James Corden Talks Taking on a Classic With ‘Peter Rabbit’

When James Corden first decided to accept the role of the title character in “Peter Rabbit,” based on Beatrix Potter’s beloved children’s series, he was intimidated by its weight.

“Everyone who has grown up in Britain has read these stories or learned to read with these stories and for that reason I felt quite daunted by it,” the late night host told Variety at the film’s premiere Saturday. 

Corden added, “Then I was told that this is the first time the Beatrix Potter estate had ever given permission for a film to be made because they felt like it truly honored the character and it paid homage to so many vignettes across her books. When I heard that I kind of thought ‘Well, actually, this is a bit of an honor to be asked to do such a thing,’ and I feel very lucky to be in it in whatever small way.”

Corden was joined by co-stars Margot RobbieRose Byrne and Domhnall Gleeson at Los Angeles’ Pacific Theatres at the Grove, where he also discussed working on the film for two years and voicing the entire film more than a dozen times.

“I enjoy [working on ‘Peter Rabbit’] because I’ve got this other job now so it takes of quite a lot of my time,” he explained. “But this is a wonderful way I can still do a bit of acting, work with directors, work with scripts and be part of what I always used to do before I took this ridiculous job that I do right now.”

Director Will Gluck echoed Corden’s love of the “Peter Rabbit” stories growing up, and said he rediscovered the stories with his own children, which inspired him to co-write the story. The film, which is a live-action and CGI hybrid, was Gluck’s first animated feature, which “was really fun but it was challenging in that the choices were limitless. When you’re used to making live-action movies, you kind of have to work with what you have, but because we had such a great animation team they would keep changing stuff, and because of that we just finished the movie.”

Amazingly, the director said they finished the movie at 9:45 p.m. on Sunday night. “It’s very tight, very tight. It’s now five days later.”

“Peter Rabbit” follows the story of a mischievous rabbit (voiced by Corden) and his siblings (voiced by Robbie, Daisy Ridley and Elizabeth Debicki) as they feud with Mr. McGregor (Gleeson) by stealing from his garden and compete for the affections of friendly neighbor Bea (Byrne). Gleeson had never before done CGI and had to chase imaginary rabbits around the Australian set. He said he “was terribly jealous of the fact that James was in an air-conditioned room in Los Angeles while I was throwing myself around in the Sydney sun.” 

The film’s stars were joined by some special guests on the red carpet: celebrity rabbit Bini the bunny and a Peter Rabbit mascot. The audience received bunny ears at the screening, and afterwards, guests were sent on a scavenger hunt through the Grove to collect treats from Sprinkles, J Crew, Umami and Barnes & Noble.

“Peter Rabbit” hits theaters Feb. 9.

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