Roald Dahl shouldn’t be touched, director Wes Anderson tells Venice

VENICE (Reuters) – The books of Roald Dahl should not be bowdlerised, U.S. director Wes Anderson said on Friday, as he presented his latest film adaptation of a book by the British author – “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar”.

The publisher of the famed children’s novelist caused a stir earlier this year when it emerged that new editions of his books had removed or changed references to gender, race and physical appearance to avoid causing offence.

Looking to quell the outcry, publisher Puffin said it would put out the books again later this year uncensored. Anderson said all original art should be left unmolested.

“I’m probably the worst person to ask about this because, you know, if you ask me, should Renoir be allowed to touch up one of his pictures and modify it? I would say, no,” he told reporters at the Venice Film Festival.

“Certainly no one who’s not an author should be modifying somebody’s book. He’s dead,” said Anderson, who has had a busy year having just presented his last film “Asteroid City” at the Cannes Film Festival.

“Henry Sugar” is the second Dahl book that Anderson has brought to the screen, following his hugely successful 2009 stop-motion animated movie “Fantastic Mr. Fox”.

Unlike that picture, “Henry Sugar” is not a full-length film, rather a 40-minute feature, and has real-life actors, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel and Ben Kingsley, with Ralph Fiennes playing the part of the author.

It will show on the streamer Netflix, which bought the rights in 2021 to adapt Roald Dahl stories.

“In a way, it’s almost more like a little theatrical presentation that we found a way to film,” said Anderson, explaining he had taken years to decide how to shoot the story.

He revealed that he had completed several other short versions of Dahl’s stories, including “Poison”, “The Ratcatcher” and “The Swan”, which stars British actor Rupert Friend.

“They’re all strange, but I don’t really have any other ones in mind,” said Anderson, adding: “I have some things brewing, but that might be it on Dahl at the moment.”

(Reporting by Hanna Rantala; Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Alison Williams)