The Day I Wanted to Hug Steven Spielberg & Ruby Barnhill: #TheBFGEvent Interview

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Last week I had a once in a lifetime experience – interviewing Steven Spielberg and Ruby Barnhill! I didn’t know what to expect from either because I hadn’t really ever heard about Steven Spielberg’s personality one way or the other and The BFG was Ruby’s first big project! The pair worked together on The BFG and met with myself and a group of 24 other bloggers last week to talk about The BFG Steven Spielberg’s first project directly with Disney. And a huge thanks to Disney for sponsoring this trip!

Director Steven Spielberg and Ruby Barnhill on the set of Disney's THE BFG, based on the best-sellling book by Roald Dahl.

I think the interview from this trip that we all couldn’t wait for was Steven Spielberg. He’s been such a large part of my childhood entertainment. From E.T., Gremlins, The Goonies, Back to the Future to Who Framed Roger Rabbit and Harry and the Hendersons, most of the movies I remember watching over and over were produced or executive produced by the same talented man – Steven Spielberg.

Director Steven Spielberg and executive producer Kathleen Kennedy on the set of Disney's THE BFG, based on the best-sellling book by Roald Dahl.

When I heard that Disney was working on The BFG I already couldn’t wait to see it, then hearing that Steven Spielberg would be working on the film, I knew I’d love it!

Director Steven Spielberg and cinematographer Janusz Kaminski on the set of Disney's THE BFG, based on the best-sellling book by Roald Dahl.

Steven and Ruby were our first interviews of the day and from the moment they walked in I think I had a permanent smile on my face. The were both so warm and smiling from ear to ear (I’m sure doing interviews for films all day is not THAT fun 😉 )

Ruby Barnhill and Steven Spielberg
Photo Credit: Coralie Seright – LovebugsAndPostcards.com

But the thing that got me, was the way Steven interacted with Ruby. He was so proud of her and was almost like the proudest dad or grandfather you’ve ever seen. So sweet! We asked him how he found Sophie.

I kinda believe in fate and I really believe that they save the best to last, ’cause we were casting eight months and had not found Sophie after eight months of casting. I believe that Nina Gold saw maybe a couple thousand of qualified young people, both unknowns and working young actors, actresses.  And I was not giving up hope that I would find her, but I was starting to look at my third and fourth and fifth choices to accommodate people I had seen who I had liked but hadn’t reached my heart yet.

And I was about to compromise when all the sudden I saw the audition that Ruby Barnhill and her parents had sent in to Nina Gold.  And my whole life changed for the better in that instant.

Everything was okay with the world at that point.  And I was so excited. I was shooting Bridge of Spies, but I didn’t care at that moment about Bridge of Spies.   I didn’t care that Tom Hanks saw me so excited and it wasn’t about movie he was gonna be in.  It was about another movie.  I had already cast Mark Rylance.  He was already our BFG by that time.  And I came running in and I said I found her.  I found her.  I found her.  That’s what happened.

Ruby Barnhill and Steven Spielberg
Photo Credit: Coralie Seright – LovebugsAndPostcards.com

So then we asked Ruby what it was like to work with THE Steven Spielberg.

“It’s so amazing, because from working with Steven, I’ve learned so much not only about, acting and directing but also just general things that are helpful and useful like in general life.  Like, one of the things that I’ll remember is that I don’t like making mistakes.  Like I had a parent’s evening recently, and my art teacher was saying whenever you make a mistake you, you panic.  Like you get worried and you mustn’t feel like that, because everybody makes mistakes and it’s fine. But Steven really helped me realize that it’s okay to make mistakes, and being on set making mistakes but making it funny, like making nobody mind it at all and it was just really good.  Like even if you have to do like 100 takes nobody would mind.  And so, yeah, that was one thing I learned and it was amazing.  And I had a great time.

Steven: I don’t even call them mistakes.  I call them happy accidents, because sometimes they wind up going into the movie.”

We then asked Steven what it’s like being such a big part of people’s childhoods and how it feels that he’s now influencing a completely new generation with his old and new films.

“I didn’t even understand when I was first starting out making movies about the power that film has.  I wasn’t really appreciative or even aware of the outreach of cinema until I was actually older. I thought Jaws was just a freak of nature, that that would never happen again.  And then when, ET suddenly happened and lightning suddenly struck twice, I realized that cinema outlives the filmmakers. And that was everything. It doesn’t matter what, what languages we share or who we are and what our backgrounds are, sometimes a feeling can be communicated all over the world.

The power that film has is something that intimidates me and I respect it a lot but it also scares me, because it’s pretty awesome when that happens.”

Director Steven Spielberg with Ruby Barnhill and producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy on the set of Disney's fantasy-adventure, THE BFG

Wonder what Spielberg thought about finally working directly under the Walt Disney name? We did too!

Well, I had never made a movie under the Walt Disney name as a director before, and it just turned out that way.  I don’t know why, because Disney had been in my life for a number of years prior you know, releasing some of our DreamWorks films over the last six or seven years.

And Disney had such a profound effect on my childhood, because I was raised in the world of Walt Disney. His movies scared me to death, thrilled me to pieces, and made me laugh and made me cry. I never cried in a movie before I saw Bambi. My parents took me to see Bambi in a reissue.  And eight minutes into the movie, they kill the mom, and I’m sitting here crying my eyes out, you know.

