An exclusive interview with Hayley Atwell who plays Evelyn in Disney’s new Christopher Robin movie. Find out what Hayley does for fun, her favorite Winnie the Pooh character, and more!
I was invited by Disney to attend an all-inclusive event for the world premiere of the Christopher Robin movie and other activities. All opinions and ideas are 100% my own.
Funny enough, I had no idea what to expect out of Hayley Atwell. I’ve only watched like one episode of Agent Carter, and I’ve never seen her in anything else. Her role as Evelyn in Christopher Robin is pretty minimal, and you really don’t get to see her personality shine.
What I did not expect was someone I seriously just want to hang out with all the time.
I mean I’m sure she feels the same way about me too.
But seriously, she was, how do the British put it, lovely. And charming. And made me want to ask for her phone number to be best friends forever.
Let’s just jump right into the interview.
How’d Hayley Atwell Get the Part of Evelyn?
Okay so right from the beginning of the interview, I knew I was going to like her when she told us this story about how she got the job as Evelyn. I wanted to raise my hand and say hey I was just on a boat on the Aegean Sea a few weeks ago – see, we could totally be best friends!
The best part was that she was totally making fun of herself as she told us this story, not like bragging at all. She was just laughing the whole time like yeah, I mean I was on a boat in Greece, wink, smile. Anyway the story…
I was on holiday on a boat in Greece. I was sunbathing, and I got a call from my agent saying Marc Forster, the director who is directing Christopher Robin. Will you Skype with him, and I said yeah of course. I have quite erratic reception here in the Aegean Ocean, so I went to the captain and I said I need to find a spot where I can Skype someone, and he went you see that rock over there? I went yeah, yeah. He went go past that for about ten minutes, and you’ll find a spot.
So I got my life jacket on, and I went on a jet ski and I put my phone down the life jacket like this (puts it in her shirt), and I went very far until pretty much couldn’t see any form of civilization and then I was able to get reception and I remember answering. I never met him before, and I just went welcome to my office (held out her hand like she’s showing off the ocean to Marc). It’s just how I work here.
What was Marc’s Vision for Hayley’s Character Evelyn?
After Hayley introduced Marc to her Greek office, they got to talking about Marc’s vision for Christopher Robin and his relationship with Evelyn. As Hayley recalled,
He was just talking about how he wanted to tell a story that was classic to the philosophy of Pooh Bear that everyone knew so that these characters are familiar to everyone, not doing anything kind of left field with any of these characters because they’re complete in themselves.
But wouldn’t it be interesting to explore the idea of what happened when Christopher Robin grew up and have that being the access point for adults who would identify with being an adult now, and being I think, being burdened by and lost a little bit by the pressures of everyday life and being on a bit of a hamster wheel and not realizing that your ambitions are kind of getting the better of you, and so we talked a little bit about that.
And then he talked about wanting to create the relationship between Evelyn and Christopher as one where it began with genuine love and joy, and he set it up at the beginning, then you know that what is at stakes for him to lose, and you kind of root for them.
So we also wanted that any scenes or any moments with Evelyn, for her to be someone who had compassion to know that this man who’s come back from war, who’s struggling to provide for his family, whose heart’s in the right place, he’s struggling within himself rather than anything that she could probably criticize him for, and she’s taking on the pain of what, the cost it’s having on the child as well.
So rather than in her in any way seeming kind of unsympathetic or moaning or whining or anything like that, just someone who she’s taking care of her own feelings and experiences in this, feeling lost and left behind by her husband, but knowing she’s in a lot of pain as well.
And then Hayley got back on the boat and went on with her day sunbathing. Best meeting the director story ever.
Where Did Hayley’s Inspiration Come From?
When asked where Hayley looked to for inspiration to be this strong and loving mother-figure in Christopher Robin, Hayley talked about her own strong mother and other strong women in her life including her auntie Miranda (Randy) who was actually with her visiting for the interview.
