Hayley Atwell stars in T&C’s autumn issue
All photographs by Richard Phibbs and styled by Miranda Almond. Above: Hayley Atwell wears silk dress, Hermès. Suede belt, Temperley London. Calf-skin flats, Christian Louboutin. Gold and diamond earrings; matching ring, both Van Cleef & Arpels
“One day, Rabbit and Piglet were sitting outside Pooh’s front door,” begins Chapter Seven of The House at Pooh Corner.
It is almost a century since AA Milne first began writing the tales of a Boy and his Bear, but on this sunny morning, it is as though time has stood still. Here are a real rabbit and an excitable pink piglet, accompanied by their handlers, sitting outside the front door of the selfsame ancient, higgledy-piggledy house where the books were written. A short stroll away through the flower-filled garden stands a statue of a pensive, bob-haired Christopher Robin and a sundial bearing the worn and mossy outlines of Pooh and his friends; go a little further into the woods that begin at the edge of the lawn, and you will find Poohsticks Bridge, as immortalised in EH Shepard’s illustrations. To add to the magic, Town & Country has also recruited the modelling services of a magnificently Tiggerish cat and a delightfully gloomy-looking pair of miniature donkeys…
Silk dress, Dior. Sapphire, amethyst and diamond earrings; ruby and diamond ring, both price on request, Bulgari High Jewellery
Last year’s biopic Goodbye Christopher Robin was undoubtedly thought-provoking; but for those captivated by the joyful innocence of Milne’s books or indeed the subsequent Disney cartoon, it offered a little too much insight, with its portrayal of an exploited and bullied Christopher Robin alienated from the parents – and indeed, from the teddy bear – that made him famous. Fortunately, Disney’s new excursion into the Pooh-niverse, Christopher Robin, promises to rekindle the childlike wonder of the stories. In this fantasy comedy-drama, our hero (played by Ewan McGregor) has become a workaholic who has no time for his wife and daughter. Only the combined efforts of his childhood toys, brought to life by CGI, can restore him to his old playful self.
Satin dress, £950, Mulberry. Gold, aquamarine and sapphire earrings, price on request, Buccellati
Hayley Atwell co-stars as his wife Evelyn, which is why she and I have been closeted together in a car for the past two hours, driving from her flat in Chelsea to this hidden corner of East Sussex that is the wellspring of the Pooh phenomenon. “It’s amazing how universal it is,” Atwell reflects. “There’s a charm and innocence to it, and every new generation seems to love it.”
All the same, making the film seems to have been less idyllic than one might have imagined. Atwell explains that she had to shoot each CGI scene three times, firstly addressing a stuffed toy, then a headless grey version of the same toy – “you feel like you’re suddenly in a Guillermo del Toro film, it’s quite sinister” – and finally, delivering her lines to a pole with a light on the end of it, while actors hiding in the bushes shouted out the responses. “But when you have spent three years in drama school being a tree and the colour blue and manifesting the element of fire, you just throw yourself into it,” Atwell concludes with a philosophical laugh.
Wool and silk dress, Fendi. Leather heels, Marni
Anyway, she enjoys stretching herself. “I want to be good; and part of that is to be challenged and to work with people who are better than me, to work with material that makes me think, ‘I don’t know how to do that.’”
This is an extract of Lydia Slater’s interview with Hayley Atwell in the autumn issue of Town & Country, on sale from 23 August. Pick up your copy to read the full story.