6:00am PT by Rick Porter
Taika Waititi to Lead Star-Studded 'James and the Giant Peach' Read-Along (Exclusive)
Taika Waititi wants to tell you a story.
The Jojo Rabbit filmmaker will lead a star-studded read-along of Roald Dahl's novel James and the Giant Peach, starting Monday morning. The effort, in conjunction with the Roald Dahl Story Company, will raise money for Partners in Health, a medical and social justice organization fighting COVID-19 and supporting public health systems in some of the most vulnerable communities around the world. Dahl's daughter Ophelia is a founder of Partners in Health.
The 10 episodes of James and the Giant Peach With Taika and Friends will be posted Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays on the Roald Dahl YouTube channel and feature stars including Meryl Streep, Chris and Liam Hemsworth, Cate Blanchett, Ryan Reynolds, Mindy Kaling, Benedict Cumberbatch, Lupita Nyong'o, Billy Porter and Sarah Paulson, all reading and performing characters in the story from their homes.
"Being an adult child myself and having read James and the Giant Peach to my girls multiple times, I'm excited to be able to partner with my friends, the Dahl team and Partners in Health and retell this story to help those most in need right now," said Waititi. "This wacky, wonderful tale is about resilience in children, triumph over adversity and dealing with a sense of isolation, which couldn't be more relevant today."
Added Luke Kelly, managing director of the Roald Dahl Story Company, "Roald Dahl's stories are about the power and importance of kindness — and as a business we believe in enacting that ethos. That's why we support the critical work of charities such as Partners in Health who are working on the front line in the fight against COVID-19.
"We are so delighted to be able to support this retelling of James and the Giant Peach and not only bring a moment of joy and escapism to children and families at this very tough time — but also to raise vital funds for Partners in Health. We're incredibly grateful and excited to have Taika and so many incredible stars taking part. We can't wait for people to see what we've got in store — it's going to be absolutely GIGANTIC fun."
The first episode features Waititi reading with Thor: Ragnarok star Chris Hemsworth, Liam Hemsworth and Nick Kroll. Streep and Cumberbatch are featured in the second installment. The Roald Dahl Story Company will match up to $1 million in donations, with other partners lined up for matching beyond that. (Donate here.)
"My dad instilled in us as kids the notion that imagination will spark a chain reaction of possibilities — we can dream endlessly about ideas and make them real," said Ophelia Dahl. "This early training meant it was not such a leap to envision Partners in Health with my friends. Roald was one of our earliest and most enthusiastic supporters and never let me leave for Haiti without stuffing a massive wad of cash in my hand to put toward the next project. You can see from his stories that he always supported the most vulnerable and those excluded from opportunity. PIH was the perfect match.
"We know from experience that the impact of this virus will be felt most by vulnerable communities around the world. But with more than three decades' experience in community-based health care, including responses to epidemics and outbreaks such as Ebola, cholera and tuberculosis, we know how to fight this. And James and the Giant Peach With Taika and Friends will raise critical funds that will allow Partners in Health to invest in local health systems that deliver high-quality, dignified care to fight this disease. We're so grateful to Taika Waititi and the Roald Dahl Story Company for pulling together this extraordinary initiative and amazing array of talent. It will undoubtedly help in the fight against the long-standing health inequities we see in many parts of the world. Thank you for your generosity."
Watch the first episode and a compilation of outtakes below.