What would it be like to be an ... Actor?

We asked Flora Newbigin – who was the character Arrietty Clock
in the movie version of The Borrowers - questions about her role in the movie. We had just finished reading The Borrowers novel by Mary Norton, and thought it would be really interesting to get as close as we could to The Borrowers world!


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Flora Newbigin


Hello to you all!

I’m so glad you have enjoyed the movie of
The Borrowers. I'm going to do my best to answer all your questions. So here goes......

1. How old were you when you played Arrietty in the film? (Paris G)

Paris G, I had just turned 13 years old when we made the film.... and that was 13 years ago now! Makes me feel old!

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Flora playing Arrietty Clock in the movie 'The Borrowers'
2. What part of the movie is your favourite? (Tara)

Tara, you asked a very tricky question... what part of the movie is my favourite... hmmmm.... Well, my favourite bit to film was probably all the bits in the Clock’s home, like when we're eating dinner and when my Mum Homily comes in to my bedroom to have a chat. It was so fun being with all the giant props. The detail on them was amazing. The film moves so fast you can't see it all properly, but if you look closely every single thing in that house is a real object made giant, like matchboxes and playing cards and my bed which was made out of a sardine tin!

But to watch, I love the bit when I meet Pete Lender and he puts me in the fish bowl. I think it looks amazing and I really look so small and he looks so... well, big!


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Pete captures Arrietty

3. When the hammer was smashing into the wall you acted really well. How did you learn to act so scared? (Archie)

And Archie, that is the nicest thing you can say to an actor! There were lots of difficult bits in the filming where we were having to imagine things were happening, like a giant hammer smashing into us, when really we were just on our own in a big studio. We would do all the reactions and movements and then clever people with complicated computer programs would put it all together to make it look like we were being smashed, or squished, or chased and all the other sticky situations Arrietty and Peagreen get into. But how did we do it? Well we had lots of directions given to us showing us where we had to jump and loud bangs to tell us at which moments the hammer would be smashing through the wall (which we had to imagine was there) so we knew when to SCREAM! But how did I look so scared? Well I imagined being chased by something really horrible and scary..... like my teachers! Arghhhhhhh! No not really my teachers... maybe like a giant Rat. I hate Rats.


4. Did you have much to do with the 'Human Bean' actors in the making of the movie? (Class Question)

Well that was one of the very odd things about making The Borrowers. So much of what appears to happen didn’t really because as I explained most of the images were stuck together afterwards with computers. Nearly all the Human Bean bits were filmed first, that took about 2 months I think and then we did all The Borrower bits afterwards. That took about 3 months. We did all cross over a bit and us kids used to hang out together quite alot. We all went and had Thanksgiving dinner with Brad, who plays Pete. So we did see each other, and if there was a shot together, like the bit with me in Pete's fish bowl, we would try to be on set for each other to read our lines off camera to help the other imagine they were really talking to us. But most of the time we would be acting to nothing and we had to rely on our imaginations.


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A poster for the movie. Can you spot Arrietty?


5. Where was the movie filmed? Were you far from home? What was that like? (Simon)

Simon, most of it was filmed in a big Studio just outside London - a place called Shepperton. That’s where I filmed all my bits. We had to do it in a studio because of all the special effects. Some of the scenes you see which were outside were filmed in real streets in south west London but most of the filming was inside studios. Luckily for me the studio wasn't too far away from home, about 2 hours drive, so I got to sleep in my own bed every night! But I had to get up very early which I didn’t like! And it was very different from what I was used to. Being picked up in a car at 7am was very different from getting the bus to school every day. I was out of school for nearly 5 months which was very strange and I missed my friends. And, I STILL had to do my school work - it wasn't a 5 month holiday! We had a teacher that would sit with us and in between scenes we had to go and study. We looked very funny all in our Borrower costumes doing our class work. If I'd turned up at school like that I would have got some odd looks!


6. We discussed in class some links to other novels that The Borrowers movie included: 'The Indian in the Cupboard' that you knocked over on the top of the cupboard, and the book 'Gulliver's Travels' that you are put on when you are trapped in the fish bowl. Did you notice any links to other stories in the movie? (Class Question)

You guys are very sharp that you noticed the little links to other stories. Peter Hewitt, who directed The Borrowers, loved old classic books and movies and there are quite a few links to old 1950s TV programs and films (which I’m too young to understand properly, but apparently they're there!) I think it was Peter's way of showing respect to some of the things that inspired him to want to make the movie.


7. How did you get the role of Arrietty? (Erin)

Well, Erin, it was a very strange experience. I went to a very normal school in London and had always liked acting (basically I had a bit of a big gob and like showing off!) but it wasn't something Id ever really taken seriously. But one day my drama teacher said that there was a director and a casting agent who was coming to our school to look for some kids who could play a few parts in the movie and she put a whole load of us up including me. I never imagined I would get it but thought it would be fun to have a go. The whole process took forever, we had to go to loads of auditions and then I got it! My family and I were all pretty stunned and it was a life changing experience and pretty hard at times but I’m glad I did it.

