'Fantastic Mr. Fox' A Showcase Of Anderson Favorites

'Fantastic Mr. Fox' director Wes Anderson stands in front of a promotional poster i i

Wes Anderson, director of the animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox, attends the October premiere of the film at AFI Fest 2009 in Los Angeles. Chris Pizzello/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Chris Pizzello/AP
'Fantastic Mr. Fox' director Wes Anderson stands in front of a promotional poster

Wes Anderson, director of the animated film Fantastic Mr. Fox, attends the October premiere of the film at AFI Fest 2009 in Los Angeles.

Chris Pizzello/AP

Wes Anderson's new film, Fantastic Mr. Fox, has wry, witty foxes and other forest creatures, voiced by the likes of George Clooney, Meryl Streep and Bill Murray, who make jokes and deals like urban sophisticates — then remind you that they really are wild animals. The film is funny, ironic and lushly depicted.

Anderson, who also directed The Royal Tenenbaums and Rushmore among others, says that when he set out to make an animated film, the story by Roald Dahl was the first thing that crossed his mind.

"It's the first book I ever technically owned, that was considered my property in our household," he tells Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon. "I've had this copy all my life."

He says Dahl never "wrote down" to children, and he tries to reflect that in the film. For example, he says, it has something that is probably not the first thing a movie studio looks for in a children's film: Latin.

"There's a sort of motif that involves a bit of Latin here and there. I think there are children who may go to the movie who do not know what Latin even is. But I think they can ask," says Anderson. "As a child, I was used to having things that I had to catch up to, and then I would become interested in them."

While Anderson cast himself in the film as a weasel, he cast his younger brother, Eric, as the athletic, well-rounded nephew of Mr. Fox. The nephew, Kristofferson, has a bit of a rivalry with Mr. Fox's son Ash, voiced by Jason Schwartzman, that wasn't part of the book. Anderson says that rivalry might reflect one of his own relationships, though not purposely.

"Eric says he thinks that it's based on my relationship with my older brother," says Anderson. "He was always taller, and he's very intelligent, and he was always better adjusted than I was. He's also very well-mannered and just always had it together. Now he's a doctor. ... I was a kind of grouchier, less well-adjusted child, so I think that might've been an inspiration without me ever thinking of it."

But he always had Eric in mind for the voice of that character, he says.

"He has a sort of gentility, a kind of courtliness about him that seemed like it could really suit that part" — which is a magnificent athlete, but also a scholar who meditates, does yoga, knows karate — and gets the girl fox, too.

The director knows his brother's work well; Eric, like fellow Mr. Fox cast mates Schwartzman, Murray and Owen Wilson, has appeared in other Wes Anderson films.

"I like working with my friends, and some of my friends are also some of my favorite actors in the world," says the director. "I've been lucky enough to get to know some of these people, and it's fun for me to work with them again."

Maybe he'll call on some of them again: There are rumors that he'd like to film a science-fiction movie on location — in outer space.

"But I don't actually know if the technology has reached that point yet, and I'm also afraid that if I wanted to do that, I'd have to submit the script to NASA or something," he jokes. "So I think it might be more trouble than it's worth."

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