The fantastic composer of Mr. Fox Alexandre Desplat on the joys of working with the “mischievous” Wes Anderson


It’s Wes Anderson Week at EW! Ahead of the October 22 release of The French dispatch, we celebrate the author’s singular filmography with a series of flashbacks celebrating his most beloved titles. Here, the composer Alexandre Desplat, one of Anderson’s frequent collaborators, discusses the creation of the childish – but not childish – score for Fantastic Mr. Fox.

When The French dispatch In theaters this Friday, it will commemorate the fifth collaboration between writer-director Wes Anderson and composer Alexandre Desplat.

The partnership has been successful, producing five beautiful and unique sheet music, three of which received Oscar nominations, including The Grand Hotel Budapest, which won the Oscar for Best Original Music.

On the eve of their fifth release, EW spoke to Desplat about the collaboration that started it all – the 2009s. Fantastic Mr. Fox. Below, the two-time Oscar winner looks back on his time working on the animated film and what he loves about working with ‘mischievous’ Anderson.

The beginnings

Paris-born Desplat says it all started with encounters between the two in a Parisian montage bay where Anderson, a known Francophile, was working on the film. “First of all, I was very lucky to meet Wes because he’s a great creator; he has a real world that only belongs to him,” Desplat explains. “It’s always a blessing for a composer to start working early on with a director who has so much personality, who loves music and uses your music so well. That’s where we started.” Desplat says he went into the initial talks without seeing the movie or the puppets used, but had read the original Roald Dahl novel the movie is based on, so he was familiar with the characters. Once he watched the movie and met Anderson, he realized the first thing the score would need to capture. “He’s very mischievous, and that’s something that when you start working with Wes, you first have to understand and capture,” he says.

The next order of the day was the melody. “I knew he wanted melodies, and in a way, something that would be childish, not childish, but childish, that would have a simplicity that would seem simple, but at the same time, not simplistic. is something you can make a scene with, ”Desplat explains.

The other issue to deal with at the start was the size of the orchestra. As Desplat explains, American animated films tend to have a large orchestra, but he felt “uncomfortable” with that idea because Mr. Fox had “those cute little puppets,” and he was worried that a large orchestra might dominate them. “I suggested that we write for a mini symphony orchestra, but with many instruments, and we chose baby instruments if I can put it that way – a string quartet or a string quintet and not an orchestra. full string, the brass section but with only one instrument piece per section, etc, etc. Percussion, we only used small percussions – glockenspiels, triangles, small pieces – and that created a very intimate sound that could sound quite big, or maybe medium-big, but different from what the symphony orchestra does. would be, ”he said. “So the simplicity of the melodies, the little instruments, it all created a very different sound that was very exciting for us. And that’s where we started.”

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“Boggis, Bunce and Bean”

Working for the first time with the director, Desplat remembers “having discovered [Anderson’s] intelligence, his virtuosity, his passion for cinema, his love of music, and again, how mischievous he can be. Gambon), sound like Dahl as a fun nod to the film’s source material. Another fond memory is the recording of the number “Boggis, Bunce and Bean”, which features a boy choir. To ease the nerves of the young singers, Anderson actually brought all of the puppets from the movie to the recording studio. “It was a great moment because Wes had brought all of the puppets in the movie to show the boys so they weren’t nervous and they could be relaxed and enjoy the moment,” he says. “These boys were maybe 8 to 11, so the perfect age to enjoy the movie and at the same time appreciate the characters. And so that’s the kind of work we do with Wes.”

A star (hissing) is born

Not only was Fantastic Mr. Fox it was the first time that Desplat worked with Anderson, but it was also the first time that the composer appeared in some sort of lead role in one of his scores.

“There’s a character that’s a bad rat, and we decided to do a song with a whistle for him, which I actually whistled. It was my debut in American cinema as a whistle, in which I dived again for The shape of water, in which I whistled the main title, “he reveals.” It’s another fun thing to do, you know, because there isn’t a lot of whistling in movies in general. There were some in the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s sometimes. Again, that’s part of the fun and childish nature of the movie. “

Wes Anderson and Alexandre Desplat

Wes Anderson and Alexandre Desplat

Stéphane Cardinale / Corbis via Getty Images Wes Anderson (left) and Alexandre Desplat

A lasting friendship

When all has been said and done, Desplat says it only took him about a week to compose Anderson’s score, a feat he attributes to the fact that they are both on the same length of time. ‘wave. “It seems like there is a connection, which is artistically very effective – it comes from both of us very quickly,” he says. It is also a place of trust between the two creators. Desplat likens it to painting a blank canvas with any color he likes. “The canvas is blank, and I can do whatever I can think of as long as it fits the movie. Wes wants me to try things that we haven’t experienced yet. Could it be using 10 saxophones, or an altar boy, or whatever, you can try and experiment, and it’s always fun. That’s the point, to have fun experimenting together, “he says.

Desplat says his other goal for Mr. Fox was to create a sound never heard before in a moving image, which he believes he accomplished. It was also the start of a wonderful friendship. “It worked. I think we created a friendship that still lasts today,” he said, adding, “it’s crazy how many movies we’ve done together, and next time it will be wonderful too. . “

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