Book Thief: Director Percival

With his Downton Abbey a global success, Percival was a much sought after director. “At one point there were five scripts a day coming in and it was impossible to read them all,” he says, “so I would read the first 30 pages of each script and I’d know if it was a project of interest.”

Percival says he was just a few pages into The Book Thief when he knew he had to make the film. “I was so moved by the novel. It is such a positive, uplifting story, and I loved that the central character was a young lady who, though she has nothing and seemingly no future when we meet her, could not only survive but thrive.”

Moreover, Percival personally connected to the story. “I come from quite a poor background. We started out with very little, and the desire was always to try and achieve something, which, in my case, was to make films. Later when I went to art school I remember how people taught me to look, particularly through books, at the world in a different way and so consequently live life in a different way. I related to Liesel in these ways.”

Percival also embraced the idea that power of words can both destroy and heal, depending on how we use them. It’s a theme that runs through the story. “Liesel begins to understand words and their power, and she realizes that you can use words for good as well as for evil,” he explains. “This allows her to change her life and make choices that she would not have had before she picked up a book. That’s the key to her spirit.”