Matthew Warchus has adapted the 1988 Roald Dahl novel along with some aspects of the 2011 stage play into a fun family musical movie. Titled ‘Roald Dahl’s Matilda the Musical,’ the movie focuses on the title character as she makes her way through Crunchem Hall School. Matilda has neglectful parents who never bothered to send her to school. When they finally come to their senses, Matilda is enrolled in a jail-like school, run by Miss Agatha Trunchbull.
Alisha Weir plays the titular role whereas Emma Thompson portrays the antagonist in the movie. Miss Trunchbull is menacing, cruel and all things hateful. Her character is feared and loathed by all students who have suffered through her punishments. The actress Emma Thompson has undergone a tremendous makeover to come into Miss Trunchbull’s character. Let’s find out more about Thompson’s transformation into the scary headmistress avatar.
How Did Thompson Transform Into Miss Trunchbull?
Dahl’s legendary antagonist is written to scare and terrify everyone who reads about her. So, embodying similar characteristics on the big screen was even more difficult for the director of the movie, Warchus. He said in an interview with USA Today, “I would often find myself saying, ‘The thing is, when Trunchbull comes on set, everybody’s pulse has to quicken.’ The effect is the Darth Vader-type thing, where you feel unsettled whether you’re a child or an adult.”
The director made Thompson wear a fat suit and prosthetics on her face to become almost unrecognizable as the oppressive headmistress. Trunchbull’s past paints her as a strong, athletic woman. She participated in the Olympics in Hammer Throwing. Evidently, she should have an athletic build and a strong body. To achieve this, Thompson’s body was padded with more clothes to bring out a broad chest and heavy shoulders. She wore massive underwear and chest pads to look bigger. Moreover, makeup and prosthetics highlighted her nose and jawline.
Furthermore, Thompson had to undergo three hours of makeup and dressing to look like the tyrant educator we see on screen. From clothes to makeup, she had to endure the summer heat in her costume during filming. Hence, Thompson’s heavy costume contained a cooling system for relief. As seen in the movie, Trunchbull’s character towers over little children. To accentuate her power over the innocent kids, Thompson also wore shoes with very thick soles. Moreover, the filmmakers preferred certain camera angles so that she can look bigger than everyone else on the screen.
On top of that, Thompson believes in being honest with the character as far as she can. Surprisingly, she also trained to throw a hammer to bring authenticity to her character’s past. Even though it was just for a couple of scenes, Thompson emulated the personality as best she can. Talking about this with EW, she said, “We had a professional athlete, a hammer thrower, who came and showed me how to throw a hammer. There’s a shot of me throwing not an actual hammer or an actual child (laughs), but throwing and then getting in the position. We had to have that as well. That shot is a combination of me and the professional, Justin.”
Likewise, this is not Thompson’s first rodeo in transforming and dedicating herself to portray a role perfectly. The talented actress Emma Thompson has worn a fat suit for the 2003 movie ‘Love Actually’ as well. Furthermore, she flaunted fake wig prosthetics for her part in the 2015 movie ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson.’
Emma Thompson is wearing a fat suit in the latest Matilda movie for her role as Ms Trunchbull.
But some have found the characterisation as 'dehumanising and degrading.' So is it offensive to wear fat suits?
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) June 22, 2022
Consequently, the actress and the makers of the film faced backlash for putting a skinny woman in a fat suit. People argued that an actual fat person should have portrayed the role of Miss Trunchbull. Furthermore, some claimed that such makeup and transformation essentially overshadow the talent of plus-sized people, while others deemed this activity degrading and inhumane for more heavy-set people. Twitter users flooded the social media site with their opinions and chimed in to show their displeasure. User @LouisatheLast tweeted, “It has been really disappointing to see Emma Thompson put on a fat suit for this role. I’ve always loved her work. But this is just so gross.”
Another user chimed in saying, “Yes, it’s offensive about Emma Thompson wearing a fat suit in the Matilda movie. But the initial failure is that almost every woman Dahl wrote is either a sugar-sweet, pretty, good-natured Miss Honey or a haggard evil (and in his mind, physically disgusting) Miss Trunchbull.” Seemingly, criticism and backlash have become a part and parcel of the movie industry. On the other hand, the musical movie has been widely appreciated for its songs and the acting talents of the respective actors.