Wes Anderson on his 'Fox' cinematographer: 'I could work with him again'
Wes Anderson called me this morning to talk about "Fantastic Mr. Fox," which in my mind is his best film since "The Royal Tenenbaums," and especially fascinating, since it's an adaptation of Roald Dahl's children's book classic that still remains stubbornly, and distinctively, a quirky Wes Anderson film.
I'll be writing more about it in the coming days. But I felt that some air needed to be cleared after the media rumpus caused by my colleague Chris Lee's story, which quoted Tristan Oliver, the film's director of photography, as calling Anderson "a little sociopathic," adding that he suspected the filmmaker was "a little O.C.D. Contact with people disturbs him."
It's not unusual for filmmakers, actors and crew members to squabble during the course of making a movie -- the media was entranced a year ago by a video of Christian Bale having a meltdown after his cinematographer distracted him during a take in the midst of making "Terminator Salvation." But crew members aren't usually willing to share their beefs with reporters visiting the set. So I asked Anderson why or how his relationship with Oliver had gone so sour?
"It was just a cumulative thing I guess," he told me. "For the first half of the movie, we always had these polite exchanges. He's very reserved, so it wasn't such a big deal. But Tristan is very stubborn, and I was forcing him to do things in a very different way, so it took us a long time for us to get into sync. It's not crazy for him to be upset, since you're in the middle of the stress of production and the crew is dealing with a director who won't take no for an answer. But you don't go and air your differences to a reporter. That's unprofessional."
Anderson was especially unhappy because he worries that the flap over the dispute may have soiled the movie's image. "It's embarrassing because it's the first thing people are reading about our movie and suddenly they're reading this ridiculous thing about me being a sociopath, even if I would argue that the word has a somewhat different meaning in England than in America."
Has the uproar destroyed any possibility of him working again with Oliver, who was the director of photography on "Chicken Run" and a host of "Wallace & Gromit" animation films? "Actually, not," he says. "I'm annoyed, but Tristan is really good and I like him and I could go back and work with him again."
It turns out Anderson doesn't just have a finely honed appreciation for Oliver's talents as a director of photography. "Did you know that he's also been an actor?" he asked. It turns out that Oliver played a relatively major role in "Another Country," a 1984 film that stars Rupert Everett as a young British schoolboy who, when he grows up, becomes a Russian spy." "Tristan is very good in the movie. He's the villain. He plays the guy who rats on Rupert Everett."
I wondered if Anderson was slyly suggesting that Oliver's villainous acting role was somehow related to his negative sniping about the filmmaker. "Oh, no," he said with a laugh. "I'm just saying that he's a good actor too. I don't think it was an autobiographical part."
Photo of Wes Anderson on the set of "Fantastic Mr. Fox" by Greg Williams / Fox Searchlight Pictures.