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Centennial celebrations planned for the late Roald Dahl

Lucy Dahl, one of the late Roald Dahl's five children, has special memories of birthdays.

"Birthdays were always a big event when I was a child," Dahl, a screenwriter and daughter of Dahl and actress Patricia Neal, told The Associated Press. "We were one of the few people I knew who were lucky enough to have an indoor swimming pool and we'd have these big parties, great big celebrations actually.

"But my father didn't have a big ego. On the whole he enjoyed celebrating other people's birthdays and he loved giving them presents and things like that."

This year, Roald Dahl is the guest of honor. To mark this September's centennial of the British author's birth, tributes will range from a "Traveling Trivia Tour" to a re-release of the 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder. New editions of James and the Giant Peach, The Witches and other classics are being published, along with the Oxford Roald Dahl Dictionary. Steven Spielberg's adaptation of The BFG, starring Mark Rylance, will show this month at the Cannes Film Festival and will open in theaters in July.

During a recent telephone interview, Lucy Dahl talked about her father's life and legacy.

What would your father have made of all the events this year?

He would have loved it. He worked so incredibly hard his whole life and he's become more and more well-known and loved by children and discovered by children as the years go on. That's what he wanted. He wanted to make children happy through his work. He wanted children to know that he understood them.

He used to say, "Children have a lot to go through. Try walking around on your knees, being half the size of everyone else. And everything you want you have to ask for and 99 percent of the time you're being told 'no.' See how you feel at the end of the day."

What do you think of Spielberg's film of The BFG?

Steven got it right. Steven, too, understands the idea of good triumphing over evil and identifying with being young at heart.

I went to the set for one day and spent a lot of time there. It was one of the most magical days in my whole life. All of the sets were in one massive warehouse. It was really incredible and Steven treated me like I was a queen. The BFG was a bedtime story when I was growing up, and I had this visual image of it, as one does, and walking into that giant warehouse and walking on to those sets ... was like everything I ever imagined.

I wrote to him (Spielberg) and (producer) Frank Marshall and said I felt like I was Charlie Bucket walking into the chocolate factory.

Are there any other adaptations of your father's work that stand out for you?

I especially love (the Tony-winning production) Matilda the Musical. It's really, really fantastic. I also like (the movie of) Fantastic Mr. Fox. (Director) Wes Anderson spent a lot of time in our home, in Buckinghamshire, in Dad's workhouse, and he got the feeling exactly right.

It's very difficult for many people to adapt Dad's work. There's a line between tragedy and tragedy that goes too far. Dad used to say a good example was of children walking down the street and seeing a man slip on a banana skin. They roar with laughter, but if he's broken his back then it's not funny anymore. There's an invisible tightrope Dad was able to walk along that makes it a challenge for filmmakers.

Why do you think your father's books are still so popular?

They're timeless books. The issues they talk about are timeless. Like the big giant and BFG. It's in the same vein as Alice in Wonderland, children having to deal with authority. Or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Everybody loves chocolate. That's pretty timeless as well.

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