Director Mark Osborne on Finding the Perfect Actors to Voice the Characters in ‘The Little Prince’

Thanks to the director’s emotionally engaging pitch and the global popularity of Saint­‐Exupéry’s book, a perfectly matched group of A­‐list actors were able to be recruited to lend their voices to the film’s characters. As Mark Osborne director of Kung Fu Panda explains, “It began with Jeff Bridges. He was our first and only choice to play the Aviator, so after a great deal of time trying to get to him, I finally got the chance to go to his home in Santa Barbara to talk to him directly. He was blown away by the pitch, and it really put us on the road to assembling the perfect cast.”

As Bridges recalls, he was instantly drawn to the role of the Aviator. “Mark gave me this incredible pitch, brought this suitcase with him which showed me what the movie was going to be about,” recalls the actor. “We shared the same concern, which was if you simply just move around these iconic characters like the book, it might not do justice to the work. He had this great other story, which treated the book as almost another character in the movie. It’s a great way to pay tribute to this classic book, so I was excited and thrilled to be part of it.”

Bridges says the part of the Aviator was one that was very close to his heart. “I remember reading the book when I was growing up,” he says. “I can clearly remember the illustrations—especially the one of the hat or the elephant swallowed by the snake. I am not quite as old as the Aviator—I had to age up my voice a little bit, but I related to him very much. The Aviator and the Little Girl have some wonderful times together. I have three little girls myself, so it was easy for me to relate to him.”

In addition to the story and the strong visuals of the book, Bridges says both the original book and the movie have important messages about the importance of staying true to the child within and the powerful force of love and friendship. “There’s that one line from the book that stays with you,” he says. “The Fox says to the Prince, ‘It’s only with the heart that one can see rightly…what is essential is invisible to the eye.’ He’s talking about the heart there, and that is the message of the whole deal!”

The important part of the Little Girl who lives next door to the Aviator is played by the talented young actress, Mackenzie Foy (“Interstellar”, “Ernest and Celestine” “Twilight: Breaking Dawn”). “I had read the book in school a few years ago, and I loved it,” says Foy. “So when I heard about the movie, I immediately wanted to do it. The character I play is very smart, sweet, kind of quirky and incredibly nerdy. She has a lot of pressure from her mother because they just moved to this new neighbourhood, and she is expected to do really well in the new school. She is about nine years old, but she’s very mature for her age. Her friendship with the Aviator teaches her to be her childish self again. She goes looking for The Little Prince so that the Aviator doesn’t have to leave her.”

As young as she is, Foy understands the heart of the story and the values that the movie seeks to celebrate. “I think both the book and the movie really want to teach you that it’s important to enjoy the fun things about being a kid and not to grow up too fast. It also tells you that when you love someone, they will always live inside your heart. Just like the Fox told the Little Prince. The movie really has something great for everyone, whether you are grandparents, or parents or just kids. It has a great message and it also looks wonderful, so I think everyone will enjoy seeing it.”

Osborne says Foy really captures the unjaded quality that the Little Girl’s role demanded. “I knew that I wanted very innocent, sincere voices for the kids in the movie. I think child actors can sometimes try too hard. In the early stages of production, my daughter Maddie and son Riley helped doing the temporary scratch voices for the roles of the Little Girl and the Little Prince. My daughter got older and her voice began to change, so we were very fortunate to find Mackenzie to play the part, but we never found anyone who did a better job than my son Riley for the Prince. He was 11 at the time, and was very natural in the part so we kept him as the Prince!”

Riley Osborne is equally proud of the experience of working with his dad on the movie. “I had also read the book when I was nine, because my dad had mentioned it to me, so I already liked it,” he says. “To be able to work with my father and the rest of my family—my mother did the temporary voice for the Mother and my sister did the temporary tracks for the Girl—in Paris was a wonderful experience. We recorded those scratch voices in a small soundproof closet under the stairs in our place in Paris. Playing the Little Prince was a big treat, because he gets to go on these adventures and find out about all these worlds. One of my favorite scenes is the first time he meets the Aviator and asks him to draw him a sheep. That’s a classic scene from the book, and it’s animated in stop­motion in the movie. I think people are really going to enjoy it.”

To voice the complex role of the Little Girl’s Mother, the filmmakers approached popular actress, Rachel McAdams (“The Notebook”, “About Time”, “Sherlock Holmes”). McAdams says she recalls watching an animated TV series based on The Little Prince when she was a young girl growing up in Canada. “I read the book when I was in my 20s,” she notes. “A friend gave it to me as a present, and when I read the book it meant a lot to me. I think Saint­Exupéry’s book says different things to you at different stages of your life.”


THE LITTLE PRINCE marks the first time McAdams has lent her voice to an animated project. “I was so excited to be part of this movie, and I loved “Kung Fu Panda”, so I knew our director Mark (Osborne) was going to do a wonderful job with the adaptation. I couldn’t have asked for a better introduction to animation.”

McAdams says it was important for her to get out of her head and really connect with the material. “I play the Little Girl’s Mother, who is a working single mom. She has this massive, intricate life plan for her daughter and wants her to follow the rules to a tee. The Mother is a little high­strung, but she means well. She and her daughter are a real team until the Little Girl drifts away.”

McAdams believes that the film’s emotional intensity and the fact that it pays such close homage to the original book are two of its huge assets. “THE LITTLE PRINCE does a fantastic job of celebrating life’s mysteries. When we grow up, it’s easy to need an answer for every question. Just like the book, the movie pays attention to the importance of enjoying the journey and our relationships, and not necessarily understanding everything. It all circles back to the famous quote from the book, which is ‘What is essential is invisible to the eye’.”


“The Little Prince” opens in Philippine cinemas nationwide December 2, 2015. Released and distributed by Captive Cinema.

Leave a Reply