Fantastic Mr. Fox Goes to London
Meanwhile, George Clooney was jovial if unrevealing in his comments at the press conference: "I just did it for the paycheck-- the money. But it was also the chance to work with Wes, which really appealed to me." He added that, after accepting the role, he told Anderson that he had no idea who the audience was going to be: a backhanded testament to its idiosyncratic nature.
Bill Murray, who plays Badger, the attorney, nevertheless complimented Clooney "by playing a great character that everyone could [rally around]."
Murray saved the best compliment, though, for the animators: "I've never been with so many talented people at one place. They do things here with sets, design, building models that Americans can only dream about. We could put a man on the moon but we could not make this movie."
But chatting with Anderson and some of his colleagues at the Dahl estate and nearby Nag's Head Pub (which is featured in the movie), allowed us to delve deeper into the making of Fantastic Mr. Fox. The bucolic environment was beautiful and the balmy weather on Tuesday would've made rainy L.A. envious. You can sense why the director was so inspired when actually writing on the estate, channeling Dahl and soaking up the vibe of Great Missenden, thanks to the support of Dahl's widow, Felicity (Liccy) Dahl.
"I loved the character of Mr. Fox," Anderson offered. "I loved digging. The whole idea of him tunneling under and connecting these farms [was fascinating]… My goal as we were writing the film [with Noah Baumbach] was always to make it Dahl. If it's Andersonian, it's only a little."
Dahl admitted that Anderson is a kindred spirit of her late husband. "I knew he was a very interesting director. I think what influenced me most was the passion for the book… I think the big risk is when you take a small that has to be enlarged to make a film and that has to be in the hands of somebody who really understands the essence of the book. I don't know why, but I instinctively knew that Wes has that."
Still, Anderson needed to come up with a suitable narrative to justify a feature. "The thing that sort of emerged as we were writing thematically was the idea that they're wild animals," he explained. "And the Latin names to have something provable about their DNA -- and some sort of metaphor similar to that. Writing there went from adapting the book to being about Dahl and his whole world and personality."
Anderson's whole approach to stop-motion was to embrace imperfection, the way Starevich did or Willis O'Brien or Ray Harryhausen. It revolves around fur and shooting predominantly on 2s.
"I always wanted to do it in stop-motion. I had done a little in The Life Aquatic. Henry Selick did that and we had talked about doing Mr. Fox together. And then he couldn't do it because of Coraline. And, in a way, it's probably good because, first of all, Coraline is his movie, and, second, I didn't know what the process was going to be like and I ended up wanting to be more involved with the movie in a moment to moment way than I had expected to be. And that probably would've been quite frustrating. And Henry probably would've had a fit at a certain point.
"I think with stop-motion and our budget, I was more interested in animation that would be funny and energetic and spontaneous. It has fur and that prevents it from being pristine -- it just can't be."