Cookies help us deliver our Services. By using our Services, you agree to our use of cookies. Learn More.

Paddington Facts To Get Your Bear Paws Into

Move over Winnie-the-Pooh, there's a new guy in town named Paddington Bear. Well, at least there has been since 1958 when British author Michael Bond debuted his legendary creation in the book, "A Bear Called Paddington." Paddington — sporting his signature blue duffle coat — is as iconically British as tea and crumpets. Certainly, no other cuddly ursine creation would be fit to munch on marmalade sandwiches with Her Majesty the Queen of England in June of 2022, but Paddington seemed right at home alongside royalty. Paddington has been a unique representative of British culture in countless books, TV series, and more recently a couple of very popular and critically acclaimed feature-length movies.

The recent "Paddington" films have featured a wealth of notable acting talent, including "Downton Abbey" star Hugh Bonneville, Nicole Kidman, Sally Hawkins, Ben Whishaw (in the titular voice role), and Hugh Grant. There have been some interesting casting and soundtrack shifts with the current "Paddington" series, and fans of the Blighty via Peru bear might be waving the Union Jack in celebration of some upcoming good news. Let's take a look at all things Paddington by getting your bear paws into these fun facts.

Paddington's clever global marketing campaign set the tone

Successfully marketing a movie — let alone one intended to launch an international film franchise such as "Paddington" — takes intelligence, tenacity, and a little bit of serendipity. Deadline reports that for French entertainment company StudioCanal, producing "Paddington" signaled "a strategic entry into the family space." StudioCanal executive Ron Halpern understood the challenge, saying, "If you want to get into the family space, there is such a high creative level already ... You need to be sure you can reach those levels before you even show up." Understanding this reality, the company got to work hiring some of the best in the business, onboarding "Harry Potter" producer David Heyman, and director Paul King — best-known for surreal British comedy series "The Mighty Boosh" — to jump-start creativity on the "Paddington" franchise. StudioCanal spent $55 million on the project, which according to The Numbers, was one of the most expensive in the company's history.

A great marketing plan is essential to get a film audience on board, and StudioCanal pulled out all the stops for maximum "Paddington" awareness. According to Deadline, StudioCanal received praise for creating celebrity-designed Paddington Bear statues placed around London, and the company also cleverly planted a Paddington Bear cameo in 2014's Liam Neeson action caper "Non-Stop." In a bit of spontaneous viral marketing, Hugh Bonneville brought a plush Paddington toy to the premiere of his movie "The Monuments Men" (via Evening Standard) — where not even co-star George Clooney seemed to mind the uninvited furry guest.

Colin Firth was originally cast as the voice of Paddington

Before actor Ben Whishaw was cast as the voice of Paddington, another British actor was set to voice the loveable Peruvian bear. Colin Firth, star of films such as "Bridget Jones' Diary" and "The King's Speech," was originally cast as Paddington Bear, and the film was well into production when he left the project. In a statement to Entertainment Weekly, Firth said, "After a period of denial, we've chosen 'conscious uncoupling" — borrowing a phrase popularized by Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin's amicable divorce. 

Notably, director Paul King said Firth's departure from the film was a mutual decision. "We love the voice and we love the bear," King said, "But as our young bear came into being we agreed that the two didn't seem to fit." Firth added, "I've had the joy of seeing most of the film and it's going to be quite wonderful. I still feel rather protective of this bear and I'm pestering them all with suggestions for finding a voice worthy of him."

Firth needn't have worried about Paddington Bear's voice as Whishaw was soon announced as his replacement. Regarding the character's vocals, King told The Daily Mail, "​​What we needed was a slightly more open, and younger, voice." Whishaw didn't grow up loving Paddington, telling The Daily Mail he had "no relationship to Paddington whatsoever." Despite his lack of sentimentality, he nailed the part, injecting Paddington's voice with earnest whimsical wonder that is perfectly suited to the character.

