Home Entertainment Steven Spielberg & Ruby Barnhill ~ An Exclusive Interview #TheBFGEvent

Steven Spielberg & Ruby Barnhill ~ An Exclusive Interview #TheBFGEvent

by Heather


On Friday, I shared with you what it was like to be part of The BFG Red Carpet Premiere. Today, we’re going to switch gears a bit but for a part of the event that was just as equally exciting, perhaps a bit more. Let me explain why …

As a Disney blogger I have come to learn that in addition to press trips being a whirlwind of fun and excitement, they also come with an added bonus, sitting down with amazing talent throughout the industry. On my first trip, I met George Clooney. On my second trip, I was in the company of Peter Sohn and John Stamos. My third trip with Disney, The BFG, I sat down with Steven Spielberg. STEVEN SPIELBERG, the director of amazing films like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jaws, Indiana Jones, Saving Private Ryan, Schindler’s List, and recent Disney film, Bridge of Spies. To say the man is a legend would be an understatement and this was his first time meeting with a group of Disney Bloggers. We’re talking history in the making … well, at least in my mind. 😉

Now, back to the day! The BFG Red Carpet Premiere took place on Tuesday evening but Tuesday morning was absolutely mind blowing. It started with 25 bloggers sitting in a room, chatting nervously, with bursts of giggles here and there as we awaited the arrival of Director Steven Spielberg and Ruby Barnhill {“Sophie”}. Did I mention Steven Spielberg? I couldn’t believe this was really about to happen, my husband (playfully) threatened divorce when he heard I was going to meet him, and to this day, E.T. is my favorite movie. I was sweating with anticipation … that’s a thing, I swear. My eyes were darting all over the room as I waited for the talent announcement, and I was flipping through my notepad making sure my questions were in order and hoping I would have the opportunity to ask at least one. Then it happened ….

“Ladies, I would like to introduce, Director Steven Spielberg and Ruby Barnhill, who plays Sophie in the film.”

I began to shake a bit, I let out a nervous giggle, and as I turned my head and took in the room I began to smile a smile that would stay in place the remainder of the day.


The first thing that I noticed about Ruby and Steven was how they interacted, like a father and daughter would. He placed his hand on her shoulder as they entered the room and made their way to their seats. He made certain she was comfortable first before taking his seat and he made sure the spotlight was just as much on her if not more so. The daughter in me and the mother in me both cheered silently because it was so natural that it was obvious this was the norm. Then, Mr. Spielberg made sure we were all comfortable and everyone was able to see before the questions began. Yes, you read that right, Steven Spielberg asked about us and made sure we were comfortable before the interview began. After a few moments for oohs and ahhs it was time to get down to business.

Question:  Can you give us a little background of how, why and, and why you?

Steven Spielberg:  Why? Well, I kinda believe in fate and I really believe that they save the best to last, because we were casting eight months and had not found Sophie.

I believe that Nina Gold saw maybe a couple thousand of qualified young people, both unknowns and working young actresses.  I was not giving up hope that I would find her, but I was starting to look at my third and fourth and fifth choices to accommodate people I had seen who I had liked but hadn’t reached my heart yet.

I was about to compromise when all the sudden I saw the audition that Ruby Barnhill and her parents had sent in to Nina Gold.  And, my whole life changed for the better in that instant. Everything was okay with the world at that point.  And I was so excited.

I was shooting Bridge of Spies, but I didn’t care at that moment about Bridge of Spies.  [LAUGHS] I didn’t care that Tom Hanks saw me so excited and it wasn’t about a movie that he was going to be in.  [LAUGHS] It was about another movie.  I had already cast Mark Rylance.  He was already our BFG by that time.  I came running in and I said I found her.  I found her.  I found her.  That’s what happened.  [CHUCKLES]

What’s your story?

Ruby Barnhill:  Oh.  When I heard that I got part, I was so, so happy, because I literally thought, well, from the look on my mom and dad’s faces, I thought it was good be news.  [CHUCKLES] They were literally like jumping up and down they were so excited.  And they said, Ruby, Ruby, here’s the phone for you.  Here’s the phone for you.  And I was like okay.  Um, I thought they were just kind of like pretending, like they were trying to trick me or something.  I [CHUCKLES] didn’t know what was going on. Then Nina Gold said, Ruby, how old are you?  And I’m like —

Steven Spielberg:    You were ten at the time.

