so the vase can fall on your head. So, it's a different kind of technical work. So, I get to work to do the scene with Rhys, and I'm used to all these other scenes, not with grown-ups, and we start to do the scene and it was like awesome! It was like, "You're a grown-up! You're an expert." It was super fun [laughs]. We couldn't make a mistake.
SheKnows: Now sharing screen time with legend Maggie Smith must have been a treasure. Or, were you intimidated at all by her?
Maggie Gyllenhaal: I heard that Maggie doesn't suffer fools gladly and could be scary. I was really scared to work with her. Thank God she likes me! She'd say amazing things. I heard her on the phone talking to her son after work one day. I could tell he said on the other line, "What time are you going to be home?" She said, "Oh, I don't know. How long is a piece of string?" [Laughs] She literally did tell stories like the how now brown cow stories. Those were amazing.
SheKnows: Emma seemed to get a lot of her friends to join the cast. As one of the lone Americans in the film, how were you embraced by these UK acting legends?
Maggie Gyllenhaal: Am I the only American? Wow.
SheKnows: Yes, you are.
Maggie Gyllenhaal: You know, it felt very English -- the whole thing [laughs]. The way Emma was with Peter, my husband, she was so thankful to him for giving me to her for months. She thanked Peter for staying and taking care of Ramona. Thank you, thank you. She felt that part of her job was to take care of me and make me comfortable. I didn't need that, but I appreciated it. I like English people. My family has shot a lot in England. We did Dark Knight in London and Peter did An Education there, then we did Nanny McPhee there for four months. We're going back in the fall. We're used to it in some ways, it really is different. I don't think I realized as clearly until I was halfway through this movie how true it is, the cultural differences. I think for the most part, you do have to do some translating. The same behavior doesn't mean the same thing as it does here. Another thing, I got much more quick witted. That's really a muscle you work there. That's part of being American too, part of being socially agile here. But, it's really everywhere there and if you can't keep up, you can't have a conversation. I remember thinking that the back part of my brain, the witty part, got a real workout [laughs].
SheKnows: How do you see Nanny McPhee Returns? Is it solely a children's movie?
Maggie Gyllenhaal: It's definitely a film for children, but extremely gratifying for adults. I cried watching it. I felt it was so true. I'm interested in what entertains children's minds. I probably wasn't as interested until I had one [laughs]. I think that is what is so special about it is it really is appealing to anyone that is a human being.