17 December,


Quentin Blake reveals he has not received a penny in royalties from Steven Spielberg blockbuster

Culture

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With his wispy grey hair, shaggy sideburns, big nose and brown waistcoat, the image of Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant is as instantly recognisable to millions as his giant peach,  child-catching Twits and a certain top-hatted confectionery magnate  
 
Quentin Blake’s singular style that has endeared his work to generations of readers, young and old, it is hard to imagine him as anything other than the hugely successful artists and illustrator he is, lauded all over, and with the financial rewards one would expect.
 
Quentin Blake
 
 
And yet it appears Mr Blake’s work remains startlingly underappreciated, if not by his readers then by the Hollywood studios and movie moguls who have earned millions around the world with such big screen blockbusters as The BFG.
 
All the more remarkably, perhaps, Mr Blake has not been rewarded by the Royal Shakespeare Company, the organisation behind the hugely popular stage version of Dahl’s Matilda, who have not been obliged to pay him royalties.
 
Quentin Blake
 
Asked about his involvement the animated film version of The BFG, Mr Blake revealed not only that he wasn’t, but that was not offered a single penny for the character whose appearance is so synonymous with his original vision.
 
The film, which starred Oscar-winner Mark Rylance as the big-eared behemoth, topped the UK box office last July on its way to earning director Steven Spielberg’s DreamWorks company and its partners more than £43million pounds worldwide.
 
“I don’t take any money and run. I’m not offered any, in fact”, he said.
 
“I don’t know why. I know Mark Rylance is very good and probably he did it very well, but I didn’t see it.
 
The Twits
 
Pressed over whether he really had not received a single penny, Mr Blake suggested that perhaps the films and shows were based on the text alone​. He explained that while Roald Dahl’s estate was compensated ‘hugely’, “I’ve no connection with the film whatsoever”.
 
A similarly “terrible” situation obtains with the RSC, he said, echoing Dahl’s own view that Blake does not get the credit he deserves.
 
“That’s what Roald said”, he told The Mail on Sunday in an interview. “‘When they read the book, they see Quentin’s pictures’. I think that’s true. No, it’s fine. I mean I get my share”.
 
Enormous Crocodile
 
Not that he is doing badly. From 1978’s ‘The Enormous Crocodile’ onwards, he illustrated every one of Dahl’s children’s books, becoming great friends - albeit with a somewhat tempestuous relationship - along the way.
 
Even his trademark white shoes, he says, are a tribute to Dahl. “Here’s his old Quent,” Dahl used to say, “He’s going out to dinner in his plimpsolls”.
 
Mr Blake is the first to admit that despite not enjoying a huge share of the royalties on his former collaborators works, “they sell so many copies that I’ve done well out of it”.
 
Yet with a portfolio that includes paintings and drawing which grace everything from hospitals and mental-health centres to care homes, and despite insisting he himself is far from the caricature of the tortured artist, iit has been his gloomier, contemplative, more adult work that has given him most satisfaction of late.
 
A selection of these works, which include strange, disfigured creatures and men on crutches, can currently be seen at the Jerwood Gallery, Hastings.
 
But there are also, perhaps surprisingly, striking references to contemporary events, not least an image of a boat at sea which explicitly recalls the plight of migrants stranded in the Mediterranean.
 
Or as he put it: “Don’t forget about these people. We won’t forget them”.
 
DreamWorks, Disney and the Royal Shakespeare Company did not respond to requests for comment. (Telegraph)

 

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