Teen actress Darby Camp says it was ‘surreal’ working with John Cleese in Clifford the Big Red Dog movie adaptation


Darby Camp is only 14 years but already she’s worked with who’s who of Hollywood.

The teenage actress played Reese Witherspoon‘s daughter on the award-winning series Big Little Lies, which also starred Aussie actress Nicole Kidman.

And Camp appeared alongside Hollywood power couple Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn in the beloved Netflix saga The Christmas Chronicles — opportunities the young star will always look back on fondly.

Darby Camp attends a special screening of Clifford the Big Red Dog at Scholastic Inc. Headquarters on November 04, 2021 in New York City.
Darby Camp attends a special screening of Clifford the Big Red Dog at Scholastic Inc. HQ on November 4 in New York City. (Getty)

“It’s honestly surreal looking back and thinking about all these amazing people I’ve had the opportunity to work with,” she tells 9Honey Celebrity via Zoom.

“I first met Miss Reese Witherspoon and Miss Nicole Kidman when I was eight, so I didn’t really know who they were. I obviously had heard their names but I never really seen a bunch of their movies because I was eight.”

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The cast of Big Little Lies.
Darby Camp starred alongside an impressive cast on Big Little Lies, playing Reese Witherspoon’s daughter on the series. (HBO)

“Looking back now, it’s such an honour and very surreal, and working with these great amazing stars have been such great opportunities because I’ve learned so much from them and I think they’ve definitely helped me grow into a better actress,” she adds.

Now Camp can add John Cleese to her impressive resume. The teen stars alongside the legendary British comedian in the movie adaptation of the beloved children’s book, Clifford the Big Red Dog

Darby Camp stars in Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Darby Camp stars as Emily Elizabeth in Clifford the Big Red Dog. (Courtesy Paramount Pictures)

Camp plays sixth-grader Emily Elizabeth who discovers a small red puppy from Mr Bridwell, a mysterious animal rescuer played by Cleese. With Emily’s mum out of town on a business trip and her irresponsible Uncle Casey (played by Jack Whitehall) on babysitting duties, Clifford comes to live with Emily and soon he magically grows into a big red dog.

Needless to say, computer-generated imagery (CGI) helped to bring Clifford to life but director Walt Becker also enlisted the services of two puppeteers, who crawled inside a giant 10-foot red dog puppet. 

Jack Whitehall in Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Jack Whitehall is Uncle Casey in Clifford the Big Red Dog. (Courtesy Paramount Pictures)

“It was so fun working with a real giant red dog. It would’ve been probably more difficult than not working with one,” Camp recalls. “Basically, Clifford was a 10-food red dog puppet and there were two puppeteers controlling him from inside and acting as Clifford. They studied how dogs move and what their emotions are and they did such an amazing job that in the scene it’s like an actual real-life dog that looks like a puppet. It was really fun.”

As for working with 82-year-old John Cleese, Camp said it was equally exciting as the comedian brought the funny on and off the set. 

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“He was so funny and he had such a presence on set whenever he walked in a room,” she says. “I remember the first time I met him, I knew he was on set and I knew I was going to meet him that day — I just didn’t know when. 

“So then I felt something hit me on the head and I thought it was my dad. Then I turn around and it’s John Cleese with a magazine and I’m like, ‘Hey, Mr Cleese. I’m Darby, by the way. Nice to meet you.'”

John Cleese and Jack Whitehall in Clifford the Big Red Dog.
John Cleese and Jack Whitehall star in Clifford the Big Red Dog. (KC Bailey)

Camp’s co-star Jack Whitehall also has nothing but praise for his fellow Brit. 

“John Cleese is one of my comedy heroes,” he tells 9Honey Celebrity. “It was a proper dream come true to meet him and to work with a great man.”

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As the saying goes, one should never work with children and animals but Whitehall feels he’s mastered the craft after having recently starred on Jungle Cruise with Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and Emily Blunt. So he’s accustomed to working with CGI and puppeteers. 

Jack Whitehall attends a special screening of Clifford the Big Red Dog at Scholastic Inc. Headquarters on November 04, 2021 in New York City.
Jack Whitehall attends a special screening of Clifford the Big Red Dog at Scholastic Inc. HQ on November 4 in New York City. (Getty)

“I had a lot of experience prior to [Clifford] because on Jungle Cruise,” Whitehall says. “Most of my scenes had been with Proxima, a jaguar played by a man who was a stunt performer that crawled around on all floors in a jaguar-skinned leotard.”

“I spent most of my time on set with him as my scene partner — stroking him, interacting with him doing bizarre things with a man dressed as a jaguar, so by the time I came to Clifford, it was basically just a bigger version of that — and this time it was two people inside a puppet,” he continued.

“I now feel like I’m an expert. The go-to guy, if you want someone to act with GCI animals.”

Clifford the Big Red Dog is exclusive to cinemas from December 30, with advance screenings this weekend.

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