Talking Books with the cast of Mr. Popper’s Penguins

Since the movie is based (loosely) on the 1939 Newbery Honor book Mr. Popper’s Penguins, at the blogger roundtable interviews we naturally drifted to talk of books — specifically any exposure that they or their kids had to the original movie tie-in version of Mr. Popper’s Penguins book, but a few others came up too.

Whether I’m talking to a Hollywood star or a neighbor or a new acquaintance, nothing make me happier when the talk turns to books. I’m pleased to share the fruits of my bookish labors from the Mr. Popper’s Penguin movie press junket:

Thoughts on the original book:

  • Angela Lansbury had never read the book. She had the book, but decided not to read it when she found out that the story deviated quite a bit from the book. “I’m not going to mess up my mind about — because I knew she [Mrs. Van Gundy, Lansbury’s character] didn’t exist in the book.”
  • Carla Gugino had read the book years ago to her godchildren and stepchildren. “This is such a modern version of it that I didn’t end up revisiting it, but I had always loved that book. And so many people come up to me about the book and tell me the impact that it’s had on them. And I think, again, that comes back to the fact that that book has so much heart.”
  • Jim Carrey enjoyed the book when he read it recently. “I’m surprised how dear that is to people because I didn’t read it growing up in Canada. So, I was amazed, now that the movie has come out, how important it is to people, which is great. I love that. I love that.”
  • John Davis, the producer who brought Mr. Popper’s Penguins to the screen was drawn to the story that his kids had read as children and his wife remembered reading when she was a child.
  • The director Mark Waters‘ child read the novel this year in 3rd grade. “I walked into her school and there was a huge mural on the wall with Mr. Popper’s Penguins. And I’m thought, ‘This is some kind of weird joke. What are they doing?'”

Mark Waters, Director (center left) and John Davis, Producer (center) with the blogger roundtable

On making a movie that differs so much from the original book:

Producer John Davis: “People know the book and they’ve known it for generations and generations and generations. So, you can’t disappoint them, but you sometimes have to bring it into the modern age in order for it to be appealing to a new young audience. ”

Director Mark Waters recognizes the benefits of basing a movie on a book (He also did the Spiderwick Chronicles movie) because it’s immediately recognizable, and catches people’s interest. They think “‘Well, I read the book and I want to see what they did differently in the movie.’ That creates an interest, too, even if it is that we were not being crazy loyal like the Harry Potter books or anything.”

Other book name-dropping:

  • Carla Gugino said “Harry Potter sort of took over our world for a while in a good way.” But the books that really impacted her were read when she was a bit older: “To Kill a Mockingbird I still think is just, arguably the best book every written. Every time I reread that book or read it to someone, I’m just sort of blown away.”
  • Jim Carrey — “There’s a book called The Drama of the Gifted Child. Steve Martin gave it to me, actually. He said, ‘This is a really kind of good clue into kind of where you might have come from a little bit.’ And I don’t think it totally applies, but I think it’s really an important thing for parents to realize that they’re there to love their kids, their kids aren’t there to love them.”

Also, keep an eye out later this week at 5 Minutes for Mom for my interview with Jim Carrey.

Other Mr. Popper’s Penguins coverage:

  • Mr. Penguins Penguins movie review and thoughts on the updated book adaptation.
  • As a part of the press junket, we were able to get in front of the camera. I detailed the process (with pictures and the video itself) of my on-camera debut at my blog Snapshot.
  • Meet the Penguins — I share some interesting facts that we learned from the cast and crew about filming with penguins, casting the penguins and more.
  • Jim Carrey, comic genius and respected actor (and warm-hearted guy)

I’d love to hear your response to these interviews here, but remember, your comment here won’t earn you a giveaway entry, you must comment on the Mr. Popper’s Penguins book and movie giveaway at 5 Minutes for Mom.
Jennifer Donovan is managing editor at 5 Minutes for Books, where she loves sharing her experiences with all sorts of stories in all sorts of genres. She also blogs at Snapshot.

Disclosure: Twentieth Century Fox sponsored my travel and other expenses for the Mr. Popper’s Penguins press junket, where I saw the movie and interviewed some of the cast and crew. They have asked me to post about my experience, but my opinions are entirely my own.

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