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Audiences big and small made their way to the premiere of Steven Spielberg‘s adaptation of the Roald Dahl classic “The BFG” at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood. Spielberg was candid on the carpet about casting for the film, saying he instantly knew that Mark Rylance was going to be his Big Friendly Giant.

“I knew it the first day I worked with him on ‘Bridge of Spies’ — anybody that could disappear into that Soviet agent where I didn’t see any of the transitions of how he did it, and then come right back out of it with those very happy eyes,” Spielberg said. “I also looked at Mark’s eyes and thought, ‘He has the BFG’s eyes! I bet he can do the rest of it, too.'”

Rylance did one thing to prepare for his role as the quirky titular character. “I had a glass of water,” he said. “It’s very important to drink water when you’re speaking a lot.”

Producer Frank Marshall described the movie as a “timeless fairytale,” revealing that it was 20 years in the making. Their first problem was figuring out how to make the giants. It wasn’t until recently that technology finally caught up with the creative side of the project.

“Steven thought it was really crucial to have Sophie and the BFG in the same shot and we didn’t figure out how to do that until a couple of years ago,” Marshall said. “When Steven did ‘[The Adventures of] Tintin,’ he realized he could finally do this now.”

Marshall also told Variety that the night was an emotional one for him, since he collaborated with fellow “E.T.” veterans Spielberg, screenwriter Melissa Mathison, and his wife Kathleen Kennedy on the film.

“It was a reunion of the people who worked on ‘E.T.’ in 1982 — the year ‘The BFG’ was published. It was like this wild sort of bookend,” added Marshall. “It’s definitely bittersweet because Melissa Mathison is no longer with us.”

“The BFG” bows July 1.

(Pictured: Steven Spielberg, Ruby Barnhill and Mark Rylance)