Follow Us on Twitter

Fantastic Mr Fox - Wes Anderson interview

Wes Anderson directs Fantastic Mr Fox

Interview by Rob Carnevale

DIRECTOR Wes Anderson talks about the process of working on Roald Dahl’s Fantastic Mr Fox at a press conference to start the Times BFI 53rd London Film Festival.

He also outlines why he feels so close to the book, as well as some of the biggest difficulties and challenges of working in stop-motion animation and how he arrived at the casting of George Clooney…

Q. Were you a fan of Roald Dahl and why did you choose this style of sop-motion animation?
Wes Anderson: This was the first book that I ever personally owned, as officially my property. It was a book I loved as a child and it was a book that introduced me to Roald Dahl’s work in general, so it made a big impression on me. About 10 years ago I approached Dahl’s widow, Felicity, and asked for permission to do it, so it’s been a long process. I always intended for it to be stop motion… I wanted to do a stop motion movie with animals with fur, because I’ve just always loved the way that looks… that odd, magical style.

Q. What was the biggest thing you took away from the process?
Wes Anderson: Well, one thing I learned over the course of the movie is how much the voices give to the animators to work with. You record the voices first and the animators spend all the time animating these puppets… but really their inspiration comes from those moments with the actors.

Q. Did you enjoy it as much as you thought you would?
Wes Anderson: Animating is a very slow, pain-staking process and the animators become the actors at that point. At the most during this movie we had 30 units going on at once. I was not in London during the whole shoot. Sometimes I was here and sometimes I was elsewhere, but it was very consuming and you have to work on it all the time while you’re shooting. We had a computer system where I could look through 30 different cameras at once to see what was happening on each set and work with all the different people. There were hundreds of people designing, preparing and executing the shot. Getting the assistants to do it was as much a part of the process as actually doing it yourself. But I loved making this film and I feel like it’s now a part of my arsenal of things to do with making movies now.

Q. What was the thing you found most difficult?
Wes Anderson: The big adjustment for me was the pace – it was so much slower. But I found that it gave you so many opportunities to work on different aspects of the production. You could have the time to find things that are more funny, or connect with other things in the story… so it was the fact that it was slowed down so radically. Another thing I found fascinating was the way that animators interpret things – they have instructions for what’s going to happen in every single frame, but two different animators will interpret those very detailed instructions very differently and their personality comes into it. So, that was a surprise as well.

Q. Can you talk about the casting process? How did you arrive at George Clooney for Mr Fox?
Wes Anderson: Sometimes when I’ve been writing a script, I have an actor in mind. With this one, we were just thinking of animals until the script was done. As soon as we were finished, we wondered: “Who’s going to be Mr Fox?” And I thought Cary Grant would have been good! And within 20 seconds of thinking about Cary Grant, we were talking about George Clooney.

Q. Roald Dahl is often quoted as saying that he enjoyed scaring children? Did you make Fantastic Mr Fox less dark than it was, or did you enjoy scaring children?
Wes Anderson: I remember being scared by Roald Dahl and I loved that. I don’t think we made the story any darker but we tried to keep it as dark. When we were writing the script, our goal was to try to see if we could imagine how Dahl would have expanded it into a movie – that was our ideal. This is a movie where they’re not in danger of getting hurt, they’re in danger of getting killed, and that’s the way it is in the book. Mr Fox’s tail is shot off and it doesn’t grow back… so we kept that.

Q. Why did you take the decision to use American actors with American accents rather than British ones?
Wes Anderson: Noah Bambauch and I adapted the script together and we’re American and I feel like we work better writing American voices, so we decided that we would make all the animals Americans and the humans would be British. So, that’s the way we did it!

Read our review of Fantastic Mr Fox

Read our interview with George Clooney