Ruby Barnhill:    — I’m ten, ten. And she said, oh, well, that’s a shame.  And I said why is it a shame?  And she said because you’re not going to be able to drink champagne when everyone’s celebrating, because you got the part.  And I was like, oh, oh, my gosh.  And I was so happy and my family, my Nana bought me like 100 balloons and it was so great and I was so, so excited, because I had always wanted to be an actress. Since my dad’s an actor, I’d watched plays of his, since I was like three or four. It was really, really amazing for me to experience that same way. [CHUCKLES] And my mom and dad were also really, really pleased.

Steven Spielberg:    And I put her dad in the movie, too. 

Ruby Barnhill:    Yeah.  Yeah. 


Photo credit: Coralie Seright – LovebugsAndPostcards.com


Steven Spielberg:    Remember the scene where, The BFG first enters the palace and he’s on his hands and knees crawling up the corridor and there’s a guy guiding him saying slow ahead, hard to port.  All right, up, up.   That’s her dad, Paul.  [LAUGHS]

Question {from ME!}:  How would you sum up working with Mr. Spielberg?  The experience?

Ruby Barnhill:  It’s so amazing, because from working with Steven, I’ve learned so much not only about acting and directing but also just general things that are helpful and useful in general life.  One of the things that I’ll remember is that I used to be very, well, I kinda struggle with this a bit.  I don’t like making mistakes. 

Like I had a parent’s evening recently and my art teacher was saying whenever you make a mistake you, you panic.  You get worried and you mustn’t feel like that, because everybody makes mistakes and its fine.

Steven Spielberg:    Mm-hmm.

Ruby Barnhill:    But Steven really helped me realize that it’s okay to kind of make mistakes, and being onset making mistakes but making it funny, making it like [CHUCKLES] nobody minds it at all and it was just really good.  Even if you have to do100 takes nobody would mind.  That was one thing I learned and it was amazing.  And I had a great time, so it was great.

Steven Spielberg:  I don’t even call them mistakes.  I call them happy accidents [LAUGHS] because sometimes they wind up going into the movie. They just do.

Question:     You are such an iconic part of a lot of peoples’ childhoods and now our kids are being introduced to things like The BFG.  My daughter just recently watched E.T. Is that super important to you, and how does that feel that you’re translating now to another generation?

Steven Spielberg:    Well, I think of it in a way as having a very, very large extended family.  And I didn’t even understand when I was first starting out making movies about the power that film has.  I wasn’t really appreciative or even aware of the outreach of cinema until I was actually older.  I thought Jaws was just a freak of nature, [CHUCKLES] that that would never happen again.  And then when, E.T. suddenly happened and lightning suddenly struck twice, I realized that cinema outlives the filmmakers. And that was everything and becomes a part of the extended family of people from all walks of life who speak different languages and believe in different things, because sometimes movies come along that make you see the same thing with the same feeling.  And it doesn’t matter what, what languages we speak or who we are and what our backgrounds are, sometimes a feeling can be communicated all over the world without any signage. 

That power that film has is something that really intimidates me and I respect it a lot, but it also scares me, because it’s pretty awesome when that happens. 


Question:    With all that said, you were still telling Dahl’s story and under the Walt Disney name, what was that like? 

Steven Spielberg:    Well, I had never made a movie under the Walt Disney name as a director before, and it just turned out that way.  I don’t know why, because Disney had been in my life for a number of years, releasing some of our DreamWorks films over the last six or seven years.

They don’t do it now, but when they did do it.  The other thing was that Disney had such a profound, effect on my childhood, because I was raised in the world of Walt Disney.

His movies scared me to death, thrilled me to pieces, and made me laugh and made me cry, and I never cried in a movie before I saw Bambi when I was in a reissue.  My parents took me to see Bambi in a reissue.  Eight minutes into the movie, they kill the mom, and I’m sitting here crying my eyes out.

My parents wondered why they even took me to see Bambi in a movie theater in its like ninth reissue.  But it also redeemed itself in the time span of the movie, of the story.  That was a powerful time in my life.  And Mickey Mouse Club came on television and I was like an extended Mouseketeer. I was like millions of kids who watched TV back in the ‘50s and wanted to be Mouseketeers. 

So, to finally make a movie that has Disney’s name on it, I’m so proud when the film begins and the castle shows up. I get to make a movie and my movie follows the castle.  That’s something I’ve been waiting for in a way all my life, and through BFG and through Roald Dahl’s genius I got the chance to do it. 

Blogger:  I have a feeling Disney was probably waiting for it, too.


