How Were George Clooney And Bill Murray Cast In ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox’?

'When we were writing it, we were thinking of animals, so we didn't really think of actors,' director Wes Anderson says.

Wes Anderson is comfortable with his crew of Hollywood buddies, a bunch he started cobbling together along with college roommate Owen Wilson for his debut feature, “Bottle Rocket.” In subsequent movies, Anderson’s hipster squad grew to encompass Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray and others, as he continued to cast them in films like “The Royal Tenenbaums” and “The Darjeeling Limited.”

So when it comes to his first animated film, the stop-motion Roald Dahl adaptation “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” no one should be surprised that Wilson, Murray and Schwartzman lend their voices to the animal characters. But was it always going to be this way? Did Anderson have these actors in mind from the beginning, or did the decision to cast them develop later on? And how did Oscar winners like George Clooney and Meryl Streep sneak into this tight-knit group?

“When we were writing it, we were thinking of animals, so we didn’t really think of actors,” Anderson told MTV News. “It was after it was written that it was, ‘Well, OK, who’s it going to be?’ I quickly put together a wish list.”

Clooney topped that list and stepped into the role of Mr. Fox, a furry little guy suffering from a very human existential crisis as he questions his civilized life and yearns to indulge his baser instincts. Streep signed on to play Fox’s wife. Murray became Badger, Fox’s trusted adviser, while Schwartzman was tapped to become Fox’s son Ash .

“I remember Wes talking to me about playing a character in this, and he didn’t tell me which character I was going to play, so I had to guess, and I guessed Ash and I hoped Ash, because I like the guy,” Schwartzman told MTV News.

As much as he and fellow screenwriter Noah Baumbach (“The Squid and the Whale”) kept focused on the writing process, though, Anderson did admit to the occasional casting consideration. “I probably somewhere along the way thought, ‘We’ll see if Bill will want to play this and Jason will want to play this,’ ” he said. “But most of the time, when we were writing, I was picturing animals.”

That consideration, Murray said with a laugh after hearing his director’s assertion, is just the sort of thing that can aid an actor as he gets into character. “It helps that someone is picturing you as a powerful burrowing animal, if the director feels that way about you — just a savage beast,” he said.

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

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