Woodward caught up with director Pete Hewitt as Thunderpants
was gearing up for release on DVD and Video. Thunderpants
is available to buy on DVD (£19.99) and Video (£14.99)
from Pathé Distribution Limited from the 18 November 2002.
There, I've said it. After all, there is no getting around
the fact that this is what Thunderpants is about. Its
about other things too, such as beating the bullies and fulfilling
your ambitions, but this doesn't change the fact that the
official website features a 'fart piano' among other things.
movie's director certainly doesn't seem to mind. In fact,
he seems positively delighted by the fact. Pete Hewitt is
still only in his thirties, despite a long and accomplished
history which includes a BAFTA for best short film in 1989
and two acclaimed light-hearted films, Bill & Ted's Bogus
Journey (1991) and The Borrowers (1997).
Thunderpants however, he has taken a further step,
creating from scratch the heart-warming, and child-pleasing,
idea of a sensitive hero with an incredible capacity to break
wind. Although that's only half the story:
can only last a few minutes with just a farting boy"
concedes the man himself. "It's also about achieving your
dreams. conquering your problems. What makes it something
special, as well as something stupid and absurd, is the
little farting boy set against the message of his final
speech: 'find out what it is that makes you who you are'.
What makes Patrick Smash, the story's main protagonist,
'who he is' is the unlikely medical condition of his having
two stomachs, much like a cow. The special, if somewhat
smelly, 'gift' this causes leads to him being a valuable
commodity to the opera-singing community (his rear end is
capable of producing the 'highest note ever sung') and,
to would-be astronaut Patrick's delight, the USSC Space
you watch it and there's a tear in your eye, then I've succeeded,"
states Hewitt. "It's such a stupid thing but even I find
myself watching it and really rooting for him to lift that
rocket. and he's farting! You have to think to yourself
'hang on a minute.'"
seems even the film's own director can't quite seem to believe
he is asking us to root for a hero with such unfortunate personal
habits. However, he has certainly fought to bring his project
to this point. After deciding that "there really should be
a movie about a farting boy", he himself set about writing
a story that would not see the light of day two full years
written, Thunderpants was owned at various times by
Working Title and DNA before finally being bought by Pathé.
Having found funding, the filmmakers then set about filling
the parts with an impressive cast from both sides of the Atlantic.
There's top English luvvies Stephen Fry and Simon Callow,
as well as renowned Americans Paul Giamatti (Tim Burton's
Planet of the Apes) and Ned Beatty (Deliverance).
Hewitt was delighted at their involvement:
the adult parts were written specifically for those actors,
although not with their knowledge. Thankfully, they all
read it, liked it and said yes. They all contributed to
the fun of this film, although if you can't have fun doing
this film you're in trouble! It would certainly be one of
my favourites, if not my very favourite of the films I've
made. Very good cast. very good crew."
Not that it was without its difficult moments. Thunderpants'
space scenes in particular feature a lot of special effects.
The film also boasts a whole lot of green cars.
a really simple way of having a very different look for
an environment. If you look out of the window anywhere in
real life there's just cars everywhere, so we took them
all away and put in a couple of our own green ones. For
very little effort you get a lot of visual impact.
"As for the special effects, it was difficult because we
had a lot to do; a lot of tricky stuff. It was hard work
on a tight budget, but lots of fun."
the roles of the children in the film, thousands of auditions
were carried out before the part of Patrick was filled. In
newcomer Bruce Cook, Hewitt found someone with "that right
combination of innocence and stupidity". Alongside him,
as Patrick's best friend Alan A. Allen, is a hideously permed
and bespectacled Rupert Grint, best known as the more mischievous
Ron in Harry Potter. The director was originally reluctant
to cast the young redheaded star straight out of such a blockbuster,
seeing as he was planning to do something on a far smaller
scale but, eventually, Rupert "read the part and stole it
Meeting the two child stars is a somewhat different experience
from that of facing their self-assured director. Whilst cheery
Rupert is apparently becoming accustomed to life in the fast
lane, Bruce looks frankly terrified. He also looks considerably
different from his appearance on the big screen. This is partly
due to the unsurprisingly better clothes and hairstyle he
wears in real life, as well as a less prominent waistline,
but also due to the fact that he is growing. Fast. Height
wise, he has already caught up his co-star despite being notably
shorter in the film.
is certainly a long way from growing a film star ego however.
Polite and quiet throughout, he claims that, like Patrick
in Thunderpants, he is "dopey, stupid, smelly and not
very popular". I very much doubt this to be true. Indeed,
after more serious consideration, he decides that the only
similarity between the actor and his character is the trait
only found out about the role of Patrick Smash when his mum
told him about it but, after auditioning on videotape, he
was called before Pete and the casting director. It was "nerve-racking",
but "cool", as were most things about the experience according
to Bruce. It has certainly been his big break into a new world;
one that he's willing to embrace.
I was little I wanted to go into space like Patrick, but
not any more. Now I'm doing what I want to do most. I'm
still getting schooling because when we weren't filming
we were getting tutoring, and I still got to see a lot of
my friends and family."
role has already led to more work, as Wackford Squeers in
a new adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby for a start.
Nevertheless, he refuses to say whether celebrity has led
to him having a girlfriend... Rupert, on the other hand, has
given up ever getting a girlfriend again after his costume
in Thunderpants. In addition to the aforementioned
perm, there were thick glasses, braces on his teeth and a
bow tie. Another for self-depreciation, he claims "It completely
disguised me, which was lucky!" So how did this film compare
to the international extravaganza that was Harry Potter?
was a lot different, much smaller and less special effects.
And it was like a holiday to me, it was so fast! It was
fun though. I had a really good time, and I'd definitely
do a sequel. Basically what I'm doing now - all these films
and stuff - is kind of my dream. And all the well-known
actors I've worked with have been really nice."
and Rupert are now firm friends, and perhaps they will get
to do a sequel to Thunderpants, as all concerned seem
eager. In the meantime however, it's the release of this first
instalment on DVD and home video that is the main concern.
Hewitt is particularly keen that, following the cinema release,
fans get to see what was cut out of the final edit:
a bunch of stuff that would make it a very different film.
There's a whole section, for example, where, having had
some success, Patrick turns his back on Alan and goes off
with the bullies. Alan then has to confront them and the
bullies use Patrick as a weapon against him. That all went
by the wayside."
alright, they reconcile again, and the DVD also features loads
of extras including deleted scenes, interviews, a commentary
from director Pete Hewitt and other crew members, an Allstars
pop video, concept sketches, a hilarious 'fart montage' and
DVD Rom material.
Hewitt, the future is no less surreal. He is hoping to follow
up Thunderpants with Giraffe, a 16th Century
tale of how to get a giraffe from Venice to Vienna in time
for the Emperor's birthday. It sounds a riot, but is he ever
tempted to go a little more highbrow?
the right thing came along, absolutely. It's a lot easier
for me to get to direct other children's stuff because I've
done a lot of them successfully... which is fine by me as
long as I can do good stuff. Even so, Giraffe will
have its serious moments, as did The Borrowers. And
for all its silliness, Thunderpants does have its
serious moments too!"
for serious moments then, but more importantly, for the spectacle
of seeing a child who can effortlessly fart a three octave
range, that's Thunderpants, a film experience thoroughly
enjoyed by all who made it and, even more, by all who have
seen it. You'll laugh until both your stomachs hurt...
thanks to David Cox at DSA