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Interview: Ransom Riggs Talks Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (Exclusive)

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Interview: Ransom Riggs Talks Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (Exclusive)

Sometimes the only way people can truly stand out and embrace their individuality is within a subculture where no one truly fits into the accepted norms of society. Finally finding a place where all unique traits are honored is a feat that’s celebrated in the new 3D family movie, ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children’

The fantasy adventure film is set to be released in theaters nationwide on Friday by 20th Century Fox, after it had its world premiere on Sunday at Fantastic Fest in Austin. The story is the latest literary work to be translated into a film by director Tim Burton. Screenwriter Jane Goldman adapted Riggs’ novel, which was published by Quirk Books, for the screen.

‘Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children’ follows a seemingly ordinary teenager, Jacob Portman (Asa Butterfield), as he contends with the devastating loss of his grandfather, Abe (Terence Stamp), who died before revealing his secret. Determined to try to uncover what his grandfather was trying to tell him, Jacob receives the help of his therapist, Dr. Golan (Allison Janney), to convince his parents to let him travel to the home where Abe lived as a child. The teen’s father, Franklin (Chris O’Dowd), decides to travel with his son from their home in Florida to the tiny Welsh island of Cairnholm.

After the father and son arrive on Cairnholm, Jacob inadvertently locates a time loop that transports him back to 1943. While there, he meets Miss Peregrine (Eva Green) and the children she cares for, who his grandfather lived with when he was young and struggling to survive during World War II. The children, including a girl Jacob immediately becomes attracted to, Emma (Ella Purnell), all embody unique peculiarities, which require them to be protected from the outside world. The group relives the same 24-hour period every day, which Miss peregrine resets right before a Nazi bombing destroyed their Victorian orphanage, in order to survive.

The group’s biggest threat doesn’t come from the war, however; the children and their guardian are instead targeted by the shape-shifting Barron (Samuel L. Jackson), who continuously hunts for peculiars. He targets the children in an effort to achieve immortality for himself. Barron has created monstrous creatures called hollowgasts that help him in his quest by hunting the children. With the help of Jacob, Miss Peregrine, who’s an ymbrine, a rare breed of peculiar who’s capable of transforming into a peregrine falcon, and her children set out to stop Barron and honor Abe’s legacy once and for all.

Riggs generously took the time recently to talk about writing ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children,’ and having it be adapted for the screen, during an exclusive phone interview. Among other things, the author discussed how the story is personal for him, as he, like Jacob, also dreamed of escaping his small town in Florida and exploring adventurous worlds while he was growing up. The novelist also praised the work Burton, as well as the rest of the crew and the cast, put into bringing the story’s stunning visuals and relatable emotional arcs to life.

The writer began the conversation by discussing the process of penning the novel version of ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.’ Even though the story is fantastical, Riggs admitted that it’s also personal in some ways. “Like Jacob, I was also a teenager who grew up in a small town in Florida. I was also dreaming of hidden doors that led to other worlds. So that’s a story I’ve been telling in various ways in fiction since I was pretty young,” the scribe explained.

“Time travel has also always been a fantasy of mine; being a time tourist would be the coolest thing I could imagine,” Riggs also revealed. “Of course, there’s also the visual element to the story, especially with the found photographs. They’re part of a collection I’ve always had, as I love images, photography and film. So I was looking for opportunities to tell stories in more visual ways.”

With his debut novel, which was first published in 2011, having been adapted into the new adventure film, Riggs then chronicled how the movie translation began. The author described the process as being a “roller coaster ride” that’s been driven by a diverse range of talented people. He also noted that having the film adaptation be directed by Burton “makes me immensely proud.”

With Burton being known for directing fantastical adventure films, Riggs further explained his experience collaborating with the filmmaker on bringing the visually stunning ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children’ to life. “I’ve been a big fan of Tim’s work ever since I could remember. He’s such a master craftsman when it comes to what a director does, like developing a vision for developing the story and casting the film,” the writer divulged.

While the novelist added that he felt Burton didn’t need much of his input on the overall filmmaking process, he did offer some of his opinions on the script development. “Tim had all aspects of the visual part of the film absolutely handled,” Riggs added as he continued praising the director. “So I was very happy to be on the sidelines, watching, when I visited the set now and again.”

With Burton being known for masterfully mixing playful and dark elements in his movies, Riggs then explained how he feels the filmmaker’s key collaborations helped positively influence the visual look of the film adaptation of ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.’ The author noted, “It looks gorgeous, and I think everyone will agree. Tim has so many master artisans who work with him, from the set designers to the costume designer, Colleen Atwood, to the cinematographer, Bruno Delbonnel, who’s made movies I’ve loved for years.

