On his first day of filming Disney’s The BFG, Steven Spielberg told Paul Moniz de Sa, “We’re gonna play.” From there, the magic and excitement began.
Based on the book of the same name by Roald Dahl, the upcoming movie tells the story of a little girl named Sophie, who finds a companion in the Big Friendly Giant, or the BFG. But she soon learns that not all giants are friendly. The film marks the first collaboration between Spielberg and Disney. Paul Moniz de Sa stars as Meatdripper, one of the BFG’s nine older (and much bigger) brothers. Moniz de Sa has been acting, both onstage and on-screen, for more than 20 years.
Moniz de Sa was no stranger to the Roald Dahl classic, having read the story when he was younger. Years later, his feelings for the story haven’t changed. “When I got called to do the audition I re-read it again,” he says. “And I fell in love with it all over again, quite frankly.”
It’s a love Paul hopes to pass on to his own 8-year-old son, saying he’s very excited for him to see it.
For Paul, landing the role of Meatdripper came thanks to being in the right place at the right time. He was auditioning for another project that happened to share a waiting room with The BFG casting agents.
“I remember sitting in the waiting room and every time someone would come out from auditioning for The BFG…the casting director would just come out laughing. She was having such a great time and she kept saying hi to me,” he says. “She just looked at me and said, ‘You know, you’d be great for this project. Are you available to audition on Wednesday?’…To be honest with you, I had no idea what they were auditioning. (laughs). I just said yeah, it sounds like fun!”
Upon getting the audition script and realizing what it was for, Paul didn’t let nerves get to him. “I just decided I’m going to have a good time with this, I’m going to enjoy this and we’ll see where it takes me,” he says. “And this is where it took me! It’s been quite the ride.”
Generally speaking, being told you’d make a perfect child-eating giant named Meatdripper wouldn’t necessarily be a compliment. And, in all fairness, that’s not quite what Paul was told. “Well, it was really just about being one of the giants,” Moniz de Sa says, laughing. “We didn’t really know who we were playing until really close to the shooting schedule.”
The best part about playing the fearsome giant? Getting to learn and play with the character’s depth. Moniz de Sa notes that even though the giants are quite dangerous, there’s still a playfulness to them. This combination of traits was his favorite thing to explore with the other giants, the men he’s come to call his “brethren.”
But, bringing the giants and Giant Country to life is no small task. It takes more than just the actors. This is something that Paul Moniz de Sa is fully aware and appreciative of.
The BFG is Paul’s first experience acting with performance capture technology, and he says it left him in awe. “They created these wonderful little worlds,” de Sa says. One huge factor in creating those worlds was math. Because of the different sizes of all the characters in the film, ranging from a little kid to 50-foot-tall giants, the crew had to figure out how to make everything look natural. “The math involved with regards to eye-lines, and where are we looking, and even having different sets and different scales for each of the actors to be able to play, it was really quite an amazing feat,” he notes.
This work is why Moniz de Sa stays for the credits of movies he sees, and encourages The BFG audiences to do the same.
More than just the film’s production value, Paul says The BFG will pull at our heartstrings too. “It was really a beautifully touching piece of cinema,” he says. “I think it’s something that’s going to last the ages.” Though the movie is a story of giants, Paul says its longevity comes down to one common trait: longing. “We all want somebody that we can share our time with,” he says.
Audiences can get a full look at Meatdripper and Giant Country when Disney’s The BFG hits theaters on July 1, 2016. As Paul says, “This one’s larger than life…literally.”