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.”
A profile of Mr. Anderson we seemed to have missed. Full story after the break or at the Times London site.
Wes Anderson returns to form with Mr Fox
Hollywood’s darling until The Life Aquatic flopped, director’s version of Roald Dahl’s book is George Clooney’s best role
by Jeff Dawson
In his latest film, you might say George Clooney is perfectly cast — a sly fox, a smooth operator, a wolf-whistling alpha male let loose in the henhouse. And not without his own existential angst, musing on his compulsion to be liked and the vapidity of his fame. “I asked him to be in it just because I was a fan,” enthuses his director, the usually laid-back Wes Anderson. “Only when I went into the editing room and started working with it did I realise that he has a most wonderful voice.”
That the film is an animation should not detract from what might be the actor’s finest performance to date — no kidding. Then again, under Anderson’s stewardship, Fantastic Mr Fox, from Roald Dahl’s 1970 story, is a queer beast all round. The tale of a charismatic fox at war with three local chicken farmers (Boggis, Bunce and Bean), it has become, in Anderson’s extended version — all filmed in jerky, old-fashioned stop-motion — a fatalistic fable about the struggle for survival, a sort of weird mash-up between Wallace & Gromit and those macabre eastern European animations beloved of children’s telly in the 1970s.
Anderson has long made a habit of essaying the unusual. Over the past decade and a half, he has established himself as one of America’s quirkiest film-makers. Tall and slim, with a mane of sandy-brown hair tucked behind his ears, in a natty bottle-green corduroy suit, he projects English country squire more than Texas native, no doubt enhanced by the 12 months he spent shooting the film at 3 Mills Studios, in London. Then there’s his friendship with Jarvis Cocker, who wrote some songs for the film and ended up as a character in it. At Claridge’s hotel, where we’re meeting, Anderson could be part of the furniture.
Prestigious design firm Pentagram has put together the art book,The Making of Fantastic Mr. Fox, which will cover the extensive detail and development of Wes’s first animated film. Pentagram partner Agnus Hyland headed up the design team who worked on the book.
Movieline sat down with Wes and asked him about his favorite movie scene. His pick might rile up some more unpleasant comments, but please let’s focus on the movies people, always the movies.
The Scene: Great Missenden, about an hour outside of London — the Platonic ideal of the English countryside village, lined with perfectly tended row houses and gardens. It’s home to Roald Dahl’s estate and the Roald Dahl Museum, which today is overrun by international press who’ve gathered to interview the cast and crew of Fantastic Mr. Fox— Wes Anderson’s stop-motion adaptation of the Dahl classic. At The Nags Head Pub, Bill Murray pours pints for starstruck onlookers from behind the bar, as a small group of journalists sit around a table grilling Anderson on his animated opus. It seemed as good a moment as any to play My Favorite Scene with the director — though I must admit we never saw his answer coming.
Read the full story and watch the scene at Movieline.
Channel 4 sat down with Wes and Roald Dahl’s widow, Liccy Dahl to talk about Fantastic Mr. Fox.
Note: Any comments regarding the Polanski case, for or against, will not be approved and will not appear on the site. We aren’t out to censor anyone, we just feel this is not the proper forum for that debate. Thank you.
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.’