In the upcoming children's film The BFG, a literal Big Friendly Giant clandestinely collects dreams and sends them off to sleeping children. One of those kids is a precocious British orphan named Sophie, whom the BFG whisks off to Giant Country when she spots him carrying out this mission. And for the real-life actress who plays Sophie, starring in The BFG represents its own dream realized — especially considering that the list of what else Ruby Barnhill has starred in is quite short. Now, the 11-year-old is making her giant debut on the big screen in legendary director Steven Spielberg's reimagining of author Roald Dahl's classic 1982 novel.
Barnhill was just 10 years old when Spielberg cast her for the lead role in the project in December 2014. And the man known for discovering such major stars as Christian Bale and Drew Barrymore was immediately impressed with the novice actress, according to ABC News.
"It was a long, exhaustive search, and what I loved was I didn't hear the writing; I heard her personality speaking the words of someone else's," Spielberg said in an interview with the network. "Her authenticity convinced me that I should at least meet her in person, which I did. And a day later, I gave [her] the part!"
Since landing her major contract with Disney, the Cheshire, England, native appeared on the BBC children's comedy/drama 4 O'Clock Club. On the television show, she was by no means a major character, but she's rapidly outgrown it, anyhow. In May, she traveled with Spielberg and the rest of the BFG cast to the Cannes Film Festival in France, according to The Telegraph. There, she reflected on her meteoric rise to fame:
The only thing that I have ever done before doing this incredible film was going to a drama class for a very long time. And I did a children’s TV show. It feels really magical and amazing to think I’m here now.
The BFG opens in the United States on Friday, July 1, and audiences — especially those who love Roald Dahl's original book — will very likely agree that the whole situation is somewhat magical. The Charlotte Observer's Lawrence Toppman praised the film as "gently spellbinding," and Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune reported that he was delighted by a "full, real, vital performance."
All signs indicate that Barnhill will continue to flourish as an actress. Aside from the fact that her contract stipulates that she'll star in two more Dreamworks movies if The BFG is a hit, as The Daily Mail reported, acting is also in her blood. Her father has performed at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London, and he'll even appear in the movie with her — briefly, as a footman, according to The Telegraph.
But Barnhill's still young, and her career is just now beginning to bloom. She told ABC News that she's not sure that her next move will be. "One day I want to be a director, and the next day I want to be in journalism," she said.
Whatever she decides to do, Barnhill will surely bring a touch of magic to all her endeavors. She's already showing the world that she's a valuable and fresh addition to the acting realm, and, when her first film hits theaters this week, we'll all see just what the young dynamo has to offer.