Ahead of the premiere of his Roald Dahl adaptation “The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar” at the Venice Film Festival, Wes Anderson weighed in on the controversial decision to edit a number of Roald Dahl books to remove language deemed to be offensive. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the “Asteroid City” filmmaker is not a fan.
“If you ask me if Renoir should be allowed to touch up one of his pictures, I would say no. It’s done,” he said during a press conference on Friday. “I don’t even want the artist to modify their work. I understand the motivation for it, but I’m in the school where when the piece of work is done we participate in it. We know it. So I think when it’s done, it’s done. And certainly, no one who is not an author should be modifying somebody’s book. He’s dead.”
Penguin Random House edited a number of Dahl’s books, including “Matilda” and “James and the Giant Peach,” to remove words deemed offensive like “fat” and “crazy.” In February of this year, the publisher announced that it would republish Dahl’s books in “classic” form – i.e. unedited – following the controversy.
“Henry Sugar” is the first of several short films Anderson has made based on Dahl books for Netflix, as he revealed at Venice that he has also completed adaptations of “The Swan,” “Poison” and “Ratcatcher.”
During the press conference, the filmmaker also briefly touched on the ongoing strikes, saying “I can’t say I have answers or real suggestions. An equitable deal has got to be reached for anybody to go forward. People are suffering.”
He was also asked about his distinct style, to which he responded he doesn’t feel like he approaches any of his films with a signature style in mind.
“I’m sure this doesn’t sound plausible, but I don’t really feel like I choose a style,” he said. “I guess a style is so many different choices and most of those choices are just me doing what I want. In a way, it’s like asking, would you like to do a movie not the way you want? And ideally, I’d want to do it the way I want.”
Anderson added that every time he does a movie he feels like he’s doing “something completely different,” but acknowledged there are certain characteristics to his filmmaking that are distinctly him. “I know there are so many things that link what I’m drawn to in general and I guess it is a thing you can see… it’s me.”
“The Wonderful World of Henry Sugar” opens in select theaters on Sept. 20 and hits Netflix on Sept. 27.
Wes Anderson talks about the recent news about Roald Dahl’s books being rewritten to remove language deemed offensive, saying that, while he understands the motivation, he believes when a piece of art “is done, it’s done” and nobody should be modifying it. pic.twitter.com/OlszsTKbNC
— Alex Ritman (@alexritman) September 1, 2023