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Ben Whishaw cast as new Paddington Bear

image copyrightPA/StudioCanal
image captionBen Whishaw said he had 'no relationship to Paddington whatsoever' as a child

James Bond star Ben Whishaw has been cast as the new voice of Paddington in the upcoming film about the Peruvian bear.

The 33-year-old has replaced Oscar-winner Colin Firth, who left the film in June after saying he did not have the right voice for the character.

Producer David Heyman told the Daily Mail Paddington needed "a slightly more open, and younger, voice".

The film is due to be released in the UK on 28 November.

Heyman said Firth had sensed early on in the production his voice did not suit the bear.

"He was saying, 'Are you sure I'm right?' He was way ahead of us - Colin was brilliant, but his voice was, ultimately, too mature," he said.

After hearing Whishaw audition, director Paul King said he "slowly found myself hearing his voice when I was thinking about Paddington".

"He breathes and he speaks and he sounds like Paddington."

image copyrightStudioCanal
image captionPaddington was named after the London train station where he was found by the Brown family

Whishaw said he initially was reluctant to audition for the role because he did not read Michael Bond's Paddington books as a child.

He said he had "no relationship to Paddington whatsoever, other than that I knew he wore a duffle coat and a hat".

The actor has now begun recording sessions, although he said the process of marrying up his voice to the computer-generated character was mystifying to him.

"I just arrive and wear this funny helmet that has a camera attached to it. It's highly mysterious to me," he said.

"I just see what they've done on screen, which is really beautiful and very exciting".

Firth announced he was leaving the film "after a period of denial" and both he and the producers had chosen "conscious uncoupling" - referencing the term Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin made famous when they separated in March.

"It's been bittersweet to see this delightful creature take shape and come to the sad realisation that he simply doesn't have my voice," he said.

The movie also stars Nicole Kidman as an evil museum taxidermist who has Paddington in her sights, and Julie Walters and Hugh Bonneville as Mr and Mrs Brown - the marmalade-loving bear's adoptive parents.

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