VanityFair recently sat down with Wes to discuss working on Mr. Fox. Pretty standard stuff, but interesting nonetheless.
Wes Anderson came to Hollywood from Texas armed with a short film and a best friend with a funny nose. The year was 1993, the film was Bottle Rocket, and the best friend was—and still is—Owen Wilson. By chance, James Brooks saw and loved Bottle Rocket, and gave Anderson the boost he needed, helping him shore up financing to expand the short into a full-length feature. Since then, Anderson has written and directed four films: Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums—for which he was nominated for best original screenplay—The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Darjeeling Limited and its accompanying short, Hotel Chevalier. On Friday, he will be releasing his sixth film, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, a sumptuous, stop-motion version of Roald Dahl’s classic children’s story, which Anderson co-wrote with Noah Baumbach. The film features the voices of George Clooney and Meryl Streep, who once said she signed on because, in her words, “When else am I going to be Mrs. George Clooney?” Also lending their voices are Owen Wilson and Jason Schwartzman, another fixture of Anderson’s troupe. I spoke with Anderson a few days ago, and I can tell you the only thing cooler than his corduroy suits and gaggle of talented friends is the fact that he is one of the few people in Hollywood who can get Bill Murray on the phone. Read our whole conversation below.
So my first question is, ‘Why this book?’
The actual true answer is I don’t really remember. I don’t remember making the decision to adapt this book—it was 10 years ago that I first approached the Dahl estate about doing it. I wanted to do a stop-motion movie and the idea to adapt Fantastic Mr. Fox was simultaneous with that. It’s the first book I ever owned that was officially considered to be my property in our household, and the book made a huge impression on me as a child.
Word today from The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences that Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of twenty films eligible for an Oscar nomination in the Best Animated Film category. To see the full list of films, head on over to the AMPAS site. Only five films can receive a nomination, and prognosticators are betting Fox will be one of them.
Schwartzman elaborates on his use of music in preparing for his roles, his appreciation for great writing, and working with Sofia Coppola and Wes Anderson. He also discusses his character in Bored to Death, a Brooklyn-based lovelorn writer-turned-private detective.
You can stream the show and download a podcast of it at KCRW’s website, where you can also listen to past shows with Wes Anderson (1999, 2002, 2004) and Noah Baumbach among many other great filmmakers. (KCRW also talked to Jason about some of his favorite songs last year, you can listen to that here.)
As we mentioned yesterday on Twitter, there’s a great new profile on Wes in this week’s New Yorker by Richard Brody. Click on the thumbnails below to read the article and let us know what you think in the comments.
Wes is interviewed by the great French director and Criterion labelmate Arnaud Desplechin in this month’s Interview magazine. They touch on Paris, Proust, the Movies and working on Fantastic Mr. Fox. It’s really terrific. Full interview after the break and at their website.
By Arnaud Desplechin
In the five films that Wes Anderson has directed, from his 1996 debut feature Bottle Rocket to 2007’s picaresque The Darjeeling Limited, he has managed to assemble a constellation of actors who might best be described as “Wes’s Gang.” This tragicomic fraternity includes Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Anjelica Huston, Luke Wilson, and, of course, his college friend and longtime collaborator Owen Wilson. Like Woody Allen before him, Anderson has constructed his own immediately identifiable cinematic landscape, one so distinct that certain clothes, music, expressions, and cleverly awkward situations in the real world can be dubbed as being “very Wes Anderson.”
This year, however, the 40-year-old Anderson seems to have given the slip to his frequent playmates—at least in bodily form—by swapping human actors for puppets and the concrete world for an imaginary one in his latest effort, Fantastic Mr. Fox. The film, due out in November, is a stop-motion animated adaptation of the Roald Dahl book about a family of foxes that is besieged by a group of angry farmers and forced to outmaneuver them in order to survive. Anderson tapped some of his usual collaborators—along with George Clooney, Meryl Streep, and Jarvis Cocker—to record the dialogue. He then used those vocal tracks to inspire a mesmeric fantasyland of puppet performances brought to life by a team of animators on an elaborate soundstage in London.