She talked about how these women had taught her both how to have both a voice of strength and reason but also a gentleness and understanding. And she expounded a bit about how she used that inspiration for Evelyn’s actions in the film,
She’s not, she’s not passive. She doesn’t kind of sit there, you know, allowing things to happen, but she also doesn’t attack him for it. I think she’s aware of the complexities of his situation and also being heartbroken about the effects it’s having on her daughter but also not turning her daughter against her father as well. And I think for me that was a very emotionally intelligent character choice to make and one that was much more realistic. I think that’s what parents have to do and have to struggle with.
I’m not one (a mother) myself, but I’ve seen it with my godchildren and their parents the people in my life who have kids, and that dialogue of going how we do we help our children navigate these very emotionally, tricky times with an open heart still and able to process pain in a loving and healthy way? So I think although this is a good feel children’s movie it does touch on things that I think families will identify with.
You can say that again. I talked about it a bit in my Christopher Robin movie review but this was a movie that really hit home for me and my family life.
Did Hayley Play Any Pranks On Set?
Time for another best friend moment. Apparently Hayley is known for playing pranks on set. Unlike Ewan McGregor who told us in his interview that he’s not a prankster at all, it’s something Hayley is known for. That and acting like a child (in a good way), but we’ll get to that in a minute.
When we asked her about pranks in this movie, unfortunately there really weren’t any but she did have a pretty fun story to tell anyway about a picnic she had with her imaginary stuffed friends when Marc needed some good establishing shots.
Instead of sticking with the script, Hayley did a little ad-libbing herself. Marc told her to talk to the animals to make it seem more realistic. So Hayley did. Unlike Jim Cumming’s ad-libbing, Hayley’s didn’t make it into the final film, but it’s still a great story!
I ended up kind of going on a bit of rampage talking to Kanga and going Kanga, I just wanna say like kudos for you for being a single parent here. I was like you’ve done a great job with Roo, and I was also going like where is Roo’s dad in all of this actually. And Marc going, I don’t think that’s gonna make it into the film.
I remember kind of offering Owl a sandwich and then the voice saying, ‘oh, no thank you I’m fine’, and I go, oh are you gluten free? That probably wasn’t a concept in the 1940s that people knew about. So and then we, you know, had an ongoing gag that you know, Piglet was the diva who never came out of the trailer and was addicted to haycorns and was a nervous wreck and also kind of and also the fact that I thought in my ignorance a very valid conversation which is how does Piglet identify? Like I’m interested to know like how does he, she identify? I don’t know.
So we just kind of humanized them I think, and it was fun watching.
How Does Hayley Atwell Relax and Play?
Finally, the real reason I think I’d get along with Hayley so well in real life.
When someone asked her how she plays, her response was my favorite out of everyone we interviewed. She’s just childlike and silly all the time, whether it be at her job or with her friends. And she’s lucky enough that she gets to play and be silly in her job.
I have games night at my house so we play things from like Articulate to Secret Chameleon, Hidden Chameleon, and then also Escape Rooms I quite like to do. I’m really into that. I’ve been doing them here a little bit. I’ve done some with my dad as well.
You guys, game nights and escape rooms. Those are two of my absolute favorite things to do. My poor family is so sick of escape rooms, and I keep dragging them to more because I’m addicted. And you already know my obsession with games, it’s a real thing.
Anyway back to Hayley.
I think some of the work that I do, am about to go do Measure for Measure on the stage in the west end and although that can be quite an academic, heady, more classic piece and I’ve done a lot of those more classical roles, I think in my personal life I tend to — the antidote is actually kind of behave like a child.
What’d Hayley Bring Home from Set?
Bronte Carmichael told us that she went home with one of the stuffed Piglets. Both Ewan and Marc went home with stuffed Winnie the Poohs. And Hayley, she went home with the gramophone from the movie.
That and one of the sweetest gifts ever.
Marc Forster had commissioned the art department of the film to paint me a beautiful painting of Pooh and my dog Howard in matching red sweaters. It’s really cute.
Apparently Hayley’s dog Howard was on the set every day, sitting in with the animals, and adding a calming and therapeutic air to the set. And Marc as Hayley put it, “took a real shine to him.” Such a sweet gift and definitely a reminder, as Jim Cummings said, that they were all really like family on the set.
Who Was Hayley’s Favorite Character?