“I’m a fan of so many people who worked on the film, and they all brought unique and special contributions to the overall look of the film. So it was amazing to watch everything come together,” Riggs further explained.

In addition to praising the crew, the novelist also expressed his appreciation for the adventure fantasy movie’s cast. “They all gave great performances, and Tim’s casting choices were all intuitive. I got to know a lot of the kids when I visited the set. They were so open, approachable and friendly. The whole atmosphere that was created by the cast and crew was so friendly, and Tim was the ringleader,” Riggs revealed. “So being inducted into that family was really cool, and everyone was very welcoming.”

While visiting the drama’s set, the author was able to watch some of the stunts and action sequences as they were being filmed. “I was able to watch Eva be pulled out of windows, with wires and glass being flown everywhere. That was cool, and she thought so, too. She said, ‘I’ve never been able to turn into a bird, or been pulled out of a window, before in a film.’ So I think everyone had fun with that part of filming,” Riggs noted.

The novelist also divulged that visiting the adventure film’s set in Belgium “was really special. Unlike a lot of Hollywood sets, filming took place in a real historic house that the crew had dressed with cool props and details. So when the crew wasn’t filming, you could walk through the rooms, and imagine that you were really there. So for me, as the (book’s) author, it was very surreal.”

Further speaking of the fantasy movie’s sets and production design, particularly Miss Peregrine’s home, Riggs added that everything “was so gorgeous. Having gone to film school myself, and having learned about some of these things, I was just in awe of everything. Every prop, set costume has such great detail, even though you won’t notice them unless you get the Blu-ray and freeze every frame. But I think that created a universe that the viewer can really get lost in.”

As Riggs mentioned, in addition to being a novelist, he has also worked as a screenwriter, director, cinematographer, producer and editor. As both an author and filmmaker, he understands the process of adapting a book, especially with such an intense fantasy adventure story, for the screen. “If you adapted every page of the book for the screen, it would become a terrible movie,” the writer admitted. “I have always believed that the best film adaptations of books aren’t completely faithful to everything that happens in the novel.

Riggs added that books, “mine especially, aren’t about preciously about everything that happens on pages five, six and seven. They’re more about the overall message and spirit, and Tim captured that in every second of the film.”

While the visuals are an important factor in telling this type of fantasy and adventure film, the scribe explained that the emotional arcs of the characters are as equally as important. “Every craftsman on the set, from the cinematographer to the costume designer and the set designer, has to focus their job on the physical reality of the characters’ world. That reality has to communicate the theme of the movie, as well as say something about the characters, and they do,” Riggs stated.

“Everything they do emphasizes the meaning of the movie. So that’s when you have many elements of cinema working in harmony together, which creates a subliminal film experience,” the writer also noted. He added that all of the elements work together so that the viewers “can understand what they story is trying to say, without any of the characters literally have to say it.

In addition to the visuals, this type of fantasy adventure film is driven largely by its score, so Riggs also shared his impression of the movie’s music. “The score is great, because it emphasizes and heightens every scene and moment. I didn’t actually have the chance to meet the composers, but I have seen interviews with them.

“They’re two talented guys. The level they go into to give every character their own notes and sound really works, and it reinforces everything. The music really highlights all of the elements that are working in harmony together,” the author explained.

Besides championing ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children’s released in theaters this week, Riggs is also happily promoting his latest book, ‘Tales of the Peculiar,’ which was distributed on September 3. “It’s a book of fairy tales that exists in the ‘Peculiar’ world, and it expands the mythology and history of the peculiar children. So if you want to learn more about the children, that’s where you should go.”

Watch Riggs tour the Belgium set of ‘Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children’ in the video below.

Interview: Ransom Riggs Miss Peregrine’s Home For Peculiar Children (Exclusive)

Written by: Karen Benardello

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As a life-long fan of entertainment, particularly films, television and music, and an endless passion for writing, Karen Benardello decided to combine the two for a career. She graduated from New York's LIU Post with a B.F.A in Journalism, Print and Electronic. While still attending college, Karen began writing for Shockya during the summer of 2007, when she began writing horror movie reviews. Since she began writing for Shockya, Karen has been promoted to the position of Senior Movies & Television Editor. Some of her duties in the position include interviewing filmmakers and musicians, producing posts on celebrity news and contributing reviews on albums and concerts. Some of her highlights include attending such festivals and conventions as the Tribeca Film Festival, the New York Film Festival, SXSW, Toronto After Dark, the Boston Film Festival and New York Comic-Con.

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