Ain’t It Cool interviews Jason Schwartzman

From Ain’t It Cool:

Beaks: It was just announced that THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX is going to have its worldwide premiere at the London Film Festival. Have you seen the movie? And if so, can you give us an idea of what to expect from it? The pictures really have people freaking out. In a good way, I think.

Schwartzman: I’ve seen the film, and I’m proud to be a part of it. I think it looks really beautiful. Wes didn’t change his style of filmmaking and writing to suit the genre or the concept of the film. He brought it to him. It’s just the new Wes Anderson film, but with puppets instead of live actors. It’s stop-motion. It was really fun to be a part of it because Wes tried as hard as he could to not have all of the actors recording their voices separately in studios at various times. He really made an effort to get the actors together in groups, and literally act out the scenes with each other. To have overlapping [dialogue], and just weird exchanges. He’d have a gentleman with a boom mic running after us, following us doing it all. So, for example, the scenes in the movie where we dig? That’s actually all of us on the ground digging – like digging in the real dirt. And if we were eating, we’d go “Rawr!” and have real stuff in our mouths. I play George Clooney’s son, and there’s a scene where we’re talking to each other or having an emotional scene, and those scenes really are the two of us in a room acting and looking at each other – as opposed to being done separately and pieced together later. Of course, there are exceptions. Meryl Streep is in it, and I never got to act with her. But for the most part, most of my scenes were done with the actors I’m working with.

It’s really beautiful. I was thinking about this yesterday, and I think it will appeal to the kid in adults and the adults in children. It crosses at a certain point because the dialogue is really funny, so adults will love it. But they’ll also love it because maybe they loved the book. And, also, animation just does something to the brain where it makes you feel young. And I feel that kids will love it because it is animation, and they are young. But they’ll also just love the dialogue and the physical action. There’s a lot of physical humor in it that I feel Wes wouldn’t have been able to do with live actors due to the constraints of the universe and physics and gravity. (Laughs)

For me, it was exciting because, though I did so much of the movie with the actual actors, it did take three years to make. So over time, new lines were being written, or a new scene idea would come about, and I’d get a call from Wes where he’d say, “Would it be at all possible for you to record a some new lines tomorrow?” So I’d go to the recording studio, and Wes would be on the phone – because he lives in France. So he’d be on the phone coming through my headphones, and I would talk into the microphone, and… in front of me on a music stand would be five or ten lines I was supposed to say. But out of context, and not in script form. So he would explain it to me verballly. “This is a scene where you’ve just come out of a tree.” He’d describe it, but it would not be something I know. He would explain it, and then we would just do it. And what was exciting for me when I saw the movie was… when the lights came down and the movie began, I was like, “Gosh, I almost have amnesia! I don’t remember any of this stuff!” I was really mesmerized and able to watch the film from a distance, which I’d never been able to do before.

I know it was definitely hard to make – they’re never easy, the stop-motion ones. They’ve been making it for the last three-and-a-half years or maybe longer in London. Basically, they built these sets, and before they could start working on the scenes – which could take, because they’re complicated, up to three weeks to shoot – they would take a still image that is the exact camera angle that they’ll use, and… every time they’d do an angle, they’d take a still image and send it to Wes. And he’d give his notes back by email or phone, and say things like, “Could you lower the poster in the background an inch?” He’d go back and forth with these notes until they felt it was finally ready to shoot. It’s not a very fluid process. I told him, “It’s almost like you’re directing in stop-motion.” But the work is really beautiful. It’s a beautiful movie.

Beaks: This sounds incredible. I knew he was being meticulous about the way he shot it, but I had no idea he was going into this extreme amount of detail.

Schwartzman: It’s so weird, but, even though it’s animated, there’s so much spontaneity in the movie… the animators were having to animate based on all of this crazy, improvised stuff. It’s a real combination of the written and the ethereal, which is what you get when you have live actors together. It feels really alive when I’m watching it because I know it’s not a lot of static things put in motion; it has real breath in it, real life.

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