Fantastic Mr. Foxcertainly marks a departure for Anderson. French filmmaker Arnaud Desplechin recently sat down with Anderson at the Cinéma du Panthéon in Paris—one of the city’s oldest movie theaters—to discuss the ever-evolving architecture of Anderson’s idiosyncratic universe.
The UK version of the review aggregating site Rotten Tomatoes had a chance to talk with Wes. Below is an excerpt, read the full interview at their site.
You spent some time while you were writing in Roald Dahl’s hometown, what was that like? WA: The place where we went is called Gypsy House, which he bought later in his life, but it’s where he wrote many of his best-known books. Mr. Fox was written there, certainly. We were interested in the idea that we wouldn’t just base it on the book; we’d base it on him. He’d written memoirs for children — which is an odd thing, not many people have written autobiographies meant for children — so from that point of view we were always very aware of him and aware that kids reading his books didn’t just know the books, they knew him. We tried to get as much of his personality into the character, and we also had his manuscripts. In fact, we had the manuscript for Fantastic Mr. Fox, which had a different ending which we used in the movie. That’s a great luxury — to be able to say, “Here’s an idea we can use — it’s not in the book, but it’s from him.”
The Los Angeles Times, in their Los Angeles Times way, has a rather interesting (if needlessly muck-raking in tone) article on the controversy about Wes’ involvement in Fantastic Mr. Fox. Take it with several very large grains of salt. Share your thoughts at the Yankee Racers Forum, and as always, full story after the break.
To be clear, Wes Anderson did not set out to direct his new movie via e-mail. Even if that’s precisely how the writer-director’s stop-motion animation version of Roald Dahl’s beloved children’s book “Fantastic Mr. Fox” — a jaunty visual joy ride that features voice characterizations by George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Jason Schwartzman — ultimately came to be, Anderson never intended to become an in-box auteur. That choice was made all but inevitable, however, by the Oscar nominee’s unorthodox decision to hole up in Paris for most of the shoot’s one-year duration while principal photography commenced across the English Channel at London’s venerable Three Mills Studios. He wasn’t working on another project, and nothing Paris-centric demanded he be there; Anderson simply “didn’t want to be at Three Mills Studios for two years.” The move did little to endear Anderson to his subordinates. “It’s not in the least bit normal,” director of photography Tristan Oliver observed at the production’s East London set last spring, when production on “Mr. Fox” was about three-quarters complete. “I’ve never worked on a picture where the director has been anywhere other than the studio floor!” Moreover, Anderson had no idea that his ignorance of stop-motion (the animation technique in which a stationary object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames) and exacting ideas concerning the film’s look would so exasperate his crew.
“Honestly? Yeah. He has made our lives miserable,” the film’s director of animation, Mark Gustafson, said during a break in shooting. He gave a weary chuckle. “I probably shouldn’t say that.”
Time Out London recently chatted with Wes about Fantastic Mr. Fox, full interview after the break.
Casually departing the world of live-action filmmaking, Wes Anderson’s latest is a stop-motion retelling of Roald Dahl’s much-loved children’s book, ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’. Dave Calhoun meets him to discuss how he undertook such a huge project
So you made ‘Fantastic Mr Fox’ here in London, at a studio in east London? ‘Yes – but I wasn’t here for the whole shooting. I just came and went. I was in lots of different places, but we had a system set up so I could do what I needed to do from abroad.’
Was the film your idea in the first place?
‘Yes, but about ten years ago. I first met with Felicity Dahl, Roald’s wife, in 2000 to talk about this project.’
Did you always want it to be a stop-motion animated film?
‘Yes, that was the thing right from the beginning.’
All your films, from ‘Bottle Rocket’ (1994) to ‘The Darjeeling Limited’ (2007) have been live action. Did you feel confident about directing stop-motion animation?
‘Well, I didn’t know anything about how you go about it, so I just assumed we’d figure it out.’