Jacob: Will you go back to the stop-motion animation technique as a filmmaker? Could you see making another whole film that way?
Wes: I would like to. I don’t know what the prospects are for that. Fantastic Mr. Fox, it’s not like we broke the bank on that one. Or am I misusing that term? Broke the bank means you failed?
Jacob: Broke the bank would mean you spent a lot of money on it I think.
Wes: Well, we didn’t break the bank. The man who broke the bank at Monte Carlo, he won big. We didn’t do that.
Jacob: You mean the studio didn’t make out like a bandit on the film.
Wes: No one did. I don’t know. There could be a lot of reasons why. One is I think stop-motion is not the most broadly commercial sort of format anymore—or if it ever was.
Jacob: And also Fantastic Mr. Fox—while it happens to be my favorite children’s book, is not such a famous children’s book in America.
Wes: You’re right. But probably if DreamWorks adapted it as a CG thing, it would probably make it huge and people would go see it—and they wouldn’t have done it in stop-motion I think.
Jacob: Why were you drawn to that technique? It certainly afforded opportunity for your sense of style and the meticulousness of those scenes. When I was watching it, I kind of wanted to have the pause button so I could just look at that frame and all the things you put into it. Why did stop-motion appeal to you as a way to make a film?
Wes: I was always interested in stop-motion. I just like the kind of handmade feeling. It actually is handmade. I also always liked stop-motion that has a lot of texture in it. I think when it’s texture, you sense that you’re looking at miniatures and there’s something sort of magical about that to me.
Really, I always loved that book as a kid and somehow the two things together seemed like a perfect fit. That was really the beginning of it.
Jacob: Were you a Wallace & Gromit fan? Those are done in stop motion, aren’t they? But with clay.
Wes: I think I more got to know those after I started doing Mr. Fox because I was interested in that medium—especially the Creature Comforts that are also Aardman. They animated two interviews and those are my favorite of those. But the Wallace & Gromit also are great.
Jacob: I wanted to ask you also about Owen Wilson who, obviously, you’ve been close to personally in your whole career. We ran a piece in Slate once that argued, interestingly, that your films really changed when he stopped being your co-writer, which he was until Life Aquatic. On all the films until Life Aquatic—is that right?
Wes: Yes, that’s right.
Jacob: Do you think there was anything to that?
Wes: I don’t think so, no. Owen has been involved in lots of my movies since then in different ways.
Jacob: There’s almost always a co-writer credited under films – Noah Baumbach. I’m not sure about the new one, actually. Did you write it with anyone?
Wes: Yeah. The new one, I worked with Roman Coppola.
Jacob: How do you collaborate with another writer?
Wes: It depends on the situation. In the case of this new movie, I had been working on this script for a year and I wasn’t really getting it done and I asked Roman to come help me. A month after we started working together, we had a first draft of the thing—which was basically the movie. In the case of that, he just sort of helped me get it all straightened out and made into a story.
Jacob: Had you written a draft? Did you pass the draft back and forth or are you sitting together in a café saying, “This, no this, no this”?
Wes: In the case of this one, I had written the first 15 pages or something. He asked all the right questions about what was there and suggested what’s already happening here in a way I didn’t quite understand it. Then we spent the next weeks together just going scene by scene and making the script.
When Noah Baumbach and I worked together, we more started at the beginning and launched the things together. But I’ve had different kinds of ways of working. I think I’ve only worked with friends.
Jacob: People ask this often, but where do your ideas come from? Do you feel that you have a bank with your next ten ideas in some stage of formation or do you actually have a process by which you come up with an idea for a film?
Wes: I don’t know if I have any answer to that. Each one, at some point, I say, “I think this might be it,” and somewhere along the way when I’m not noticing, it becomes definitely the thing I’m going to work on. I don’t usually have an instant when I kind of stumble onto it, I guess.
Jacob: Wes, Conversations with Slate likes it here in Paris. I really want to thank you for joining us for an interview.
Wes: Thanks, Jacob. Thank you very much.
Jacob: We’re all looking forward to Moonrise Kingdom.
Wes: Great. Thanks for having me.
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