The 'Watership Down' Voice Cast Is So Much More A-List Than You Might Expect
The BBC's Christmas schedule is positively full to bursting this year, and one major highlight is the broadcaster's all-star remake of the Richard Adams classic, Watership Down. And when I say all-star, I really mean all-star: the Watership Down voice cast is so brimming with A-listers, it'll coax back even the most haunted of childhood readers, who still occasionally relive the Sandleford rabbits' ordeal in their nightmares. Listen: who better to quash that childhood terror than James McAvoy, friends? Or John Boyega? Or Olivia Colman, or Gemma Chan, or Nicholas Hoult?
According to the Radio Times, Watership Down airs this Saturday, December 22, at 7 p.m. on BBC One (while Netflix will broadcast the adaptation internationally). It was written by Tom Bidwell and directed by Noam Murro — and I really can't overstate just how massive that cast is. In supporting roles, there's names like Mackenzie Crook, Rory Kinnear, Miles Jupp, Freddie Fox, Jason Watkins, and Craig Parkinson. And they've only gone and got Daniel Kaluuya in there! Sir Ben Kingsley! Gemma Arterton! Peter Capaldi! Want a rundown of (most of) the luminaries of Hollywood lending their voices to the rabbits of Watership Down? You've come to the right place.
Hazel: James McAvoy
McAvoy's Hazel is the leader of the band of rabbits as they flee the Sandleford warren and seek out Watership Down; his kind, courageous leadership ultimately earns him the position of Chief Rabbit. McAvoy, of course, has depicted an anthropomorphised animal before (or half of one, at least) — remember The Chronicles of Narnia's Mr Tumnus?
Fiver: Nicholas Hoult
Bigwig: John Boyega
Strawberry: Olivia Colman
Oscar favourite Colman plays Strawberry, a rabbit from a seemingly inviting warren with a treacherous twist. Ultimately, Strawberry joins the Sandleford rabbits and leads their mission to Efrafa.
General Woundwort: Sir Ben Kingsley
Woundwort, the despotic leader of the Efrafa warren, is the primary antagonist of Watership Down. He runs Efrafa as a police state, and launches an attack on the Sandleford rabbits' new home. Watership Down isn't Kingsley's first voice role in a remade children's classic: in 2016, he played Bagheera in Jon Favreau's The Jungle Book.
Bluebell: Daniel Kaluuya
Bluebell flees the decimated Sandleford warren with Captain Holly, played by Freddie Fox; his jokes allow for his own recovery from trauma, as well as Holly's. Next year, Kaluuya will appear in an animated reworking of A Christmas Carol: could the actor become something of a holiday staple?
Clover: Gemma Arterton
Arterton's Clover is a rabbit kept in a hutch at Nuthanger Farm, who is ultimately freed by Hazel. She makes it to Watership Down, where she pairs up with Holly and gives birth to a litter. (Anyone else suddenly overcome with guilt for having pet rabbits as a child?)
Threarah: Tom Wilkinson
Kehaar: Peter Capaldi
From a Time Lord to a seagull: Capaldi plays Kehaar, a black-headed gull whose wing injury leads him to Watership Down. The rabbits nurse him to recovery, and they become close friends.
Dewdrop: Gemma Chan
Dewdrop doesn't actually appear in Richard Adams' original novel, so you'll have to wait for the BBC adaptation to air to see Chan's character in action. The actor features in some of the biggest films of this year (and next), from Crazy Rich Asians to Captain Marvel; little wonder, then, that Chan was cast in the all-star Watership Down.
El-Ahrairah: Taron Egerton
El-Ahrairah is a rabbit folk hero, who appears regularly in the tales told by the rabbits. Which isn't too dissimilar to Egerton's recent major role as Robin Hood, is it? The Watership Down casting team evidently did their research.
Hyzenthlay: Anne-Marie Duff
The Black Rabbit Of Inlé: Rosamund Pike
Pike's Amy Dunne in Gone Girl didn't hesitate to murder to further her own interests. But the Black Rabbit of Inlé, while similarly death-adjacent, is more like the rabbit Grim Reaper, ensuring each rabbit passes to the afterlife in accordance with their preordained fate.