Following up on the incredibly pleasant surprise that was 2014's Paddington, director Paul King has worked some legitimate magic with the new Paddington 2 - creating a sequel that is shockingly just as good as the original. It's an impressive thing to see, and a rare one at that... but it turns out that it wasn't exactly easy. King, who co-wrote the script with Simon Farnaby, had a lot of difficulty trying to crack the story, but eventually found inspiration in a key place: the legendary movies of director Frank Capra, specifically Mr. Deeds Goes To Town and Mr. Smith Goes To Washington. King recently told me,
Sequels are hard, story-wise, because you've parked them at the end of the first film. You go, 'And everything is happy!' Especially if it's a family film, they're unlikely to end up loathing each other. And so it's hard to find that story. That's why we wanted to start with something really small that sort of snowballs into something larger. It was really hard to find the shape of it, and then we sort of stumbled across... well, we knew about them, but we suddenly thought about the Frank Capra films of the '30s, especially Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and Mr. Deeds Goes To Town, and those movies where you take this little character from a small town, and you put them in the big cynical world. And suddenly we went, 'Hang on, that could be the shape of [Paddington 2].' We wanted to send him into the community, and there's a shape of a film there that takes a character on a journey. Because he's not like a classically flawed protagonist! So it felt good.
I had the pleasure of sitting down with Paul King and Simon Farnaby earlier this month during the Los Angeles press day for Paddington 2, and it was right at the start of the interview that I asked about the origins of the sequel. I was curious about the process of figuring out the perfect story to tell in the follow-up, and in his response King revealed not only that it was a tricky process, but that it was movies like the Jimmy Stewart classic Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and Mr. Deeds Goes To Town with Gary Cooper that ultimately helped him and Farnaby figure out exactly what it was they wanted to do with the film. And as the director notes, they do have something very much in common, which is finding a small town character caught up in the modern urban world.
While the first Paddington served as a sort of origin story - tracing the protagonist's journey from Darkest Peru to being with the Brown family - the sequel is a very different kind of film. In Paddington 2, the titular talking bear is not only looking for a perfect birthday present, getting framed for a crime he didn't commit in the process, but also shown becoming an integral part of his community. His neighbors, played by actors like Sanjeev Bhaskar, Jessia Hynes, Robbie Gee, and Ben Miller, all find their lives individually touched by the ursine with a heart of gold, in classic Frank Capra fashion, which at the end plays an incredibly important part in Paddington being able to prove his innocence and clear his name.
You can watch Paul King discuss the process of breaking the story for Paddington 2 and the significant influence of Frank Capra by hitting play on the video below.