October 14, 2009 / 8:49 AM / 8 years ago

Animated Clooney kicks off London film festival

<p>George Clooney (L) jokes with musician Jarvis Cocker as they arrive to speak about their new film "Fantastic Mr. Fox" in London, October 14, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Wes Anderson’s animation movie “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” starring George Clooney as the voice of the eponymous hero, has its world premiere on Wednesday on the opening night of the London film festival.

The annual event, which runs for 16 days and is attempting to compete with major international festivals like Toronto, Venice and Cannes, will screen around 200 feature films, although the majority have already been shown elsewhere.

Fantastic Mr. Fox guarantees a star-studded red carpet gala screening, with Clooney expected to be joined in central London by Meryl Streep and Bill Murray among others.

The movie is an adaptation of Roald Dahl’s popular tale of the same name, and tells the story of how Mr. Fox’s animal instincts get the better of him and threaten to disrupt his idyllic family life.

Trapped underground with not enough food to go around, the Fox family and animal friends band together to fight against evil farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean, who are determined to capture the audacious fox at any cost.

“This was actually the first book I personally owned,” Anderson told reporters. “It was a book I loved as a child and also it introduced me to Roald Dahl’s works in general, so it made a big impression on me.”

He first approached Dahl’s widow about 10 years ago to get the rights to make a movie, and was determined to stay true to the dark side of the original.

“I remember being scared by Roald Dahl and I loved that,” said the director best known for comedies like “Rushmore” and “The Royal Tenenbaums.” Fantastic Mr. Fox sees him team up with regular collaborators Murray and Jason Schwartzman.

“I don’t think we made it any darker, but we tried to keep it as dark. It’s a movie where they’re not in danger of getting hurt, they are in danger of getting killed, and that’s the way it is in the book.”

TONGUE IN CHEEK

<p>George Clooney poses for photographers as arrives to speak about his new film "Fantastic Mr. Fox" in London, October 14, 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>

When he read the script, Clooney was unsure exactly what audience Anderson was aiming for, telling the director: “I don’t know who will see it, though, as it’s sort of made for grown ups and sort of made for kids.”

Murray, in his trademark deadpan style, spoke of playing the part of badger.

“Channeling the badger,” he joked. “We’ve all got a little critter in us and when cornered we can fight ferociously and sometimes we burrow deep, deep, deep to get away from all these people and be safe.”

Slideshow (2 Images)

When asked what he thought the message of the film was, Clooney replied: “Stealing is good.”

And British singer Jarvis Cocker, who has a small part in the movie, spoke of his experience providing the voice:

“That line I put everything into. I hope that when you see the film you will be able to sense the preparation and the pain that went into doing it.”

Anderson adopted classic stop-motion animation techniques rather than computer-generated action, and the work was carried out at Three Mills Studios in East London.

Anderson, who was often abroad during the film’s production, used computer technology that beamed live feeds from the various animation stages to wherever he was in the world.

Fantastic Mr. Fox opens in Britain on October 23 and in the United States on November 13. It is being released by 20th Century Fox, a unit of News Corp.

The festival’s closing film, with its world premiere on October 29, is artist Sam Taylor-Wood’s debut feature “Nowhere Boy,” about John Lennon’s formative years.

Editing by Paul Casciato

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