This interview was originally published in Radio Times magazine.


Although he made his name on the comedy scene with furious, taboo-busting songs, the Northampton-born, Australia-bred Tim Minchin is no longer an angry young man.

In recent years, the 47-year-old has demonstrated his acting chops on stage in Jesus Christ Superstar and in his Sky sitcom Upright, while he’s won acclaim for his musical theatre adaptations of Groundhog Day and Matilda.

With the much-anticipated film version of the Roald Dahl classic (starring Dame Emma Thompson, Stephen Graham and Lashana Lynch) arriving in UK cinemas, we caught up with Minchin to find out if he really has calmed down.

Matilda reunites the musical’s original creative team of director Matthew Warchus and writer Dennis Kelly, while you’re back on songwriting duties. How was it to get the gang back together?

More like this

It was great but I really just sat in Australia and waited for it to happen! I mean, Dennis had to write a whole new script, but Holding My Hand is the only new song. There was another set of decisions for me about what you cut, so I cut two or three songs completely and was quite brutal on cutting bits of songs. I feel it, but I don’t think the audience will.

What other changes are there?

What the film adds is huge emotional intensity, which therefore requires an explosion of magic realism to allow you, like Matilda, to escape.

Emma Thompson as Miss Trunchbull in Matilda the Musical. Sony PIctures

What did you make of Emma Thompson joining the Matilda cast as the battleaxe Miss Trunchbull?

When Matthew said, “What do you think of Emma?” I replied, “Can we get Emma?” And he said, “Yeah, she really wants to do it.” And I was like, “What the f**k are we still talking about this for?!” She’s fearless and outrageous in that role. We’ve always cast men as Miss Trunchbull on stage because she has to be six feet tall and pick up a child and swing it around. The men who play Trunchbull often end up in physio. But in a film you can use CGI, so then it’s a case of, who’s the best actor?

What has it been like to be part of such a phenomenon?

It’s bonkers. Right now there are a dozen productions of Matilda at schools in Sydney alone, not to mention all the ones in Finland and Korea! It would blow my mind, except that my whole career is a huge surprise. I mean, I come from Perth, I’m self-taught, I can’t read music. I simultaneously don’t know s**t and am absolutely sure that I know everything.

Groundhog Day: The Musical is returning to London next year. Will that end up as a film, too?

Groundhog Day as a [new] film is tough because the original film is the source text, so to tread on the Bill Murray version doesn’t feel right. Whereas Roald Dahl’s book is the source text for Matilda, and the fact that there was already a film [Danny DeVito’s 1996 version] didn’t mean anything to us. We understand that it’s loved but it has nothing to do with our adaptation. Dennis has still never seen that film!

In the past you’ve been quite provocative, with songs like Thank You God and The Pope Song. Is that all behind you?

It depends on what the fight is. Things change when you have a lot of power; you’re no longer a Matilda, a kid punching up at a despot. Your job is then to try and spread good ideas, it’s not to wield swords any more. You’ve got to be careful where you’re wielding your sword when you’ve got all that power.

What gets you fired up nowadays?

I’m more irritated now by lefties spouting morally certain bulls**t because I feel like that’s my side being dumb. The loss of value for freedom of speech on the left and that they have just washed their hands of any difficult topics – that’s what I’m angry about now.

Tim Minchin
Tim Minchin performing in Sydney in 2022. Don Arnold/Getty Images

Because you established yourself in comedy, has it been difficult to get people to take you seriously?

I think I recognised that as a problem very early, which is why I basically did five years of comedy and then retired, and I’ve been working ever since to make sure I’m not pigeonholed.

What are your own favourite musicals?

I’m not a big musical theatre head. If I ever have to sit through Mamma Mia! again I’ll literally cut my head off! But I am well on the record as a Jesus Christ Superstar tragic. When I played Judas in front of 10,000 people at Wembley Arena it was the best thing I’ve ever done. I just loved it.

What do your kids make of your work?

They like Matilda well enough, but Violet’s favourite musical is Beetlejuice, which was written by one of my best friends [Eddie Perfect]. And, it’s like, of course you like my friend’s musical more than you like mine! I’m not sure my kids will go back to my comedy and admire it, but I don’t mind. Art is of its time, comedy especially dates. Whereas Matilda will live for ever. Because it’s a classic.

Read more: Matilda star reveals big musical number was cut from movie

Roald Dahl's Matilda the Musical is out now in UK cinemas, and will be released on Netflix on Christmas Day in the US.

Check out our TV Guide or Streaming Guide, or visit our Film hub for more news and features.


The latest issue of Radio Times is on sale now – subscribe now. For more from the biggest stars in TV, listen to the Radio Times View From My Sofa podcast.