Meryl Streep, Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris and Liam Hemsworth are among the stars joining Jojo Rabbit filmmaker Taika Waititi for a charity reading of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s book James And The Giant Peach.
Ryan Reynolds, Cate Blanchett, Lupita Nyong’o and Cara Delevingne will also join in the reading of the book from their homes.
The story will be recorded from start to finish in 10 instalments, for children and families currently in lockdown across the globe amid the current pandemic.
James And The Giant Peach With Taika And Friends aims to raise money for Partners In Health, a global health non-profit organisation fighting coronavirus in some of the most vulnerable parts of the world.
It is part of a commitment by the Roald Dahl Story Company to support charities affected by Covid-19, which also includes the Roald Dahl Marvellous Children’s Charity in the UK, which provides specialist nurses to seriously ill children.
The episodes will be available to watch on the Roald Dahl YouTube channel, with Waititi serving as narrator and the celebrity guests, which also includes Jamie Cullum, Cynthia Erivo, Beanie Feldstein, Josh Gad, Mindy Kaling, Kumail Nanjiani, Sarah Paulson, Billy Porter, Gordon Ramsay, Eddie Redmayne, Ben Schwartz, Tessa Thompson, Olivia Wilde and Ruth Wilson playing the characters.
The first episode features the Hemsworth brothers, performing together for the first time, alongside comedian Nick Kroll, while the second episode features Streep and Cumberbatch.
The first two are available to watch now with the remaining instalments released on the Roald Dahl YouTube channel every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 6pm.
Waititi was recently announced as the writer, director and executive producer of two original Roald Dahl animated series for Netflix, as part of an extended raft of animated Roald Dahl television projects.
Waititi will develop an original series based on the world and characters of Charlie And The Chocolate Factory and develop an original show centred on the Oompa-Loompas.
He said: “Being an adult child myself and having read James And The Giant Peach to my girls multiple times, I’m excited to be able to partner with my friends, the Dahl team and Partners In Health and re-tell this story to help those most in need right now.
“This wacky, wonderful tale is about resilience in children, triumph over adversity and dealing with a sense of isolation which couldn’t be more relevant today.”
Luke Kelly, managing director of The Roald Dahl Story Company, added: “Roald Dahl’s stories are about the power and importance of kindness – and as a business we believe in enacting that ethos.
“That’s why we support the critical work of charities such as Partners In Health who are working on the front line in the fight against Covid-19.
“We are so delighted to be able to support this re-telling of James And The Giant Peach and not only bring a moment of joy and escapism to children and families at this very tough time – but also to raise vital funds for Partners in Health.
“We’re incredibly grateful and excited to have Taika and so many incredible stars taking part. We can’t wait for people to see what we’ve got in store – it’s going to be absolutely gigantic fun.”
The Roald Dahl Story Company will match the first one million dollars (£806,000) of donations to Partners In Health, with partners also lined up for matching beyond this milestone.
Ophelia Dahl, the author’s daughter and founder of Partners In Health (PIH), said: “My dad instilled in us as kids the notion that imagination will spark a chain reaction of possibilities – we can dream endlessly about ideas and make them real.
“This early training meant it was not such a leap to envision Partners in Health with my friends.
“Roald was one of our earliest and most enthusiastic supporters and never let me leave for Haiti without stuffing a massive wad of cash in my hand to put towards the next project.
“You can see from his stories that he always supported the most vulnerable and those excluded from opportunity. PIH was the perfect match.
“We know from experience that the impact of this virus will be felt most by vulnerable communities around the world.
“But with more than three decades’ experience in community-based health care, including responses to epidemics and outbreaks such as Ebola, cholera and tuberculosis; we know how to fight this.”
People can donate to Partners In Health by visiting www.pih.org/giantpeach