Question:  I noticed that you put a lot of detail into trying to make the giant and Sophie really mirror each other.  Was that intentional? 

Steven Spielberg:  I think Mark had known Ruby and gotten to know Ruby before we ever made the picture.  They did a little audition session together for Ruby just to help Ruby get to know Mark better.  This is after she had the job, but she sat with Mark for a couple of hours on video tape. And Mark watched her and I think observed her.  Mark is a fantastic observer.  He observes people he doesn’t even know and I think he is just a sponge. He doesn’t maybe remember the exact moment he takes something from someone else’s life, maybe a person walking down the street. He remembers the walk.  Maybe he took something from the way Ruby walks.  But Mark, I didn’t direct the walk.  Mark showed up the first day of shooting and he suddenly was walking like BFG.

I have to give Mark some credit for maybe just being open, big ears, Mark has small ears [CHUCKLES], but he really hears like BFG hears in real life.  I think maybe he found something similar. 

Question:  Ruby, you are a beautiful mixture of child and yet you are wise beyond your years.  How do you feel about becoming a new kind of Disney hero, a princess even for a new generation?


Photo credit: Coralie Seright – LovebugsAndPostcards.com

Ruby Barnhill:    Wow.  I never thought of it that way!  That’s quite cool, Disney princess.  [CHUCKLES] Well, that is so exciting, because a lot of Disney films now, which I’m really happy about and I know lots of my friends are happy about, have very strong female leads, like Star Wars and Brave and those sort of things and —

Steven Spielberg:    Frozen.

Ruby Barnhill:    Yeah, and Frozen definitely.  [CHUCKLES] Definitely Frozen. It’s really great to be a part of that and it’s really cool, because I’ve watched Disney my whole life. I was in the cinema and we saw the BFG trailer and all the kids, but nobody knew it was me obviously, but [CHUCKLES] all of the kids behind us were like, oh, that looks so good.  Oh, we’re gonna go see that. So, it’s really nice to know that people are going to enjoy it and appreciate it. I’m very excited. 

Steven Spielberg:    Disney really doesn’t get enough credit for in all of its earlier animated feature films just the virtue of a strong, young, female protagonist was very important to Walt Disney’s films.  You just go back and look from Cinderella to Snow White, from the earlier animated films. You can even look at Dumbo’s mother, the strong, female role model of the mother in Dumbo, which is an incredible character. He kind of put that on the map.  To a great extent, he did a lot for women and the empowerment of young females both onscreen and off. 

Now, I have to step in here for a minute. I’m so sorry, I know this is awesome but during press events we are given about a 15 minute window to ask questions. Then our rep steps in to let us know that there is time for one more question. During this interview we were sitting press conference styling, meaning short rows of chairs for the interviewers, and we were raising our hands as we went. There were a number of people with their hands up waiting to ask a question when our rep stepped in with …

Male:  I think we have time for one last question.


Photo credit: Coralie Seright – LovebugsAndPostcards.com

That is when Steven Spielberg actually said,

Steven Spielberg:  Oh, more than one.

Mr. Spielberg was ready to sit there with us for as long as it took to make sure everyone had the chance to ask their questions. It was a wow moment.

Question:  I’m curious about your favorite part, both of you, of the filming process. What was your favorite part of making the movie?

Steven Spielberg:  What was your favorite part of making the movie for you?  And then I’ll say what it was for me.

Ruby Barnhill:  I think my favorite part of just making the film was being able to come on set every day and see everyone. At times I’d get a bit tired but I also liked it, because I got to act every single day, which I had wanted to do my whole life.  It was really, really great. 

I also got to be with Steven and Mark every day.  I’d be on set like what are Steven and Mark doing? Where’s Steven? Waiting for them to come and um —

 Steven Spielberg:    We never waited for Ruby.  She waited for us.  She was always there earlier than any of us. 

Ruby Barnhill:  It was always so exciting.  It’s just there’s such a magical feeling on set.  It was so much fun to be directed by Steven and to work with Mark.  It was great.  I really enjoyed myself. 

What was your favorite part? 

Steven Spielberg:    Oh, I think I have to hug you right now. 


I think every time there was a scene where they spoke to each other and every time there was a scene where they were in conversation with each other where Sophie’s courage was growing and her empathy for BFG’s problems with his older brothers and the horrible things they were doing all over the world that Sophie said we must find a way to stop the other giants. 

