We here at FSR are huge fans of the delightful Paddington franchise and by extension, we adore the series’ primary creative visionary, Paul King. Over the many months since Paddington 2 hit theaters domestically, our writers have curated essays about the director’s exceptional talents. Between comparing King to eccentric contemporaries Edgar Wright and Taika Waititi and emphasizing how Paddington 2 is the ideal family movie sequel, needless to say, we’re hooked.
It thus makes sense to consider King and the Paddington films interchangeable entities at this point. So much of the filmmaker’s discernibly individual style fuels the whimsical nature of these features. Importantly, Paddington and its sequel are smartly funny and genuinely heartfelt despite its clear camp. The heightened version of London that our favorite anthropomorphic bear inhabits fused with the added quirkiness of his family, neighbors, and friends coalesce into a refreshing and engaging experience for cinemagoers of all ages.
So, theoretically, the prospect of getting more Paddington on the big screen is legitimately great. We need this more than ever, too, as volatile political, social, and environmental climates increasingly overtake public consciousness. After all, as Paddington’s Aunt Lucy tells him, “If we are kind and polite, the world will be right.” Paddington reminds us to be our very best selves.
Yet from a technical standpoint, what if King wasn’t entirely involved in making a hypothetical third film happen? When Collider sat down for a chat with mega-blockbuster producer David Heyman, the man responsible for not just the Paddington films but also the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts franchises revealed some bittersweet news. Paddington 3 is definitely in development, but King may not return in the director’s chair when it does. According to Heyman:
“I don’t think Paul King will direct the third. He did the first two. He and I are working on another project together… He’s very special, Paul. We’re developing a third ‘Paddington.’ We haven’t got a script yet; we’ve got a treatment, which we’re still working on.”
The urge to despair at this announcement is remarkably tempting. However, King’s filmmaking schedule has been so full lately that Heyman’s remarks also come as hardly a surprise. King is currently prepping the live-action Pinocchio remake for Disney and remains in negotiations to helm a new adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for Warner Bros. Notably, a separate Collider piece actually keeps us in the loop regarding the latter project: specifically that it doesn’t even have a set story locked in for the time being. Right now, King is evidently focusing much of his available time and energy on Pinocchio.
That said, he isn’t completely hands-off when it comes to Paddington 3, either, which is a tiny blessing that we can celebrate. King has reportedly collaborated with a couple of screenwriters to figure out how a third installment of the franchise would narratively pan out. Heyman notes that the quality of the potential sequel is paramount to producers, stating, “I don’t want to do it if I don’t think it’s gonna be good.” Furthermore, allowing King’s uniqueness to unequivocally shine through in the screenplay is a top priority.
As Heyman says:
“Paul is involved in it, I wanted him to be involved in it because I think he’s such a significant voice, but I don’t think he’ll direct it. He worked on the idea… he comes up with the idea with [screenwriters] Simon Farnaby and Mark Burton and then they develop it and come back for more, back and forth, and then it’ll get written and Paul will come in and stir it up a little bit. But he’s an incredible collaborator, Paul. Very positive, very supportive.”
The question now easily becomes: who could possibly fill in for King behind the camera? Expecting any director to exactly replicate his carefully capricious tone of the Paddington movies would be unfair, although Paddington 3 still ought to be easily distinguishable from generic family-oriented movies. That’s an important part of its legacy now. So, let’s examine which auteurs could make Paddington their own.
An obvious first answer can even be found at the top of this article; that is, Taika Waititi. His own penchant for sincere but off-kilter storytelling has really flourished over the years. Some of his films do tilt towards bittersweetness than outright feel-good silliness. Nevertheless, Waititi constantly manages to put his own spin on established characters and tropes: vampires are immediately lovelier and Marvel Cinematic Universe leads are reborn as goofy, well-meaning heroes thanks to him. And sweetness is never hard to find in a Waititi film.
I further nominate Richard Ayoade for the job of directing Paddington 3. He actually appeared in a tiny acting role as a forensic investigator in Paddington 2, but he and King go back a while together on such TV series as Garth Marenghi’s Dark Place and The Mighty Boosh. That notwithstanding, Ayoade’s striking filmmaking speaks for itself. Having made the quirky but profound coming-of-age comedy-drama Submarine and presented a darkly comedic take on Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Double, he showcases an ability to mine the most uncomfortable situations for emotional depth and resonance. These are drier efforts than a Paddington movie necessarily needs, but intelligent family-friendly fare could give Ayoade — who has only helmed two features in the past — a new challenge whilst indulging in his signature aestheticization.
Finally, I am wondering what a Spike Jonze Paddington would look like. The inventive premises of his movies coupled with his own brand of whimsy make for a winning combination. Moreover, Jonze is no stranger to adapting children’s stories, although his distinctly menacing take on Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are did raise several eyebrows when it was released. It’s an excellent and richly idiosyncratic adaptation, though; one that unapologetically indulges in the wildly imaginative capacity of childlike wonder. Above all, like the other aforementioned suggestions, emotionality is an important part of Jonze’s films, regardless of how stylish they appear.
Obviously, Paddington 3 is a long way off. The list above is extremely premature. However, one thing is certain. This franchise requires a directorial voice that exists beyond superficial quirk, but as long as it retains the heart at the center of King’s duology, we can maybe give it a chance. We’ll just have to settle for a slightly different end product.