Domhnall Gleeson on playing Winnie the Pooh’s ‘complicated’ creator

He was named Billy Moon rather than Christopher Robin, so I guess they kind of felt like Christopher Robin was for the whole world… but Christopher Robin ended up paying that price, you know? DOMHNALL GLEESON:   I was working on some other stuff at the time. People knew what he must have looked like, and they dressed him up a little bit. He fought in the first World War. Also, they called him Billy in real life. Goodbye Christopher Robin   hits theaters Oct. But actually, the more I read it, [I realized] there’s a very important backdrop of a version of post-traumatic stress disorder, or something like that, in Milne, and what he saw [during the war], that I found really interesting. I mean like, the only other people who would have been comparatively as famous in terms of children would have maybe been the royals. He’s played a Weasley in Harry Potter, a tech wiz in over his head in   Ex Machina,   and an evil general in Star Wars — but with   Goodbye Christopher Robin,   Domhnall Gleeson is stepping into a role that’s a little more familiar to whole generations: Winnie-the-Pooh author A.A. And then he very briefly talks about working at [literary magazine]   Punch and being in the war. Lots of fart jokes. He really came to resent what his father had done. I’m actually in the hotel at the moment where we stayed while we were shooting some of it, so I’m getting these weird flashbacks. Milne. That’s an interesting question. But my opinion of the man —   I didn’t even have an opinion of the man other than he was a great writer. 13. I’ve probably got the sense of humor of a 10-year-old, so that works out well! Well, I think we’re different people with different sensibilities. We’ve all done it before, so then you can really stick the knife in when you need to and kind of push each other around on camera, work each other a little bit. Obviously I read everything I could about A.A. He had a hard time dealing with the fact that he was a very celebrated writer who then became uncool because he wrote these books, which a lot of people made fun of. But Christopher Robin became an absolutely huge celebrity at a very young age. I don’t like reading other scripts while I’m working on a job. They had a fractious relationship as he got older, or complicated at least. He could be quite a loner. They weren’t seen as being serious things, you know? But the books themselves remain all they were to me before, which is just something full of wonder. Goodbye Christopher Robin   will explore Milne’s experience in World War I, which traumatized him (along with the rest of England), and how his relationship with his young son helped him heal. He just goes through it very [quickly] but also mentions seeing somebody die — mentions it just in a very offhand way. I’m interested to see how people will respond to it in America. I think he felt the same way about this, but I didn’t want it to be the Winnie the Pooh story alone. At that time, fame was a very different thing. I did a lot of reading on post-traumatic stress disorder. My idea of where these books came from   has changed a huge amount. And I had done the father-son thing before, but not so much where I was the father, so I really enjoyed taking that on. It’ll mean a lot more when you see it, but there’s a side of this where… he adored his son. My feeling was, if this was about, say, Walter the Pig instead of Winnie the Pooh — some character that no one has ever heard of — it should be just as interesting. He actually went missing in action in war for a while as well. But we played all the time. Once he saw it, he thought it was the most stupid and awful thing that men could do to other men. The rest of the time, it was the nanny bringing up the kid. And so the “Goodbye Christopher Robin” has to do with that. He’s a really funny kid. And it’s one that Gleeson and director Simon Curtis seek to illuminate in the forthcoming film. To read more from EW’s Fall Movie Preview, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly on stands Friday, or buy it here now. I don’t think we knew how toxic it was in the way that we do now. He became a symbol of these books which were wildly successful. Ann Thwaite’s book was great, but I also read his autobiography, and I read the Winnie the Pooh stuff again, and I read Christopher Robin’s books that he wrote. Milne. How did you prepare for the part? No. However, though we know all about the beloved Hundred Acre Wood characters he created — from Pooh and Piglet to Tigger and Eeyore — Milne’s own life, and his relationship with his son Christopher Robin, is more of a mystery. It’s such a melancholy title for what seems like a sweet story from the trailers. Then once I’d talked to Simon about it, he knew what he wanted it to be, and we kind of came at it from slightly different angles, which made it really interesting as well. Something Christopher Robin talks about is [Milne] was very stern in lots of ways, and yet could be very funny in a room. It really changed him. Recently, Gleeson hopped on the phone with EW to discuss the challenges of his role, and how he hopes the film will be fascinating for viewers even if it didn’t have such a nostalgia-friendly hook. ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: How did this role come about? The autobiography is only about his childhood, for the most part. My opinion of what the stories were did not change at all, because I always knew that they were amazing, that they were filled with real life and real skill as a writer. I spent a long time thinking about him, walking around where he was born, where he lived and everything. And people were not scared of their fathers, but they were certainly an authoritative. And his wife loved her son. He became staunchly anti-war. Turned them into this really downbeat character who you can love. We made each other laugh a lot. I wanted it to be about a very complicated man and his very complicated relationship [with wife Daphne de Selincourt (Margot Robbie)], even before their son arrives, his complicated relationship with war and what that had done to him, and where he sought solace and brought solace to so many other people, and how that came about. With Margot, I had worked with her before —   I adore her as a person and as an actress. I just think she’s kind of a wonder. And I hope that that’s what we achieved, you know? Don’t forget to subscribe for more exclusive interviews and photos, only in EW. But as a result, he was bullied hugely at school. But in his autobiography, he glosses over it. Well this is the thing. His responsibility is to the story and my responsibility is just purely to the character, you know? Could be quite warm, but could also kind of cut you with a glance. He named him Christopher Robin and then he gave that to the world. And he was great, because he was able to do the same thing. Can you explain a little about what the “Goodbye” means? It was a very different time. The war takes up like half a chapter in the book. But he wrote this book for his boy, about his boy. And so whether you call it post-traumatic stress disorder… they certainly didn’t call it [that] then. What about his angle was different from yours? But sometimes, it’s going to be hard.” Like, I’ve got to shout at him, and scare him. I didn’t realize that PTSD was such a part of his life. But [my agents] said, “Look, this one will go away if you don’t get back to them quick.”
I didn’t know if I’d done something like that before. He did not suffer fools gladly, and all that sort of stuff. Did you do any family bonding with Will Tilston, who plays Christopher Robin, and Margot, or did you specifically avoid that because the relationships are tough? Did your opinion of Winnie the Pooh change at all after going through all this? And Milne was that. He was in newspapers. He didn’t have the shell-shock that we know from films and stuff, but it certainly affected his life. So we had to kind of lay down some pretty strong things at the beginning, and say to Will [Tilston, who plays Christopher Robin]: “Look, it’s going to feel like we’re not friends sometimes during the day… At the end of every day, we’ll be friends again. So it was about trying to fill up the character that I hadn’t played before, and trying to remain true to the man. Christopher Robin suggests that he basically bundled all those bad feelings up and kind of gave them to the world in the form of Eeyore. Christopher Robin described it as, he had his dark sides to him where he would go into himself. I mean, [Milne] came to resent the fact that he was only known for Winnie the Pooh. Ah, man. Now I just have such empathy for him. Like, people didn’t hug each other. But his wife had a very strange relationship with their boy. And then ended up going to war himself, which was the very last thing, I’m sure, that his father ever could have wanted. I just like to kind of do one thing at a time. And the same with Kelly Macdonald. We would give each other time and space before getting ready for scenes. Show Full Article They saw their kids maybe half an hour a day in the evening.