The Gwen Stefani song that never made the Paddington soundtrack

A catchy soundtrack with hit songs is often a great way to market films — and some of the best-selling albums of all time happen to be soundtracks (via Paste Magazine). Chances are, even if you haven't seen the movies "Saturday Night Fever" or "The Bodyguard," you've heard the songs "Stayin' Alive" and "I Will Always Love You," and movie makers count on catchy tunes to get eyeballs on their work. "Paddington" is no exception to this tried-and-true formula, recruiting some pop music heavy-hitters to spice up the movie's soundscape. Unfortunately for "Paddington," integrating Gwen Stefani and Pharrell Williams' song "Shine" into the film was a bumpy road.

Fresh off the success of his Academy Award-nominated and Billboard chart-topping hit song "Happy" from the "Despicable Me 2" soundtrack, Williams teamed up with Stefani to make "Shine" for "Paddington." Needless to say, expectations for "Shine" were high. According to The Hollywood Reporter, "Shine" made the list of best original song Oscar contenders, but the momentum for the song quickly faded. While a lyric video featuring a truncated version of the song dropped in early 2015 — coinciding with the U.S. release of the film — the song was never formally released. The track rolls during the end credits of the stateside version of "Paddington," but it was omitted from the British release (per Rolling Stone), and is conspicuously absent from the film's soundtrack.

British censors flagged Paddington for its mild sex references

As shocking as it may seem, "Paddington" — an eloquent, family-friendly movie centered around a beloved children's book character — faced the wrath of British film censors. The British Board of Film Classification slapped "Paddington" with a PG rating for "dangerous behavior, mild threat, mild sex references (and) bad language" (via The Independent). However, warning audiences about "mild sex references" baffled many, including Paddington Bear creator Michael Bond, who told The Daily Mail, "I can't imagine what the sex references are. It doesn't enter into it with the books, certainly."

Turns out, the "mild sex reference" is a scene in which actor Hugh Bonneville disguises himself as a cleaning lady and flirts with a security guard. Talking with the BBC, Bonneville laughed off the censors by saying, "There were four and five-year-olds watching it the other day laughing uproariously, so I don't think it's going to damage any young children — or indeed any 75-year-olds." After being approached by the film's distributors, the BBFC changed the term "mild sexual reference" to "innuendo," but "Paddington" maintained its PG rating. Parents, you've been warned.

Nicole Kidman's daughters were upset that she was the villain in Paddington

Nicole Kidman might not be a top-of-mind name when it comes to family-friendly movie stars, but she took a role in "Paddington" as a fun change of pace. Kidman's résumé features mature fare like "Eyes Wide Shut," "Dogville," and "The Hours" — all movies that are definitely not for kids. But with "Paddington," Kidman admitted on "Today" that she starred in the film because she "wanted to do something that was fun." Indeed, Kidman hams it up brilliantly as villainous taxidermist Millicent in "Paddington." A fashionable baddie adorned with an icy Anna Wintour bob, and a cruel streak that would make Cruella de Vil jealous, Millicent hunts down Paddington Bear so she can stuff him and add him to her museum collection.

Apparently, Kidman was very good at being bad. She shared on "Conan" that she performed her own stunts, and dished on "The Graham Norton Show" that she even marveled at her own knife-handling skills. As wowed as Kidman was by her villainy, it took some convincing to get her kids on board for her nefarious character. She told E! News her daughters "Were very upset at first," but added, "now they think the villain is the best character." Kidman is open to doing more family-friendly movies, but she has some stipulations, telling E! News of future projects, "But they always have to say something and make people laugh."

Paddington 2 was the best-reviewed movie on Rotten Tomatoes for a while

It doesn't happen very often, but sometimes movie sequels are more beloved and better received than the original films. "The Godfather Part II," "The Empire Strikes Back," and "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly," are just as beloved — if not more revered than their predecessors — and "Paddington 2" can easily be added to this list. The original "Paddington" was beloved by critics and is certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes, but "Paddington 2" is so good that it holds a special place in Rotten Tomatoes history.