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Under the floorboards! .... Have you Borrowers in your house?
8. The Borrowers movie is different to The Borrowers novel. We really enjoyed both. Why are they different? (Class Question)

You guys are right, the film and the novel are very different. Lots of people didn't like that because the books are such a classic, something which people love and they thought the film ruined Mary Norton's stories. But I don't know why they’re different really. We had a TV adaptation made of the books over here some years before the movie and they were really popular and very true to the books. I think that the people who made the film wanted to do something a bit different and use the ideas of Mary Norton but to create a new story with a different feel. I like the fact that the film is different. I love the books but sometimes its exciting to have a new look at something. I suppose its up to you really.


9. Do you ever think that Borrowers are active in your house? Do you 'lose' things? (Class Question)

You asked if I believe in Borrowers... well I definitely lose things ALL THE TIME! I think I probably have to take a bit of responsibility for that, I can't blame it all on Borrowers but I have a hunch they do exist. Like socks, where do they go? You put them in the machine and they never come out! I can't think where they could be. I reckon a sock would be pretty handy for a borrower, could be a sleeping bag, or a parachute, or a swag bag to bring all your borrowings back home. I don’t mind too much about the missing socks and bits and bobs if they're being put to good use! What do you all think?



10. What was it like seeing yourself on the BIG screen being ... a little person? (Class Question)

Oh no, you asked what its like seeing myself on the big screen! It makes me cringe! I remember I found it really hard to watch because I kept thinking I shouldn't have done that, or I should have said that line a bit different or whatever. But I love the way the film looks, I think it’s really quirky and after a while I stop seeing myself and I just watch the film like it’s someone else. Especially now, it was so long ago that I hardly recognise myself.... with all my wrinkles! No only joking!

11. The clothes the Borrowers had to wear were great. Tell us about them! (Class Question)

I’m glad you liked the costumes, I loved them. In fact that was probably one of the most fun bits of the film. They made all our costumes out of real life big things as if the Borrowers had really had to borrow stuff to make their clothes. For example, our shoes, those big funny bubbly things are supposed to be made out of rubber thimbles that old ladies wear to do sewing. And Pod's Suit is made out of an old fashioned driving glove. However, in reality they were a bit of a nightmare to wear. With all those layers it would get incredibly hot under all the lights especially with all our bits of jangly things on our belts. Getting it on and off took ages! And it used to take two hours every day to get my hair into those big mushrooms! And I can’t even imagine how much hairspray! We all look a bit funny because all the Borrowers had false teeth. The people who designed the film wanted us to look a bit weird; not quite like normal people. But they took a while to get used to. Especially for poor old Peagreen! He didn't have all his grown up teeth when we started filming and he lost a few baby ones during the shoot so he had to go and get new ones fitted! Plus he loved bubblegum which is not a good idea to chew whilst wearing false teeth! But there was so much imagination that went into designing the costumes, it was a lot of fun.

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Trapped, but this time in a waste paper basket!

12. Are you still interested in movies? (Morgan)

And last but by no means least! Morgan, you asked me if I’m still interested in movies. I love films, I think I always will and I love acting. I continued to work until I decided to go to university and I stopped. It’s a lot of fun but it takes a lot of work and there are lots of times as an actress when you're not working at all. I like to be busy so at the moment I’m trying some other things. I work with kids in a museum in London which is a bit like acting because I play with them and get them to use their imaginations to imagine how people lived in the past. I do still think about acting again. I think I get so much pleasure from watching films and going to the theatre and things like that, that at the moment that’s enough for me. I think going to the movies is a great time to escape a bit and have a bit of an adventure outside of your normal everyday life!

13. When writing to someone from overseas we like to ask: 'What do you know about Tasmania?' (You're not allowed to research it before writing back!)


Oh that’s tough.....
I promise I haven't researched it, but here goes....
That’s where Tasmanian Devils come from! (Easy!)
There is a boat race to Tasmania from.... Adelaide? Stab in the dark there. [You nearly got it! The race is called the Sydney to Hobart.]


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Well, thank you so much for these brilliant questions! I hope I've answered them OK. It’s been really fun for me. You guys have brought back loads of fun memories for me that I don't think about every day. I really hope that you have enjoyed The Borrowers and that you all go on to do brilliant and fun things that make you happy... which is of course the most important thing!

So I shall say G'day to you but goodnight from me... all the way from the northern hemisphere!

Love Flora

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Thank you, Flora, for letting us in on your 'little world'! It was obviously wonderful, from the way you replied, to have become a character from a well-known book and we are very grateful that you took us inside this movie. Thanks for being a part of our journey into a movie that is linked with our class novel. Your responses were great!

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Helena pictured what it might have been for The Borrowers when the floor was lifted up to reveal their home!