DUBLIN – A couple of years ago, when life was normal, and we were allowed out of the house and in the company of other people, we took a trip to Dublin, Ireland, to visit the grandiose set of the children’s adventure flick Four Kids and It. Based on Jacqueline Wilson’s popular novel, which in turn is based on the story by E. Nesbit, we spent our day in a big countryside mansion, purporting to be the Cornish residence of the film’s eccentric villain, played by Russell Brand. But it was the characters who aren’t so antagonistic we spent time with, as we chatted to Matthew Goode and Paula Patton, who play the two single parents who fall in love, bringing their two respective families together on a surprise group holiday.
On working with Russell Brand
Matthew Goode: I met Russell briefly years ago, and he’s had a couple of kids himself and he’s a very sweet man, and super smart, it’s a joy to hang out with him actually, I must say. In my mind’s eye I thought he’d be running around the place, and maybe he will at some point, but he’s very calm and a very sweet man.
Paula Patton: Russell is so funny. The script is already really well written but he has some great one-liners that he comes up with on his own, which you’d hope for from a great comedian. He’s a very kind man and very spiritual. He’s a good presence.
On making a children’s film
Paula Patton: It was the first opportunity to do a movie that my kid could watch, honestly this was the first one! I thought it was such a modern take on family. The fact it’d a couple coming together, they’re both single parents and bringing their families together for the holiday, I could certainly relate. Children’s movies are wonderful in that they have this lasting quality, and you want all your films to do that, but there’s something about children’s films that are classic, and your kids watch it over and over again, so to be a part of that and have one is nice. My kid always asks me where I go to work and I’m like… no, absolutely not! But finally we can see this one, and this film was magical for me. I was meant to be do another project and it was really dark, and it cut into my kid’s school time, and I was tired. I just couldn’t do it. So I was meant to do that project but I said no to it, and then magically I didn’t have another job in sight, and two weeks later after saying no to that, this movie came back up and it perfectly fit into my son’s school holiday. And now we’re in Ireland and it’s so idyllic and it’s one of those things where all of the elements are great and perfect for working.
On their own childhoods
Matthew Goode: I did spend a huge amount of time in Cornwall, where the story is set, because my father used to map Cornwall for the British geological society. I’m from Devon originally anyway, so I feel like I’ve lived in some of these areas. I used to love Wind in the Willows. There’s a few Roald Dahl ones which were very prominent in my childhood. And a thing called Ramsbottom Rag, and I remember really enjoying that.
Paula Patton: It reminds me of going to see my grandfather every summer, and he was very stern, a disciplinarian, far worse than my own parents. He was in South Carolina, and he had a house on a lake and it was next to a forest, and I would go in there and play make-believe for hours. This reminds me of those holidays where you don’t have much to do but you do have this great nature. That’s when a child has the most fun I think, making something work out of nothing. As for what I would’ve wished for? Oh probably tons of candy. A swimming pool. Silly things like that. But now you just realise that the greatest wish you could have is for happiness. And happiness is not based on things, or getting desires met, but truly being at peace with yourself with nothing.
On sending positive messages to a younger generation
Paula Patton: It’s good to talk to kids as young adults, in a straight-forward way, because they’re really smart. We actually all could learn a lot from children. They come to us new to this planet, but they come to give us lessons also and to teach us, because we clearly could use it! We always get afraid of telling children things, and I really believe you have to be super-honest. It’s good to show these stories of couples who are not married, which is real. But they have love and they’ve got their kids and they want to see if these families can merge, and for all of us on that divorce side of things, I think it’s an encouraging tale. Hopefully it won’t be a fairytale!
On relating to the characters at hand
Paula Patton: I’m the authority on divorce [laughs]. But I was telling Matthew Goode that there’s a great after-life which can be had. You have a rebirth, and that first love afterwards can be really thrilling. Especially if you meet somebody who has had a child. It’s a new chapter in your life and you can change everything if you want.
Four Kids and It is available to watch now on Sky Cinema