Interview: Arrietty Star Tom Holland

The stage star of Billy Elliot lends his voice to the new Studio Ghibli film.



This week sees the release of one of our favourite films so far this year, the affecting and heartwarming Studio Ghibli animation, Arrietty. You can check out our review here, and we managed to catch a few words with young star Tom Holland, as well as grab director Hiromasa Yonebayashi for a brief chat about the film.

When we got the chance to speak to the director, we had a great many questions about all the work that went into creating the incredibly detailed world Arrietty presents, particularly with regards to the sense of scale that was created. Individual droplets of tea fill tiny mugs, and a small leaf makes a handy umbrella for the Borrowers. Speaking of The Borrowers, we were interested to know just how much design work was put in to achieve the feel of Mary Norton’s classic stories.

‘From the eyes of the Borrowers, they can by all means notice the smallest details - small prickles around the leaves, bumps on a brick’s surface,’ Yonebayashi pointed out. ‘I believed that if we also pay attention and care to include such details, then a world that no ordinary person has ever seen can be visualised. How the water droplets were animated, the sound effects and photography, much effort was put in by our staff to create the world of the Borrowers.’

We were naturally keen to find out what else Ghibli has lined up for us, but at this time the director could sadly not confirm that anything was planned.

On this note, we bring you our chat with Tom Holland, who plays sickly young ‘big person’ Sho in the film. Previously known for his stage career, playing Billy Elliot to great reviews, we were keen to learn more about this transition, amongst other things.

Arrietty is one of your first films, alongside upcoming disaster film The Impossible, and is a very fine performance, especially in your scenes with Saoirse Ronan. Do you have anything else lined up?
Thank you. After the year I’ve just had, I think my mum and dad are keen for me to have nothing else on. I only finished playing Billy last may and I was supposed to go back to school getting ready for my GCSEs. Since then I have done two films.

How was it providing a voice track? After having appeared on stage until now that must have been a very different kind of performance to adjust to?
I really enjoyed it. It was very different to anything that I had done before and new things are always more fun. It was quite a steep learning curve though, because with Billy Elliot and the film, The Impossible, we had loads of time for rehearsals. But with Arrietty, I was sent the script and had to be pretty much ready on the day. I did have great direction in the studio though, and was given as many times as I needed. My character Sho is not well and so I needed to play him in a slow and quite fragile manner which is not how I am, so this was a challenge also.

Were you a fan of Ghibli films before getting involved with Arrietty, or is it something you have discovered since?
Actually, the only Ghibli film I had seen before hand was Spirited Away which I loved and I have seen it many times. I am aware now though that Studio Ghibli is so highly thought of. I was in Barcelona recently for a retake on The Impossible and the director J.A. Bayona said that I was incredibly lucky to have worked on a Ghibli film.

How easy was it to develop a chemistry with your co-stars in the recording booth, as opposed to being on stage or screen? Did you interact with your fellow cast members, or were the parts recorded separately?
No, my scenes were all recorded separately, and on my own which was quite strange at first, but I soon got used to it. Ray, the director was very good and setting each scene for me and when Saoirse and I needed to have a conversation, then they played in her voice which she had already recorded.

Is there anything you can tell us about your upcoming film The Impossible?
We filmed for six weeks in Spain and five months in Thailand, and it was an incredible experience working with a fabulous crew who became like an extended family. My on screen parents are played by Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor, and my dad jokes that they are good matches for my real life parents - although Ewan is slightly taller than my real dad! The film is based on an incredible real life story about the Boxing Day tsunami which killed so many people. I have seen some parts of the film already and it looks incredible and I hope will do the story justice and be a film well worth watching.

Watch Filmbeat’s interview with Tom below: