James Corden: Voicing Peter Rabbit was a lot of fun

Actor-comedian James Corden had a blast voicing Peter Rabbit for the big screen

James Corden has been having "a lot of fun" providing the voice for Peter Rabbit - director Will Gluck's big-screen adaption of Beatrix Potter's beloved books that feature the mischievous, lovable character that has charmed generations -and, in the process, rediscovering a story that he has loved since he was a boy.

Potter's books were an essential part of his childhood back in England.

"I first discovered the books at home and also at Sunday School," he recalled.

"I grew up in a Salvation Army family, and we would go to Sunday School every week. I have a vague recollection of finding and discovering them during free time in the corner of a library somewhere.

"I loved the Potter books in the same way that I used to love (UK comic) The Beano. They felt slightly grown up, and I also loved that Peter Rabbit was mischievous because when you are that age, you are constantly being told not to do this, not to do that and to sit down or whatever.

"And when you find a character that your parents are encouraging you to read, who absolutely does the opposite of what he is told, that is kind of thrilling."

He was delighted when Gluck approached him to provide the voice for Peter Rabbit, a film that combines live action with cutting-edge animation to bring Peter and his friends to life. Peter Rabbit is now showing in cinemas.

He joins a stellar cast that includes Domhnall Gleeson as Young McGregor and Rose Byrne as Bea.

But before accepting the role, Corden wanted to know that the film would honour the character - and that sense of mischievous fun - and the original stories.

"It was important to me, to Domhnall, to everybody involved with it because otherwise you may as well make 'Dave the Bunny'.

"Obviously, the biggest leap was that many of the stories areshort. When I went back and read them again, many of them could be short stories as opposed to novels. So it was about taking the essence of the character, the essence of the world that Potter had created and being respectful of that legacy."


The 39-year-old actor and host added that all he needed to hear was that Gluck "had the full blessing of the Beatrix Potter Estate, that they read the script and were very much behind it".

Indeed, Gluck has said that he wrote the screenplay with Corden very much in mind for the voice of Peter.

"I didn't actually know that. That was very sweet. I first met Will when he saw me in a play, One Man, Two Guvnors, at The National Theatre (in London) and we got on well.

"I am such a fan of his - I love his movie Easy A, I think it is completely brilliant. And he is also an incredible man just to hang out with in a room with no windows for a day," he said, laughing.

In the film, Young McGregor inherits a house in the English countryside from his uncle, Old McGregor (Sam Neill) after his death. Young McGregor, who works in the Harrods' toy department, plans on renovating the property and selling it to fund his dream of opening his own toyshop.

But first he must deal with Peter and his furry friends who live in the cottage's garden. And Peter and his pals are not about to give up their home - and its vegetable patch full of juicy carrots - without a fight.

For Gluck and his co-writers, the heart of the story is a powerful and contemporary message - the need to share our world and learn to live with one another.

"You hope that children would learn about acceptance and sharing all the time, and if Peter Rabbit is going to help with that, then that would be great."

Corden and his wife, Julia, have a six year-old son, Max, a three year-old daughter, Carey, and another child born in December last year.

"It is worth saying that my children are the absolute reason I am doing this," he said.

"I did a voice a couple of years ago on a really beautiful film called The Gruffalo, and (then) The Gruffalo's Child, which my children absolutely love and they get this unbelievable kick out of the fact that I am the voice of the Mouse. To think that I am Peter - well, my son is just losing his brain. He is so excited, so I am really excited for my children to see Peter Rabbit. I really am."

In fact, Max, just like his father, is already a Peter Rabbit fan.

"We actually have all of the books and my son and I have started reading them in the last year. He is six and he has been aware of the stories for a while - he had a Peter Rabbit soft toy that someone bought for him when he was very young.

"And now he has an unbelievable love of reading. He has discovered the books and he loves Peter Rabbit and all the characters and what they get up to."