Paddington star Hugh Bonneville says fictional bear ‘was my first friend’ in heartwarming reveal

28 October 2022, 17:58

Hugh Bonneville (Mr Brown) poses with Paddington Bear at the world premiere of ‘Paddington 2’.
Hugh Bonneville (Mr Brown) poses with Paddington Bear at the world premiere of ‘Paddington 2’. Picture: Getty

By Siena Linton

In an exclusive interview, Downton Abbey and Paddington actor Hugh Bonneville reveals his special affinity for the beloved fictional bear, and chooses his favourite classical music.

Hugh Bonneville is no stranger to the screen. Since his 1994 debuts for both film and television, he has regularly graced our screens both at home and in the cinema, from Notting Hill to The Vicar of Dibley.

One of his best-known roles in recent years, however, is Mr Brown, the adoptive father of the beloved Paddington Bear in the 2014 film and its 2017 sequel.

“I was very nervous when I heard that he was in danger of being Hollywood-ized”, he told Moira Stuart, on an episode of Moira Stuart Meets... for Classic FM. Bonneville felt a special affinity towards the pint-sized bear, calling him “my first friend” and revealing that the Paddington series were the first books he was able to read by himself as a boy.

However, after reading the first page of the script, where Paddington refers comically to a grandfather clock as a ‘modest timepiece’, Bonneville says he felt he was in “safe hands”.

Read more: ‘To diminish music in education is a really big mistake’ – star trumpeter Alison Balsom

Hugh Bonneville tells Classic FM about how playing the piano stayed with his father through dementia.

In 2010, Hugh Bonneville first brought Lord Grantham to life on our screens, in the popular historical drama series, Downton Abbey. The series continued until 2015, followed by a 2019 film and a sequel in 2022.

Lord Grantham is the co-owner of Downton Abbey itself, a good-natured family man who, despite his best efforts, struggles to keep the Abbey and his family financially afloat.

Hugh Bonneville attributes the show’s success to its script and its characters. “When I first read the pilot script, I was captivated by the characters”, he says. “They all leapt off the page with their individual voices – which isn’t always the case.

“These characters were very vivid, very three-dimensional. You cared about them somehow, even though you didn’t know them yet, and most importantly, I wanted to know what happened next”.

‘The arts have been systematically sidelined’ – Hugh Bonneville tells Classic FM

Hugh Bonneville’s musical picks on Moira Stuart Meets... include Allegri’s Miserere, Nino Rota’s score for Romeo and Juliet, and a Schubert Fantasy, which he dedicates to his father.

The actor says his father “was a very fine pianist”, who used to give soiree recitals in the village where he lived. He tells Moira of his childhood, growing up in a household where his father, who worked as a doctor, was a great lover of classical music and opera, and used to record classical performances over his surgical cassettes.

Later in life, Bonneville says, his father “suffered from dementia, but as we all know the musical side of the brain is incredibly strong”.

He adds: “The music stayed with him right to the end, and his ability on the piano stayed with him a lot longer than other elements of his faculties. Schubert was one of his go-to composers, and he used to love this piece”.

Listen to Moira Stuart Meets... Hugh Bonneville on Sunday 30 October, at 9pm on Global Player.