Imagine: You’re an actor. You work tirelessly your entire life for that big break, that one role that will put in you in front of millions and catapult your career to new heights. Suddenly, you’re tapped for a role in a Disney movie set to premiere to the world the summer of 2016. The Kicker? Steven Spielberg will direct it. Actor Paul Moniz de Sá experienced exactly this when he landed the role of The Meatdripper in the animated empire’s latest wheelhouse, The BFG(The Big Friendly Giant based off the book of the same name).
We spoke with Moniz de Sá on his first role in performance capture, working with the iconic director, and the making of the film.
For many actors, being asked to audition for a role is an honor, and a rare one at that. Moniz de Sá was asked to read for the role by the film’s casting director after seeing some of his work. The seasoned actor gave us insight into what the audition process for a blockbuster film like The BFG is really like.
“I was waiting to audition for another project when the casting director for The BFG saw me, thought I would be great for the film and had me audition. I had no idea what the project was, but the actors I saw going into the audition were all actors I respected, so I said yes,” Moniz de Sá admits.
“For the audition, we had to read two scripted scenes and create another non-verbal scene as a different giant. I decided I was going to have fun with the audition and the rest is history.”
Moniz de Sá’s character, The Meatdripper, is a complicated one at heart. His good-natured demeanor is juxtaposed with his, let’s call it love, of humans. It certainly makes him an interesting character to create.
“The Meatdripper is one of nine giants that live in Giant Country. As with the rest of the giants, he likes to eat people, but he also loves a good laugh and is very superstitious.”
For the film, the creators used a combination of CGI and live-action acting. Many actors, such as Andy Serkis and Benedict Cumberbatch, have utilized performance acting in body suits to create a character. This was a first for the Canadian actor.
“The CGI is amazing. This was my first time doing performance capture so I found the experience exciting. The Velcro suits however, took a little getting used to,” he jokes.
At times, certain films that are heavily encased in CGI will leave actors will little time to learn the roles they play due to rushed schedules. Fortunately for Moniz de Sá, this cast was given the freedom and time to really delve into who these characters are.
“There was a lot of rehearsal before filming so we could develop the characters and the relationships between the giants. We had both individual time and group work with Terry Notary, our movement coach, who helped us develop the physical aspects of the giants. We had the ability to see what they would look like in real-time on-screen so that we could see how each movement would look.”
The film is based on a children’s novel of the same title, by author Roald Dahl. It is not unheard of for actors to read a book before beginning filming on the film adaptation. This is true of Moniz de Sá as well. The actor says the script sent him back to his childhood. He learned and loved the story as a child, but learned the most about his character from screenwriter, Melissa Matheson.
“I read The BFG as a kid, reread it before the audition and once again when I was cast. I love the story. I think where I probably gained the most insight for my character was through working with Melissa Matheson. She spent time with us going over the lore of the giants.”
Matheson, who has film credits with Spielberg in films such as E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, passed in November 2015 when she lost her battle to cancer. Moniz de Sá delivered a simple, yet heartfelt sentiment when recalling the memories he shared with her.
“I will miss her,” he says.
While the world of entertainment fondly remembers Matheson, fans will continue to enjoy her work in The BFG for years to come. And luckily for Moniz de Sá, Matheson wasn’t the only one he enjoyed working with on the set of the film. He also holds fond memories of working with his fellow giants.
“I loved working with all of them. My character interacted the most with Jonathon Holmes who plays Childchewer.”
As for working with a legendary director of cinema? Let’s just say the Canadian actor did his best to keep his cool.
“Needless to say, I was very excited and a little nervous to meet Steven,” he admits. “When I met him, he shook my hand and said we are all going to play. At that moment I knew this was going to be a fantastic project.”
Considering Spielberg’s tenure in the industry, one has to wonder if Moniz de Sá picked up any words of wisdom from the legend.
“Learn to love the Velcro,” he jokes.
As for any future projects we may see from the Eureka actor, he says he’s open to seeing where the next script takes him, especially if that includes a Marvel universe, or even an online streaming service.
“I love working in all genres. That said, I would love to be in a Marvel Movie. Mostly because of my son,” he says. “There is [also] some amazing work coming out of internet based networks. I love The Killing. My wife and I would binge watch it, it was so good. I recently was cast in Shut Eye for Hulu. I loved reading the script, and the characters and story lines are well-developed. I had a great time working on it and hopefully my character will return.”
For now, fans can certainly enjoy his work on the silver screen alongside Bill Hader, Penelope Wilton, and recent Academy Award winner, Mark Rylance. As a star of a Disney film, Moniz de Sá considers his time with the industry giant (no pun intended) considers it an opportunity, and one he certainly appreciates.
“[Working for Disney is] an honor and a privilege I will never forget.”
All things considered, The BFG is a career milestone for Moniz de Sá. Not many actors can say they’ve worked under the direction of Spielberg or the rule of Disney. Now that his hard work is done, what is the actor most looking forward to?
“Watching my son watch the film.”