By Ellie Iorizzo, PA Senior Entertainment Reporter
Australian comedian and composer Tim Minchin said it is surreal hearing his music as the soundtrack to Hollywood blockbuster Matilda The Musical.
The movie based on Roald Dahl’s beloved book kicked off the 66th edition of the London Film Festival on Wednesday, two months before its cinematic release.
Directed by Tony winner Matthew Warchus, it stars Dame Emma Thompson as bullish headteacher Miss Trunchbull and Bafta rising star Lashana Lynch as Matilda’s kindly teacher Miss Honey.
Stephen Graham and Andrea Riseborough play the trashy, TV-watching, money-obsessed Mr and Mrs Wormwood.
Minchin, who was the composer and lyricist for the Olivier and Tony Award-winning show Matilda The Musical, told the PA news agency: “I feel like I’ve just won the lotto again and again with this thing.
“I loved making it so much and I thought it would be good enough to go to the West End and that was about as far as my brain got.
“But year after year I get to see new actors bring it back to life, new manifestations of it in schools and I get letters from people about what it means to them.
“And then this, to see Lashana, Alisha (Weir) and what Matthew has done with this film, it’s not easy to take a stage musical and turn it into a feature film and I think he’s a brilliant, brilliant writer and creator.
“I got to write a new song which was such a joy and I can’t wait to see it on the big screen.”
Arriving at the movie’s premiere at the BFI London Film Festival, newcomer Alisha Weir, who stars in the title role as Matilda, said all of the big name cast were her heroes.
She told PA: “It was my first ever big film, it was just amazing and I was quite nervous but they made me feel so welcome.
“I was watching everything they were doing so I can be like them as well.”
Speaking about her reaction to getting the role, she said: “I was just so stunned, I started crying and I was just so happy and grateful.
“Growing up I have always loved Matilda, it has just always been one of my favourites. I just can’t believe it, I don’t know when it will sink in but it’s mad to think that I’m Matilda.”
The original 1996 film of Matilda, based on Dahl’s 1988 novel of the same name, starred Welsh actress Pam Ferris as the formidable Miss Trunchbull while Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman and Mara Wilson also featured.
It was later adapted for the stage by screenwriter Dennis Kelly with an initial run by the Royal Shakespeare Company at Stratford-upon-Avon starting in November 2010.
A year later in 2011, the musical had its West End premiere with the Broadway debut following in 2013.
Talking about adapting the musical from the stage to the screen, Kelly told PA: “It was really hard, it was difficult.
“I think it was harder going from the stage to the screen than it was going from the book to the stage, probably because the screen as a medium is so literal. Every shot has to be thought about.
“But it feels like it is worth it. I think if you don’t get fun in it you may as well go home. It’s actually quite emotional, I think it is more emotional than the stage play.
“I always get moved by kindness and generosity…Lashana and Alisha are just incredible together and when I see that scene in Miss Honey’s cottage, it is just beautiful.”
Comedian and actor Sindhu Vee, who stars as kindly librarian Mrs Phelps, explained her personal attachment to the film.
She told PA: “I love the story, I love the book, I’ve seen the musical eight times because I have three kids, and I love the idea of being the librarian because there was a librarian in my life who let me read books instead of walk the playground and get bullied.
“I had a terrible stammer as a child and I was the only non-Caucasian child. (Matilda The Musical) speaks to me very, very closely.”
She added that it was “mind-blowing” to work alongside the big-name cast.
The film is due out in Irish cinemas from November 25th.