And, and my parents wondered why they even took me to see Bambi in a movie theater. But it also redeemed itself in the time span of the movie. And that was a powerful time in my life.  Mickey Mouse Club came on television and I was like an extended Mousketeer. I was like millions of kids who watched TV back in the ‘50s and wanted to be Mousketeers.  

 So, to finally make a movie that has Disney’s name on it, I’m so proud when the film begins and the castle shows up and my movie follows the castle… that’s something I’ve been waiting for in a way all my life, And through BFG and through Roald Dahl’s genius I got the chance to do it.”


Ok so besides being so open with us and awesome with Ruby why did I want to jump up and hug them?

First we asked them their favorite parts of filming. Ruby said that acting, being on set and being with Steven Spielberg and Mark Rylance every day was the best part, then she asked Steven what was his favorite part. She was just so sweet and adorable and he was smiling ear to ear listening to her answer and he said “I think I have to hug you right now”. Steven loved any of the scenes between Mark and Ruby.

Finally we asked Steven what the one thing he hoped people got out of this film.

I just want people to understand how important it is to both give and receive hugs.  

It doesn’t matter how different the person looks or how tall they are or how short they are or what color they are or what language they speak or what their different beliefs are that we all need to hug each other, and we have to hug each other more when we’re so different from each other.  

  That’s what I hope people get from this.”

Ruby Barnhill and Steven Spielberg
Photo Credit: Coralie Seright – LovebugsAndPostcards.com

I mean… We’re all just really lucky at this point that I didn’t jump up and hug them both. Steven, if I ever meet you again, I have to apologize because I might just want to hug you (and I am not a hugger)!

They touched on how great it was that Sophie is a strong female character or just a strong child character in general and how Disney does such a great job with that.

Finally when we walked into the next room to take a group photo Steven asked us some questions about what we blog about or do and he talked about remembering his mom getting together with other moms and having sort of in person blogger meet ups. He said she was the first mom blogger 😉


Every day in my kitchen, all the moms in my neighborhood would come over to my mom’s house, sometimes they would trade houses, and I’d get ready to go to school and all of these coffee cups would be laid out and all these pastries laid out and it would be another mommies recruit.”


If that doesn’t make you want to run out and see The BFG I don’t know what will. In fact, I can’t WAIT to see it again with the boys this time. It opens everywhere on July 1st!


“The talents of three of the world’s greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl, Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg –finally unite to bring Dahl’s beloved classic “The BFG” to life. Directed by Spielberg, Disney’s “The BFG” tells the imaginative story of a young girl and the Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant Country. The BFG (Mark Rylance), while a giant himself, is a Big Friendly Giant and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country. Standing 24-feet tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, he is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part. Giants like Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement) on the other hand, are twice as big and at least twice as scary and have been known to eat humans, while the BFG prefers Snozzcumber and Frobscottle. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie, a precocious 10-year-old girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious giant who has brought her to his cave, but soon comes to realize that the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming, and, having never met a giant before, has many questions. The BFG brings Sophie to Dream Country where he collects dreams and sends them to children, teaching her all about the magic and mystery of dreams. Having both been on their own in the world up until now, their affection for one another quickly grows, but Sophie’s presence in Giant Country has attracted the unwanted attention of the other giants, who have become increasingly more bothersome. Sophie and the BFG soon depart for London to see the Queen (Penelope Wilton) and warn her of the precarious giant situation, but they must first convince the Queen and her maid, Mary (Rebecca Hall), that giants do indeed exist. Together, they come up with a plan to get rid of the giants once and for all.”

Thank you SO much to both Ruby Barnhill and Steven Spielberg for taking the time to talk to us. Ruby you have an amazing career ahead of you and Steven, just thank you for following your heart and creativity all these years.

Fun Fact: Steven told us that Ruby’s Dad was cast in the film as well. There will be a scene when the BFG is making his way through the Queen’s castle on his hands and knees. The man who is directing the BFG through the castle is Ruby’s dad!

Side note: My oldest wants to work in film and he was DYING when he found out I was going to get to meet Steven Spielberg. It totally made his day to sit and listen to the interview over with me as I was writing this. As a parent, I love when someone your kid looks up to turns out to be so kind and genuine in real life (because let’s face it, that doesn’t always happen). We sat together and read articles on Steven Spielberg and what his life was like growing up. If you’ve never done that it’s such an eye opener.

Ruby Barnhill
Photo Credit: Coralie Seright – LovebugsAndPostcards.com
Steven Spielberg
Photo Credit: Coralie Seright – LovebugsAndPostcards.com
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Allison Waken is a wife, mom of boys and Phoenix, AZ native. She has been creating inspiring content for All for the Boys since 2011. Allison loves travel, movies and spending as much time as possible with her family while she can!


  1. This may be my favorite post ever! How sw-weet to meet Speilberg! I liked that you listed the reaction your son had because I am fairly certain that that is the reaction that I and my oldest would have had. I am striving to learn filmmaking and acting so I love love love to hear when people meet the legendary and how their experiences are. Thank you for sharing this!

    • Thank you for reading! It’s almost nerve wracking to meet people that feel so important to you when you don’t know what they’ll be like! He definitely surpassed our expectations. It’s no wonder he’s so amazing with child actors! It definitely scored me some cool points with my son 😉

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