In the drama biopic Goodbye Christopher Robin, we see how author A.A. Milne created his iconic Winnie the Pooh series and the consequences it had on Milne’s young son, Christopher Robin.

Domhnall Gleeson plays Milne, a popular London playwright who returns from WWI shell-shocked and lost. His wife, Daphne (Margot Robbie), just wants her old husband back and after having their son, Christopher Robin, she agrees to move to the country so he can write. He finally finds his muse when he has to take care of Christopher after his nanny (Kelly Macdonald) goes on a leave of absence. Together, father and son explore the woods around their country estate, as Christopher carries his stuffed animals around with him. Milne is finally inspired and writes down the tales of Winnie the Pooh, living in the Hundred Acre Wood with friends Piglet, Eeyore, Tigger and more.

However, Milne can’t anticipate the level of popularity and impact the stories would have on a war-torn world who are clamoring for something wholesome and fantastical. He also doesn’t realize how this will impact his young son, who instantly becomes a sought-after celebrity. Christopher suddenly is shoved into the spotlight, and it seems his childhood is forever changed.

ScreenPicks had the opportunity to sit down with Goodbye Christopher Robin‘s director Simon Curtis (who also directed My Week with Marilyn) to talk about the movie and his interpretation of the subject matter.

I feel like most people think this movie is just about how Winnie the Pooh was created, which it is, but it goes beyond that, doesn’t it?

Simon Curtis: And that’s a good thing, right? It is the story of the origin, but what appeal to me was that it was so much more than that. So I flipped it to be a positive. It was an interesting film about family and the impact of war, impact of fame – so many different things. Even if you aren’t a Winnie the Pooh fan. I hope it does work like that.

What was your intent with this?

Curtis: I love pulling back the curtain to see the real story of something, an iconic book like this. It’s also about fame, creation, England, the aftermath of war. Recently, we had Dunkirk, but in it’s quiet way, this film says as much about the terrifying legacy of war as that film does. It’s not only the men and women who fight in the war who are impacted but the wife who stays at home. Daphne was deeply traumatized by her husband going off to war. So much so, she doesn’t even want a son. And Christopher Robin, you can easily argue was damaged by this, and he wasn’t even born before it ended! Where have you seen that story before? That really appealed to me.

What I’ve read about Daphne Milne, she wasn’t all that nice of a lady, but what Margot Robbie does with it is very interesting because you see her being an inattentive mother but then she was the one who did all the voices for Christopher Robin’s stuffed animals, which was so sweet.

Curtis: But that’s the stuff that’s not one thing or another, isn’t it? And I completely agree with you. Christopher Robin wrote about his mother that he only saw her for a half an hour at breakfast and a half an hour at night, which, by the way, was how people parented in those days. But during those half hours, she was fantastic! So that joy when she hands him the tiger or the voices that was a big part of her being a mother. She didn’t think twice about handing the baby off to the nanny. That’s the way they did it.

You definitely captured that upper class British mentality of the time.

Curtis: It’s like the queen [Queen Elizabeth] who famously left Prince Charles for five months. That’s the way it was. I really admire Margot for embracing that and not trying to soften it. And I think it’s a bit of a breakthrough from Domhnall Gleeson because he really dominates the film. He brings such intelligence and complexity to an intelligent and complicated man.

What did you find out about A.A. Milne that surprised or resonated with you?

Curtis: I didn’t know he was a successful playwright and that he was damaged by the war. Also, I’m a very devoted father, and he came to the joys of being a father very late, you can argue. Then the awful irony that they created something together that damaged that relationship even further.

How about your own childhood memories of Winnie the Pooh?

Curtis: No more or less than anyone else. I met a journalist today who brought his own Eeyore in with him and spoke to me. It was kind of weird. It was one of the books my parents read to me and I was third generation and there’s been a couple more generations since. I think the hidden secret is that it’s very short. It’s great for parents. They can get away with a 10-minute session as opposed to reading a whole chapter of Harry Potter.

The art of telling stories to your kids seems to have gone downhill I’m afraid, with iPads and smartphones and whatnot.

Curtis: Well, that’s one of the messages of the film, to put down your smartphone and pay attention to them when they are around because they are not going to be there forever. Nothing can beat that contact, that voice. Margot talks about her own mother doing the voices to her, and that was definitely a huge part of her connection with [the role of Daphne].

What are your feelings about children and fame?

Curtis: [Christopher Robin] was one of the first ever child celebrities. The Milnes could never have predicted the stories would become so famous – that version of fame, like Beatlemania or something. It was a lot like My Week with Marilyn, the other side of fame. I knew someone who is my age who was taken to meet Christopher Robin at the bookshop. He happily signed the Winnie the Pooh books. So obviously, he was at peace with it in some way.

Goodbye Christopher Robin is currently playing in theaters.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Google+