Any time they were engaged in any kind of conversation and even disagreement or even semantics about BFG being so ashamed of his use of the Winglish language.  He speaks terrible Winglish.  And Sophie says, no, I think you speak beautifully. 

He says really?  That’s the greatest thing anybody’s ever said to me in my entire life.  Any time they were in kind of conversation, all those scenes were my favorite scenes. 

Ruby Barnhill:  It’s great to be part of a film that has such a warming and meaningful story. After you’ve watched the film, you usually don’t think too much about it, but then, you think more about the story and kind of the meaning of it.  I’ve realized more about what the actual kind of meaning of the story was, two people who find each other. BFG gets bullied and Sophie doesn’t have a family and she’s very alone and upset.  It was really amazing to be a part of that type of story actually.   

Steven Spielberg:    It was a good message. 


Photo credit: Coralie Seright – LovebugsAndPostcards.com

Question:    What made you choose BFG?

Steven Spielberg:  Well, I had read it to all my kids.  That’s why I chose it, because I was very familiar with it. I am the first BFG that ever spoke those words I think at least in the world [CHUCKLES].  Of course, I’m not.  Every parent thinks they’re the first to play BFG.  It’s really great when the dad reads BFG in BFG’s voice to, to his daughters.  I have four daughters and three sons.  Certainly all my girls heard me read BFG.  So, a few of the boys heard me read it. 

I bonded with it a long time ago back in the late ‘80s.  But then when Melissa Mathison, who had written E.T. for me, adapted the Roald Dahl book into a script that Kathleen Kennedy was going to produce and they showed me the script, I fell in love with it all over again. And that was the first time I saw that it could be a movie then. 

Question:    What is one thing you want this generation to get out of this movie?  All of us got so much out of ET. What do you want this generation to get out of this movie?

Steven Spielberg:  I just want people to understand how important it is to both give and receive hugs. 

It doesn’t matter how different the person looks or how tall they are or how short they are or what color they are or what language they speak or what their different beliefs are that we all need to hug each other and  we have to hug each other more when we’re so different from each other.  That’s what I hope people get from this.

And that was it …. To echo the last sentiments of the moment, I LOVE THAT!

We then stepped into another room for a brief group photo with Ruby and Steven and as we were getting into position for the picture THIS happened….

Steven and Ruby were situated on the couch and we noticed Mr. Spielberg was looking around taking in the scene. He was actually observing us and smiling the same huge smile I was holding. Then he shared this tidbit with us.


Steven Spielberg:  Every day in my kitchen, all the moms in my neighborhood would come over to my mom’s house, sometimes they would trade houses, and I’d get ready to go to school and all of these coffee cups would be laid out and all these pastries laid out and it would be another mommies retreat.

He spoke about the mom’s in the neighborhood getting together to discuss life, children, and the world. He said we reminded him of those days in his mom’s kitchen and my heart melted.

Meeting with Ruby and Steven was amazing. Ruby’s outlook on life reminded me of my daughter and her view that the sky is the limit and it is important to keep reaching for the stars. Steven reminded us how important it is to find friendship, love, and accept others. Earlier I said the day was mind blowing and that is the best words that I can describe what happened the day 25 bloggers sat down two interview two strangers and left making two new friends.


A heartfelt thank you to Ms. Ruby Barnhill and Mr. Steven Spielberg for taking the time to sit down with us. It truly was like a dream.

There is so much more to come! Keep an eye out for #TheBFGEvent hashtag all over social media and tune back in tomorrow as I share more fun from the trip.

The BFG hits theaters on July 1, 2016

Learn more about The BFG on FACEBOOK, INSTAGRAM, and TWITTER.


*I was invited by Disney to attend #TheBFGEvent to share my experience with my readers. All opinions are my own.

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Terry Poage June 27, 2016 - 3:12 pm

Steven Spielberg seems like an amazing man. Every movie he makes seems to turn out good. What talent.

Margot Core June 27, 2016 - 7:57 pm

Oh wow, that is the most exciting thing ever. I adore Steven Speilberg.

Adriane June 27, 2016 - 8:44 pm

Wow – I can’t even imagine sitting in the same room with the remarkable Mr. Spielberg! How exciting! Thanks for sharing this!

Cindy S. June 28, 2016 - 1:48 am

Holy cow…how exciting! The perks of your job are amazing. Your hard work does pay off. Good for you.

judethomas21 June 30, 2016 - 3:58 am

What a wonderful little girl. I can’t wait to see the movie. I love Jemaine Clement.


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