In 2018, "Paddington 2" surpassed the cinematic classic "Citizen Kane" — widely perceived as the greatest film ever made — to become Rotten Tomatoes' top-rated film of all time. The Wrap reports that an 80-year-old lousy "Citizen Kane" review from the Chicago Tribune knocked the film from its critical perch, allowing the cheerful family film to nab the top spot. Director Paul King tells Deadline of the critical accolades, "It's a strange experience and you can't help but hope for the best for this little character and the film you've created. It's very lovely they [critics] were warm and enthusiastic." Currently, "Paddington 2" still sits comfortably at 99% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The sad coincidence of Paddington 2's filming

Paddington Bear has been charming the world since his literary debut in 1958. Since then, the Peruvian bear has become a beloved character, with The Guardian reporting that over 35 million "Paddington" books have been sold worldwide. Naturally, Paddington Bear's popularity made him an obvious choice to make the leap to the big screen. 2014's "Paddington" was a box office smash, earning $282 million at the global box office (via Box Office Mojo). As reported by Variety, the sequel "Paddington 2" went into production in 2016, with the promise of becoming another smash hit. But just as filming on "Paddington 2" wrapped, sadness engulfed the "Paddington" cinematic universe.

Author Michael Bond died in June 2017 at the age of 91, the same day "Paddington 2" wrapped filming. Actor Hugh Bonneville noted the coincidence as he paid tribute to Bond on Instagram, writing, "It seems particularly poignant that we should learn of dear Michael Bond's death on the last day of shooting our second film about his unique, loveable creation." Bonneville ended his social media praise of Bond by acknowledging Bond's creative gifts by posting, "He leaves a special legacy: Long live the bear from darkest Peru."

Hugh Grant says Paddington 2 might be his best movie

Affable British actor Hugh Grant has charmed his way through a decades-long acting career playing many a handsome romantic comedy mainstay. Making a splash in the '90s with star-turns in movies like "Four Weddings and a Funeral," he quickly ascended to rom-com legend status with subsequent appearances in "Notting Hill," "Bridget Jones' Diary," and "Love Actually." But for every Grant-led movie confection, there are plenty of duds, with notable cinematic bombs including "Mickey Blue Eyes" and "American Dreamz" (via The Numbers). By the 2010s, Grant's career was transitioning into character work, such as 2012's sci-fi epic "Cloud Atlas" and 2016's "Florence Foster Jenkins" — with the latter earning him a BAFTA nomination. Perhaps leading-man status was becoming elusive for Grant, but it turns out it might have been the best thing for his career.

In fact, it turns out, there's a good reason that Grant's role in "Paddington 2" seems to fit the actor just right. The character of the duplicitous actor Phoenix Buchanan was actually written with Grant in mind. In an interview with Deadline, Grant shares that director Paul King sent him a note reading, "We've written this part of a vain, washed up, has-been with you in mind." Grant agreed to take the role and his turn as a narcissistic thespian, reduced to eking out a living doing dog food commercials, turned out to be a fantastic choice. There might have been haters decrying his participation in a kid's movie as a career downturn, but Grant speaks highly of "Paddington 2," sharing with Vanity Fair that it "may be the best film I've ever been in."

The struggle to get Paddington 2 to North American movie screens

The wholesome "Paddington 2" was in peril of never reaching North American screens because of its incidental involvement in one of Hollywood's biggest scandals. The North American distribution rights to "Paddington 2" were initially owned by The Weinstein Company and the film was scheduled for a January 2018 release. In October 2017, a blockbuster exposé published by The New York Times and The New Yorker detailed company co-founder Harvey Weinstein's alleged history of abhorrent behavior. 

"Paddington 2" producer David Heyman quickly moved to distance the film from Weinstein. "The Weinstein Company name is nowhere near Paddington 2," Heyman explained to Deadline. "It's very sad and deeply frustrating that Paddington, who's been around for more than 50 years, and is always looking for the good in people, and has such a generous, warm-hearted spirit could have any association [with the allegations]."

