On set with Bonnie Wright at Burton Bradstock
PUBLISHED: 11:18 09 November 2015 | UPDATED: 11:18 09 November 2015
Bonnie Wright has gone from Hogwarts wizard to villain in a new independent children’s film shot in Dorset with a local cast and crew. Anne King went on the set at Burton Bradstock to find out more
It was a long, long way from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as rain and a spirit-dampening sea fret swept in at Burton Bradstock on Dorset’s magnificent Jurassic Coast. But Bonnie Wright, best known as flame-haired Ginny Weasley, Harry Potter’s love interest and pure-blood wizard, was unfazed as the cameras rolled at Freshwater Beach Holiday Park.
Playing a villain, opposite a man dressed in a squirrel suit, is most definitely a new direction for Bonnie, who at just 24 has already notched up some 14 years in the movie business.
She admitted that she was relishing her role in Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? a new independent film for younger children, starring children – a genre which has virtually disappeared from our screens.
Nelson Nutmeg is a bold move by co-writers and directors Poole-based Danny Stack and Tim Clague. Crowd-funded and produced in Dorset with almost the entire cast and crew based in the county, the feature-length comedy adventure echoes the old black and white Children’s Film Foundation movies of the 1950’s and 60’s offering ‘clean, healthy, intelligent adventure’.
The plot involves a group of ‘misfit’ kids on holiday at a seaside holiday park who believe they see their beloved Nelson Nutmeg, the piratical squirrel mascot, coming to a sticky end. In classic Famous Five style, they band together to investigate.
After the cast and crew had retreated from the weather to wolf down a curry lunch, Bonnie, trademark auburn hair tied back and wrapped in a huge pink quilted coat, settled next to Tim Clague to talk about her new role.
So how does a veteran of one of the biggest-budget movie franchises end up on a wind-swept beach in West Dorset?
“My agent was sent the script. I read it and I loved it. I could really see an honest and original voice coming through from Tim and Danny,” she says. “They wanted to tell a kids’ story through the eyes of a child. And for me, the role of Diane is quite unusual in the sense that that it has an evil edge to it, which is fun for me as it’s something new. Also a lot of it was local, which I also liked – and so here I am!”
Working with the Nelson Nutmeg ‘stars’ – the children, aged between eight and 12 who play Billie (Loretta Walsh), The Colonel (Hattie Gotobed), Shiv (JJ Brown), Woody (James Grogan) and Swindon (Jonah Alexander)– reminded Bonnie of her big break. With no stage school background or acting ambition, aged nine, she almost magically became one of JK Rowling’s ‘Big Seven’ characters after her older brother said she reminded him of Ginny Weasley.
“I can definitely identify with the kids here,” she smiles. “For a lot of them it is their first film. It was a very new experience for me too. I remember stepping on to the set of Harry Potter. I had never seen anything like it, looking into the world of film-making was very mysterious.
“Nelson Nutmeg is such an enjoyable thing for these kids to be involved in because they are surrounded by and are acting alongside kids their age. That was the same with me on Harry Potter,” she says, adding with a smile. “And they have become fast friends, which is nice to see.”
Having gained a degree in film and TV production, Bonnie is now a film-maker in her own right. She said this was one of the reasons that she was keen to support Nelson Nutmeg. “Since finishing on the Harry Potter films, a lot of the projects I have gone on to do have been micro-budget, small independent films, that have been working with much more of a skeleton crew.” After pulling together budgets for her own productions, Bonnie says she can definitely identify with the hard process of getting a film project off the ground.
“I have really enjoyed working on smaller budget films because it feels like you are making something together with a group. I like the team-playing element of it. You are making something because you are really passionate about it. It’s about people who are creative and for whom it’s an art, not just something they just fell into.”
Her character, Diane, a new manager at the Nelson’s Retreat holiday park, provides the focus for the children’s suspicions. “Diane takes over while the owner of the park is away,” adds Bonnie. “She makes all kinds of changes, including getting rid of the Nelson Nutmeg mascot. The children all see different snippets of her in the background, and, through their eyes, it looks like she is trying to sabotage the holiday park. But there’s a clever twist at the end. I really like the way the script is written entirely from the children’s point of view.”
Dorset is a new experience for Bonnie, although she loves the South Coast and has spent a lot time in Cornwall and also in Sussex where her parents, jewellery designers Gary Wright and Sheila Teague, have a home.
“It’s really beautiful here the Dorset coastline is so dramatic. It’s amazing to have all these points that are really high above sea level. Yesterday, up on the hill, we had beautiful sunshine. It felt like we had been transported to a southern European country,” says Bonnie, who stayed at the Haddon House Hotel in West Bay during the shoot.
Before she goes to film her next scene Bonnie reveals that Nelson Nutmeg is a red squirrel rather than a grey, in homage to the red squirrels of Brownsea Island. “Of course, the squirrels there don’t have eye-patches,” adds director Tim Clague. “That’s the make-believe bit!”
Who Killed Nelson Nutmeg? will be screened locally over the next few months. For more information visit nelsonnutmeg.com