‘Film has begun of ‘Four Kids and It‘ the first feature film adaptation of one of Dame Jacqueline Wilson’s novels.
Four Kids And It, a family adventure story, has a cast that includes Sir Michael Caine, Matthew Goode and Russell Brand.
Wilson’s 2012 novel, a No 1 bestseller, is a contemporary retelling of Edith Nesbit’s 1902 classic Five Children and It.
In the film, four children are upset to discover that their beach holiday is actually a bonding trip with potential step-siblings. During an argument, they stumble across the Psammead, “a magical, sandy, grumpy creature” who can grant them a wish a day, albeit reluctantly.
Producer Anne Brogan said: “We’ve made television singles of two of [Wilson’s] books … This is the first feature film, so she’s naturally very excited.”
The film starts principal photography this week, but Caine has already completed most of his role, although he will need to return for post-production work.
Baines described his performance as “really hilarious”. She is the founder of Dan Films, whose acclaimed features include Peter Bogdanovich’s The Cat’s Meow starring Kirsten Dunst. Brogan is co-founder of Kindle Entertainment, whose award-winning international successes include Hank Zipzer, about a boy with dyslexia.
When Wilson’s agent allowed them to read Four Kids before it was published, they immediately sensed its cinematic potential.
But they have taken “quite a bit of licence with Jacqueline’s story, with her permission”, Brogan said, noting that they felt the story needed a “baddie”. In the story, the children are granted a wish a day, learning about life when those wishes do not quite work out as they hoped. The film-makers have added a villain (played by Brand) who wants to steal the Psammead.
Wilson has written the foreword for Elisabeth Galvin’s forthcoming biography on Nesbit, whose classics also include The Railway Children. Writing in The Extraordinary Life of E Nesbit, to be published next month, Wilson notes that Noël Coward was among Nesbit’s most passionate admirers. “The books certainly rivet me too – and I hope … Gavin’s biography will introduce many more readers to her children’s books,” she said.
Galvin said: “Nesbit is still inspiring authors like Wilson and major Hollywood filmmakers 100 years on. It says a lot about her imagination.”
While Nesbit’s children wished to be beautiful as the day, the modern retelling reflects the desires of today’s children, such as wanting to be a pop star, Baines said.
The Psammead, or the It character, is being designed by creature creators Brian Froud, the conceptual character designer for Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth, and his wife, Wendy Froud, the original creator of Star Wars’ Yoda. Baines said that the designers’ brief was that he should look “really ancient and grumpy – and yet you’ve got to love him”.