‘The Fantastic Mr. Fox’: Jason Schwartzman’s ‘Favorite’ Wes Anderson Film

'He brought the genre to him, instead of going to it,' the actor says of Anderson's approach to animation.

LOS ANGELES — If there’s one thing we’ve learned from all those “Ocean’s” movies, it’s that George Clooney has a lot of friends. Now the star has united another massive cast including Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman — although you won’t actually be seeing any of them.

Instead, “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” has even more impressive things to show you. As we can see from the recent trailer, the stop-motion animated film (in theaters November 13) is a unique mix of kiddie-fare breeziness (it’s based on a classic Roald Dahl children’s book), indie-minded filmmaking (“Rushmore” writer/director Wes Anderson is in charge) and star-powered vocal chops. As our weeklong Fall Movie Preview continues, Jason Schwartzman pays us a visit to explain why “Mr. Fox” makes him want to cry.

MTV: So, Jason, the trailer looks awesome. It’s not often that you can say, “I’ve never seen anything quite like that before.”

Jason Schwartzman: Oh, cool. It’s so awesome of you to say that.

MTV: How much of the movie have you seen?

Schwartzman: I’ve seen the whole thing. One thing that’s interesting is it’s not like Wes changed his approach to making a movie to cater to the technique of stop-motion animation — he just made his version of a stop-motion animated movie. He brought the genre to him, instead of going to it.

MTV: It looks as if Wes was somehow able to make a live-action film starring a fox, a skunk and barnyard creatures.

Schwartzman: Exactly. And you can quote yourself as if that were me saying it. [Laughs.]

MTV: We know it’s based on a Roald Dahl children’s book, but is the tone more for adults or kids?

Schwartzman: Both, really. The film is about embracing your inner animal and the thing that you’re good at. For instance, my character is a fox who thinks he’s very little. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it turns out the very thing that makes him feel like an outcast is the thing that helps some people out.

MTV: This is your first animated film, but I would think it’s much different than doing a “Shrek” or something.

Schwartzman: Well, when we did the first pass of it, Wes and I did it together in a studio, reading the entire script through all the way. And then, of course, we did it with George Clooney and Bill Murray live.

MTV: Wow. What was that like?

Schwartzman: What Wes wanted to do, which was incredible, was … typically, an animated film is made over a long period of time and the actors all record their lines separately over the course of many years, with very little interaction. The voices are recorded cleanly, and there’s a sheen to it. What Wes wanted to do was make it a little more rough, with more interaction, and make it feel more like a movie. So he had actors overlapping, cutting each other off, really giving us a sense of the people who were in the room together.

MTV: How many actors did he get together at one time?

Schwartzman: He got all the actors at one point — although Meryl Streep couldn’t come — but most of the actors, myself, Bill Murray, George Clooney and many others together. We all spent a week living together in a house, and the days were spent acting out the movie like a play. There was one guy running around with a boom microphone — none of us were mic’d — getting the sound in a crude, realistic, field-recording way. And that’s how we did the majority of the film.

MTV: What was it like running around in real life, pretending to be a cartoon character?

Schwartzman: It was fun. If there was a scene in the movie where George Clooney and I [as foxes] were running and then digging, Wes would say, “Action!” and then George and I would run down a hill, say our lines — and we’d dig!

MTV: Really?

Schwartzman: Yeah, we’d really get our hands dirty. There is another scene where I’m eating — and I was really chewing on something! There are also some emotional scenes where George and I are having intimate, heart-to-heart conversations. Those were all shot with he and I in a bedroom staring into each other’s eyes, playing out the scene as if we were on a real film set.

MTV: And what do you think this does for the movie in the long run?

Schwartzman: It gives the film a sense of interplay. It gives it a whole texture that I haven’t seen before in animation.

MTV: Give us your review — where does “Mr. Fox” stand in Wes Anderson’s body of work?

Schwartzman: This is my favorite one.

MTV: Those are strong words.

Schwartzman: Well, when the lights first came down and the movie came on, I almost wanted to start crying. That’s how beautiful it was. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It will appeal to the adults in children and the children in adults.

From the sexy Megan Fox in “Jennifer’s Body” to the black-clad warriors of “Ninja Assassin,” the MTV Movies team is delving into the hottest flicks of Fall 2009. Check back daily for exclusive clips, photos and interviews with the films’ biggest stars.

Check out everything we’ve got on “The Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

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