'Fantastic Mr. Fox,' A Showcase Of Wes Anderson Favorites When Wes Anderson set out to make an animated film, he says, the first thing that crossed his mind was a favorite book by Roald Dahl that he's had since childhood. And for his lush, witty interpretation of Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson works again with some of his favorite actors: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman — and his own brother Eric.

'Fantastic Mr. Fox' A Showcase Of Anderson Favorites

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This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. Im Scott Simon.

Wes Anderson's new film, The 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're really wild animals.

(Soundbite of movie, "Fantastic Mr. Fox")

Mr. GEORGE CLOONEY (Actor): (as Mr. Fox): I understand what you're saying, and your comments are valuable. But I'm gonna ignore your advice.

Mr. BILL MURRAY (Actor): (as Mr. Badger) The cuss you are.

Mr. CLOONEY: (as Mr. Fox) The cuss am I? Are you cussing with me?

Mr. MURRAY: (as Mr. Badger) No, you cussing with me?

Mr. CLOONEY: (as Mr. Fox) Don't cuss and point at me.

Mr. MURRAY: (as Mr. Badger) If you're gonna cuss with someone, you're not gonna cuss with me, you little cuss.

Mr. CLOONEY: (as Mr. Fox) Don't cuss with me.

(Soundbite of fighting)

SIMON: George Clooney and Bill Murray in that clip. Mr. Fox is a newspaper nightlife columnist, although he's a fox, who buys what looks like a new co-op in a tree for his family because he's tired of living underground. Then he reverts to moonlight in his previous occupation - a snatcher of chickens and apples. The film is funny, ironic, lushly depicted, and fun.

Wes Anderson, the director, of course who's previously made "The Royal Tenenbaums," "Rushmore" and other films, joins us from Hollywood.

Thanks for so much for being with us.

Mr. WES ANDERSON (Director, "Fantastic Mr. Fox"): Thank you. Thank you.

SIMON: And it's based on a story by Roald Dahl, and I gather youve been fond of this story for a long time.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes. In fact, it's the first book I ever technically owned that was considered my property in our household. So I've had this copy all my life. So for me, when I thought I'd do an animated film, this was the first thing that crossed my mind.

SIMON: Nobody curses in this movie, as might have been obvious from that clip. The cuss I am. The cuss you are.


SIMON: So you're not reluctant to take a child to this animated film from that viewpoint. But is this really for children?

Mr. ANDERSON: I think it is. You know, I set out to make a children's film. It's based on a children's book and it's talking animals. It's a PG. I dont feel Dahl wrote down to children.

He for instance, the movie has something that is probably not the first thing that a movie studio looks for in a children's film, which is Latin. It has a certain amount of Latin.

You know, I kind of felt like, well...

SIMON: Names for the animals, we'll say.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, exactly. There's this sort of motif that involves a bit of Latin here and there. And I think there are children who may go to the movies who do not know what Latin even is. But I think they can ask. I feel like, as a child, I was used to having things that I had to catch up to and then I would become interested in them.

SIMON: You cast yourself as the weasel?

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, I did - the real estate agent.

SIMON: Yeah, so should we...

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Are we invited to read anything into that?

Mr. ANDERSON: Well, I'd rather not think so.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANDERSON: You know, that was - I think I got that part because I was there on the day that we were doing it, and we didnt have anybody else to cast for that so I played it. But I overlapped with George Clooney with the dialogue. So then it was, well, I guess we're stuck with me being that voice. But I think I was fine.

SIMON: You're very good, in fact. And you recorded the dialogue, the lines that the actors had, I guess often not in a studio.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, all the initial recordings we did on a farm in Connecticut, where we all got together and sort of had a summer camp kind of experience. We added scenes and added things and kind of expanded it all the way through. But the initial process all took place on this farm, where we recorded in a forest and by a stream and in a cellar, and kind of tried to make a documentary recording of the film.

SIMON: Let me ask you about the rivalry between cousins in the film too, between Ash - the son of George Clooney - and...


SIMON: ...Meryl Streep's character and Kristofferson. Jason Schwartzman is the voice of Ash. Your brother, Eric Anderson, is the voice of the rivalrous, much to be idolized cousin.


SIMON: I gather that wasnt in the book.

Mr. ANDERSON: Right.

SIMON: Anything going on here psychologically?

Mr. ANDERSON: Well, I dont know. But you know, my brother, Eric, he thinks that it's based on my relationship with my older brother. He was always taller and he's very intelligent. And it just - he was always better adjusted than I was. He's also very well-mannered and just always had it together. And now he's a doctor.

And I think I was a kind of grouchier, less well-adjusted child.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANDERSON: So I think that might have been an inspiration without me ever thinking of it. But I did always think that Eric, my younger brother, would be a great voice for that character because he has the sort of gentility, kind of courtliness about him that seemed like it could really suit that part.

SIMON: This is a Fox who is a magnificent athlete but also a scholar and meditates and does feel good.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, meditates.

SIMON: Does yoga.


(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANDERSON: And knows karate.

SIMON: And gets the girl fox too.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, thats right, thats right.

SIMON: We put the word out that were going to have the chance to interview you. Michael Vancise(ph) asks: Ask Wes he developed the attachment to certain actors, e.g. Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and who he likes for future films?

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, well, I like working with my friends, and some of my friends are also some of my favorite actors in the world. You know, I met Bill Murray because I wanted to work with him. Thats how I got to know him, was because he was one of my favorites. And Jason Schwartzman, for instance, I started working with Jason. (Unintelligible) I was searching for a year to cast them but for the movie I did, Rushmore, and I met him and instantly thought this is the right guy. So I met him as somebody who liked his work, you know, before he actually had any work, but his work at that point was the audition for me. I just feel Ive been lucky enough to get to know some of these people and its fun for me to work with them again.

SIMON: Bottle Rocket, your first film.


SIMON: Owen Wilsons character reveals that he has a 75-year plan sketched out in his spiral notebook.

Mr. ANDERSON: Right.

SIMON: Do you have a 75-year plan or even a 50-year plan?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. ANDERSON: I dont, but Ive always kind of worked on - some people will have many films that theyre developing and theyve got a sort of string of things that are ready to go. And I tend to find that I can only do one thing at a time. And so for me its always just - its just everything is this one project. And then its the next one after that, and thats sort of my - maybe Ill be able to find a way to think more long range, but so far thats been my way.

SIMON: And speaking of your next project, I have read that you would like to make your next project in outer space.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, I said that to somebody the other day but apparently the word has spread. I said that I would like to do a science fiction movie on location in space, but I dont actually know if the technology has reached that point yet. And Im also afraid that if, you know, that if I wanted to do that, Id have to submit the script to NASA or something. You know, Id be getting notes from the government on, you know, whether they thought it was funny enough or that sort of thing. So I think it might be more trouble than its worth.

SIMON: Well, youd have to take several hundred if not thousands of people up there, and nobody has done that yet.

Mr. ANDERSON: Yes, I mean, a lot of extra housing, extras in space, you know, I can see theres budgetary concerns immediately. And also the union issues, like what

SIMON: Oh, right.

Mr. ANDERSON: Whats the local? Im not sure.

SIMON: Well, but if you used extraterrestrials perhaps they would not either have a local or a different local where the rates might be

Mr. ANDERSON: Exactly, there are probably species where the right to work, you know, and we could - we wouldnt have any problems.

SIMON: Mr. Anderson, thanks so much.

Mr. ANDERSON: Thank you, thanks for having me. Very nice to talk with you.

SIMON: Wes Anderson. His latest film, The Fantastic Mr. Fox.

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