Tonight, the New York Public Library will honor Eloise illustrator Hilary Knight as a Library Lion.
The Daily Beast has an interview with Knight in honor of the occasion. He discusses his current project (a graphic novel with Gypsy Rose Lee’s sister) as well as Eloise’s transformation in the years since author Kay Thompson’s death.
In addition to serving as the semi-official Plaza mascot (a sometimes unpleasant proposition), Eloise has become the heroine of live-action movies, non-Thompson books, and the selling point for merchandise galore. Knight takes glee in portraying Eloise as a gloriously bad kid, so it’s a little depressing how easily she’s become a frosting-pink commercial success:
Knight has not had any access to or say in Eloise’s fate. “Withholding is a nice way of saying what [Thompson’s] estate is,” he grumbles. “But Kay would not be happy with the new book, or any of the re-printings. You see, she didn’t want anything done. I know deep down that we will someday see more Eloise, and I hope I’m here to do them. I would love to see an animated movie, because live-action cannot capture how terrible she really is.”
A new live-action, feature film version of Eloise in Paris is in the works (with Uma Thurman rumored as the nanny), though Knight says he knows nothing about it, and “is completely out of that loop.”