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Sheridan Smith and Jenny Agutter on the return of The Railway Children – our Backstage podcast interview | Ents & Arts News

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The Railway Children was a staple for those who grew up in the UK pre-streamers, when viewing choices were limited to what was on offer on a small number of TV channels.

The film about youngsters forced to move to Yorkshire after their father is accused of being a spy, which was released in 1970 and is based on the 1905 novel by E Nesbit, became a traditional watch for many families and often appeared on round-ups of best British films.

But it’s only now, more than 50 years later, that a sequel has been made. While it is distinct from the original, actress Jenny Agutter has returned as her character Bobbie; one of the original Railway Children, she is now a grandmother living with her daughter in the Yorkshire countryside as they host children evacuated from Manchester during the Second World War.

The Railway Children Return. Pic: STUDIOCANAL/Jaap Buitendijk

While the era may have changed, the setting hasn’t and the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway has also reprised its role for The Railway Children Return – with Oakworth station in West Yorkshire where much of the action takes place.

Agutter told Sky News’ Backstage podcast it was odd returning to both the character and the location decades later.

“It’s hard to describe exactly what that feels like because you’re taken back as though there’s no time at all in between, and yet you realise that you’ve had this whole life in between and that the world is different, and that the world that you’re expressing for that film is completely different from the one from the first film.

“So it’s like everything gets telescoped, it’s like the whole of time just gets telescoped together. And I think in a funny way, the most nostalgic [thing] for me was actually watching the film and seeing the children and seeing how the film began and being on the station.”

Sheridan Smith, who plays her daughter in the film, says Agutter’s return made for some special moments.

“It was wonderful seeing Jenny walk on to the station for the first time, it was so emotional,” Smith said. “It was like royalty arriving.”

Smith says she didn’t need much convincing to sign up for the sequel.

The Railway Children Return. Pic: STUDIOCANAL/Jaap Buitendijk

“I remember getting the phone call and I had watched it growing up with my mum and dad,” she said. “I’m a huge fan of Jenny Agutter and I knew that Jenny was going to be on board and I’d be playing her daughter and I was like, ‘Wow’. I jumped at the opportunity. Yeah, thrilled.”

The Railway Children Return is arriving at a time where it seems there’s a real appetite for nostalgia.

Another long awaited sequel, Top Gun: Maverick – which came 36 years after its predecessor – has broken box office records this year.

And while there may not be much in common between the two films, the makers of the British movie will be hoping it too will attract audiences who still think fondly of the original.

But while there is certainly much in the new film for fans of the first, Agutter says it is its own separate story.

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“On the one hand [we’re] revisiting the same thing, but we’re actually talking about something that’s quite different,” she said. “I mean, this story is nostalgic in terms that it talks about wartime, but we’re living in a time when that is actually present again and around us.

“It refers to the first Railway Children, but it isn’t that adventure, and it isn’t those stories and it isn’t that innocent world, it is a different world – it is a world post-First and Second World War.”

Smith agrees.

“It is a different story at a different time, and actually people watching it don’t have to have seen the first one, like a young generation would still get a lot from it.”

“But I think that for the people who’ve seen the original, which is the majority of people, it’s going to be hugely nostalgic to go and see our version.”

The Railway Children Return is showing in cinemas in the UK

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