When we asked Hayley about her favorite Hundred Acre Wood character as a child, she answered in pretty much the same way I would.
I think in a way all the animals are kind of archetypes of different versions of ourselves based on the day of the week or moods that we’re in or the circumstances. And I think I always found Piglet to be just totally adorable (me too – it’s why I Disneybounded Piglet on the Christopher Robin red carpet) and so vulnerable, and it always made me want to kind of reach out and look after Piglet.
Having worked with Piglet though, it’s just neurotic. It’s like he’s got what we call in today’s kind of vocabulary, anxiety, and like treated with haycorns, which seem to kind of exasperate his issues. I think he needs like maybe some therapy and medication.
She explained that she thought she’d have more patience for Piglet than she did. And honestly it was kind of hilarious because the entire time, it felt like she was talking about a real person, not just a character. Must be why she’s so good at her job.
She then continued talking about Pooh who like Ewan McGregor mentioned was one of everyone’s favorites.
Pooh to me ended up being like the kind of Zen master because almost like this bit of an unkonwn guru without realizing it, which makes him so endearing isn’t it, because he doesn’t have that, he doesn’t have that self-awareness to know really what he’s saying. He’s just pure love without agenda, and I think the thing that maybe kind of breaks my heart when I saw the film, remember that moment where Christopher Robin’s hurt him, and Pooh says, ‘did you forget me too?’
And what makes me cry about that is just because the way Pooh processes pain is that he just takes it in like a dog would like unconditional love and instead of attacking back or being defensive about it or finding ways to seek revenge or go well fine and walk away as well – he just absorbs the pain but still loves Christopher Robin, and that seems to be a very human quality between people that love each other and a very necessary quality to our own civilization and for our own sense of belonging to each other.
The ability to absorb pain from someone who knows that they can cause us pain but see beyond that, and I would just found the moment was so moving and so evolved of Pooh without him realizing it that it made me fall in love with Pooh.
That moment in the film is heartbreaking. It’s also one of the reasons I said in my Christopher Robin review that the movie is like a warm hug and a cold glass of ice water in the face. There are so many sweet moments like this, I hope I have a chance to write down all of my feelings at some point!
What is Hayley’s Favorite Pooh Quote?
And last but not least, we had to ask Hayley what her favorite Pooh quote – especially since she compared him to the Zen master! With so many Winnie the Pooh quotes to choose from, I wasn’t sure what she’d say.
I do think it’s the one that’s in the trailer actually of the people saying nothing’s impossible, but I do nothing every day because actually I find doing nothing is really hard. And I think a lot of people would resonate with that today. There’s this constant need for living in today where there seems to be now such praise and celebration for productivity and perfectionism and attaining goals and achievement and success that I think it can create Piglets in us of having anxiety and neurosis, which also seems to be sometimes not the healthiest response to a wolrd that seems to want so much of us that we can’t ever be enough.
So that quote in itself of, you know, in the humor of him not really understanding what he’s saying and what he actually means. He’s actually saying the profound thing, which is he’s able to just sit with himself, and it be enough and that life itself is enough, and that we’re enough. And so I think that was my favorite.
It’s my favorite too. That and the one about how doing nothing often leads to the very best something.
Any time we can get a reminder that we are enough regardless of the work we do, our accomplishments, our followers, that is my favorite sentiment ever. And something I really do hope everyone takes away from Christopher Robin. That and being able to spend more time on what’s most important.
Best friends I tell you. Putting it out to the universe right now. She even taught me the right way to sit on the couch in this picture where we’re obviously on our way to becoming besties.
About Christopher Robin
Christopher Robin is the fictional story of what happens when Christopher Robin moves away, grows up, and gets too busy for his old 100 Acre Wood friends like Winnie the Pooh. Really life happened and Christopher just learned the hard way that dreams don’t come for free. Unfortunately working toward his dreams has begun to cost him relationships with his family.
Find out what happens when Winnie the Pooh and friends come to the rescue and try to remind Christopher what it’s like to play and do nothing again. It’s a magically charming film that everyone should see with their families!
Want more info? Here are six more things to know about Christopher Robin!
Christopher Robin is in theaters everywhere now!