The story of how Paddington 2’s wonderful barbershop sequence nearly, well, got the chop.
It still rankles that the quite superb Paddington 2 found itself overlooked in the US last year, when it finally got a release in the States. Warner Bros put it out – StudioCanal distributed it in the UK – but bizarrely failed to really lobby for it to get the awards recognition it deserved.
Appreciating this sounds like hyberbole, I’d genuinely argue that Paddington 2 is one of the greatest movie sequels of all time, and it’s certainly one of the top five films of its respective year. That it qualified for the Oscars this time round and didn’t get a sniff is to the shame of the Academy.
One of the many merits of the film is just how contained it is. That this is a movie that doesn’t want to outstay its welcome, and as a consequence, the running time of the movie remains a lean 104 minutes. By the standards of modern cinema, that’s some achievement.
Yet it seems that there were concerns amongst those making the film that it was going to outstay its welcome. So much so that a delightful moment from the movie early on was heading to the cutting room floor.
I could describe the scene for you, but this is one of those sequences where it’s far better to show it…
It’s a delightful piece of work, with a little pay off later on in the movie. But director Paul King had a concern that the film was going to run a little too long. And in particular, that the above scene wasn’t really moving things forward. It’s effectively the film slowing down for a really fun and memorable moment.
Dig into the credits of the film, and you can get an insight into how King works. For in the special thanks at the end, there’s a bunch of names listed with thanks for their help on the screenplay. These include Laurence Rickard, Ben Willbond, Jim Howick, Samantha Ellis, Sam Bain, Julian Barratt, Jesse Armstrong, Jim Howick, Alex Kirk and James Serafinowicz, amongst others.
King comes from a television background, not least the brilliant The Mighty Boosh, and as such, he brought together a bunch of writers for something akin to a writers’ room. That whilst it’s he and Simon Farnaby who ultimately put the screenplay together, they cast their net for ideas, and credited people accordingly.
I’d heard a story before that in post-production, the barbership sequence was set to be left out of the movie. But Alice Lowe, chatting on one of Richard Herring’s terrific podcasts, confirms that when she went in to a little bit of work on the movie, at that stage, the scene was out. As she tells the story, King was seemingly in two minds on the decision to leave the scene out of the film, and thus showed it to Lowe, to ask her opinion on it.
Her opinion married up to what most of us would say in a similar situation: that scene absolutely has to go in.
It sounded like the version that she saw had been cut together and was ready to go. And from what I understand too, others saw the scene when it was in flux and were similarly impressed.
The message to King was clear: the barbershop sequence should be back in the film. That it was and is brilliant. And thankfully, that message was heard loud and clear. The sequence was put back into the movie, lengthening the running time a little in the process, but I doubt a single person begrudges those minutes. Quite the opposite.
Have an extra nerdy fact, too. That sequence was based directly on one of Paddington creator Michael Bond’s original stories, Too Much Off The Top.
Paddington 2 remains a modern day classic, and all concerned are taking their time before pressing ahead with a Paddington 3. Given the two films in the series so far, and the sheer skill and quality of what we’ve had so far, who could begrudge them that?
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