FILMING JAMES AND THE GIANT Peach was not without its pitfalls for Paul Terry, the 10-year-old Brit who makes his big-screen debut in Disney’s live-and-animated fantasy. He’s James, an English orphan borne aloft to New York City inside a magically grown, humongous fruit.
“I knew it was going to be hard work,” says Terry of the six-week shoot in San Francisco in 1994. Especially when, as James, he had to bond with Miss Spider, a fellow peach traveler who, in the live-action scenes, is played by a real dwarf tarantula. “I said to the spider, ‘I’ll be your friend,’ ” recalls Terry. “Then it bit me.” Twice, on the finger. Though the nonpoisonous bites needed just a few dabs of antiseptic, “I didn’t want to have any spiders on me after that,” he says.
A different bug—acting—bit Terry when he was 5. He persuaded his mother, Gail, an environmental engineer (and now his manager), to let him enroll in a drama class in Hertfordshire, outside London, where Terry and his brother Matthew, 12, live with her and their father, Mark, 36, a London police inspector. At 6, Terry made his stage debut in a regional production of Turgenev’s A Month in the Country. In 1994, Mark, hearing about the Peach auditions—at which Paul was picked by director Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) from hundreds of candidates—thought his son would be perfect. “Like James,” he says, “Paul can act like a little boy lost.”
Paul’s parents found him acting a bit full of himself, however, when they visited the set that fall. Though chaperoned by his grandmother, May Terry, 63, “he was bossing the adults all about,” says Gail. Not these days. Back home, Paul, in his fifth year at school in Hertfordshire, has to empty the trash and feed the family mutt Tom. As for the next film he’s offered, Paul has only one demand. “No spiders this time,” he says. “Absolutelv not.”