The Weinstein Company moved forward to release "Paddington 2" despite the company's economic free-fall resulting from the scandal. Co-founder Bob Weinstein assured Deadline that "Paddington 2" was scoring well in test screenings and business was moving forward, but his optimism would be short-lived. According to Bloomberg, the North American distribution rights for the film were acquired by Warner Bros. for $32 million — enough money to float The Weinstein Company through its rough seas. But it proved not enough for the troubled entertainment company, with The Weinstein Company officially closing shop in 2018 (per Vanity Fair).

Paddington has something in common with the Harry Potter movie franchises

When StudioCanal announced they were bringing Paddington Bear to the big screen, the European studio had film franchise ambitions for the beloved British icon. When "Paddington" hit theaters in 2014, Deadline reported that it was StudioCanal's ambition that the film would launch an "international multi-quadrant franchise" for the company. And who better to mastermind a budding movie franchise than the producer of the "Harry Potter" film series, David Heyman. The "Wizarding World" franchise has grossed over $8 billion at the global box office (via The Numbers). StudioCanal's CEO, Olivier Courson, recognized Heyman's potential, stating to The Hollywood Reporter, "David Heyman has had tremendous success adapting great British literary works for cinema."

Notably, bringing "Paddington Bear" to the big screen had been a dream of Heyman's for quite sometime. In fact, the producer told Variety that he wanted to bring the "universally loved character" to the cinema for years. Not only do the "Paddington" and "Harry Potter" film franchises share the same producer, but many of Britain's finest thespians have appeared in both series. Actors such as Michael Gambon, Brendan Gleeson, Jim Broadbent, Julie Walters, Jessica Hynes, and Imelda Staunton all have credits in the wizarding world and in the "Paddington" movies.

Paddington's sweet-as-marmalade relationship with the Queen

The lovely Paddington Bear is quick to make friends. Both in the books and in "Paddington," he leaves his home in "Darkest Peru" for the urban jungles of London and quickly befriends the Brown family, who make the orphaned bear part of their family. Ever so polite, Paddington Bear has charmed his way into the hearts of not only his fictional family, but that of the British Royal Family. In 2022, Paddington Bear made headlines for sharing a spot of tea with Queen Elizabeth II. A video produced by The Royal Family to kick off the Queen's Platinum Jubilee Celebration finds Paddington Bear nervously bumbling his way through his royal snacktime, but his lack of decorum doesn't phase Her Majesty. In fact, the two adorably bond over their emergency marmalade sandwich snack stashes — with Paddington keeping his under his hat, and the Queen keeping hers in her handbag, "for later." 

Queen Elizabeth II and Paddington Bear's sweet friendship was a hit, so much so that Paddington Bear became a royal mascot of sorts after her death in September 2022. The BBC reports that Paddington Bear toys and drawings popped up among the many tributes to Queen Elizabeth II, becoming a comforting symbol amidst the mourning of the monarch. In fact, some of the Paddington Bear-theme tributes became a rather sticky situation. So many people were leaving marmalade sandwiches at the royal tribute garden in London that the Royal Parks organization issued a warning: "We are asking people not to leave marmalade sandwiches because of the negative impact on the park's wildlife" (via Independent).

Paddington 3 is in the works

With the box office and critical success of "Paddington" and "Paddington 2," it will come as no surprise that a third movie is in the works. Mirroring the success of its predecessor, "Paddington 2" grossed over $200 million at the global box office (via Box Office Mojo). Both Paddington movies garnered near-universal acclaim, and some critics were adamant that "Paddington 2" deserved a slew of Oscar nominations, with IndieWire suggesting the family film should have been a serious Academy Award contender, and Slate declaring Hugh Grant's performance as Phoenix Buchanan was Oscar-worthy.

Alas, "Paddington 2" would go without an Oscar statuette, but maybe the next Paddington movie will score some nominations. In 2021, StudioCanal confirmed to Variety that "Paddington 3" was in active development, and a year later, The Hollywood Reporter shared that "Paddington 3" has been officially named "Paddington in Peru." The third "Paddington" film has a new director, with Dougal Wilson replacing Paul King. Details about "Paddington in Peru" remain limited, but filming is set to start in 2023 in London and Peru.