Released in time for Christmas, Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism is one of those feel-good films that the whole family can enjoy.
Living a unhappy existence in an orphanage, Molly (played by Raffey Cassidy) discovers the means to find a new life when she comes across a book about hypnotism. With her new found powers, she becomes a celebrity. Imagine Tracy Beaker meets Harry Potter and you won’t be too far off.
Inspiration for the idea came when Georgia Byng, who wrote the original book and the screenplay spotted the way her mother’s dog kept its gaze fixed on the biscuit in her hand.
She recalled, “It was at my mum’s house one rainy afternoon and the dog was inside. It was one of those lucky moments when everything came together. As a writer you are always looking for the next good idea. You can tell when you have found one because you are thinking about it a year later, and that’s what happened with this one.
“I was writing a book about a cow at the time but always at the back of my head was this idea of a kid who could hypnotise anyone.”
In turning the idea into a book, Georgia drew on her own early life.
“I went to a boarding school and I hated it. I think I cried every single day for the first time. It’s rather surprising that I went there because my mum was such a warm lovely person, I don’t know why I was forced there.
“I know what it’s like to live in an institution that is really grim, I was able to draw on that.”
“I did actually find a book about hypnotism in a library and it nearly hypnotised me. It was in the British Library and had Bible-thin paper with all these inductions, and each one was teaching people how to hypnotise people so they could have an operation or whatever.
“When it came to the one that Molly finds, I thought who can find this book and that it would be great for it to be found by someone who really needs it. I thought back and remembered a girl at boarding school.
“She was an American girl thousands of miles from home, and everyone picked on her. She had a really miserable time. She was a really sweet girl but a bit nutty. She was the inspiration for Molly.”
Despite all the research she did into hypnotism, Georgia says she’s never been tempted to hypnotise anyone herself.
“I have been to a hypnotist a few times, though. Before I wrote the second book. I freaked out, thinking I couldn’t write another one. I came out thinking, `Yes! I could write so many books!’ .
“I probably should have trained as a hypnotist. Perhaps by now I could have hypnotised my way to the top!”, she laughed. “Perhaps I should clone myself. Then I could have one of me hypnotising people and one learning the guitar or piano.”
Film rights to the book were originally sold to David Hayman of Harry Potter, but when nothing came of it, Georgia decided to get the film made herself.
“I met a woman at a production company who said I could write a screenplay, she found a director, we got some other writers on board, I raised the money and so on. It was like being in the most fancy film school because I had access to everything all the way along. It was a great education in how to make a film.”
One of the things she learned was how to get famous actors on board. The film has a stellar cast that includes Celia Imrie, Dominic Monaghan, Joan Collins, Lesley Manville, Emma Watson, Ben Miller, and Anne-Marie Duff.
So, if she didn’t hypnotise them, how did Georgia persuade such big names to take part in a film with a relatively small budget?
“If you ask an actor to appear in a small film eight months before the shoot date, unless they are a personal friend, they will probably hold out for a big part. You leave it all to the last moment when they know their diaries are empty and then ask them.”
“It means you are skating on thin ice because you don’t know the cast is until the last minute, but for us it worked.”
The demands of making a movie mean that some details had to be changed in adapting the book for the big screen. For example, instead of flying to American to appear in a big budget Broadway musical with lots of scene changes, Molly jumps on a bus to London and ends up singing on a TV show.”
“The director was really hooked on the idea of doing the musical but it was just too expensive!”, smiled Georgia.
“Another change involved the bank robbery. In the book it’s a big robbery with lots of high-tech stuff, but in the film we had to adapt it so she is robbing the robbers who robbed the bank. The story still works.”
Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism is out in cinemas and on demand from Friday 2nd December, and on DVD from Monday 5th December, courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment.
The book on which it is based is still available: Molly Moon and the Incredible Book of Hypnotism