Matilda musical movie starring Emma Thompson to open London film festival

Matilda, Matthew Warchus’s film version of the hit West End musical based on the Roald Dahl children’s story, is to open this year’s London film festival.

The musical, which stars Emma Thompson as Miss Trunchbull, Lashana Lynch as Miss Honey and newcomer Alisha Weir in the title role, will kick off the 66th festival on 5 October, two months before its nationwide release.

Dahl published his novel – his bestselling work for children – in 1988. The story, about a young girl with telekinetic powers who fosters her love for reading despite abusive parents and a ferocious teacher, was made into a much-loved film in 1996 by Danny DeVito.

Dennis Kelly adapted the novel for the stage in 2009, with music and lyrics by Tim Minchin. The original stage production, which was directed by Warchus, premiered at Stratford-upon-Avon in 2010, before transferring to the West End and Broadway. It won multiple awards and found considerable box office success.

The film version also features Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough as Matilda’s parents; Kelly has written the screenplay.

“What a delight to be opening this tremendous film festival with singing, dancing, green hair and chocolate cake,” said Warchus of the LFF announcement. “It’s a real honour to be sharing this joyful and empowering tale of a little girl’s courage and compassion at such a prestigious event.”

Tricia Tuttle, festival director, said: “Like so many people who have been lucky enough to see it, I am a massive fan of this original stage musical, with Tim Minchin’s infectiously brilliant songs bringing new depth to a classic of children’s literature. With screenwriter Dennis Kelly, Matthew Warchus has smartly adapted his own production for the screen with absolute verve and gusto.”

She added: “This is a rollicking, rousing story about sticking together and fighting back against the bullies of the world, even when that seems scary. Sometimes you have to get a little bit naughty!”

The festival has struggled to secure world premieres for its coveted opening and closing night spots in recent years, but prestige family films have often come up trumps, with first looks of Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox opening in 2009 and Saving Mr Banks – also starring Thompson – closing in 2013.

Last year’s festival opened with the world premiere of Idris Elba western The Harder They Fall.

Key premieres for the opening nights of the Venice and Toronto film festivals – which open in August and September – are expected imminently. Meanwhile, expectations are high for a busy roster of autumn awards-season films after a quiet Cannes in May.

The 66th BFI London film festival is 5-16 October 2022.

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