One of the delights of Wes Anderson’s adaptations of Roald Dahl’s short stories for Netflix is his recreation of Dahl’s famous writing shed, with Ralph Fiennes playing Dahl.
Anderson had stayed at Dahl’s house while he was making Fantastic Mr. Fox.
“It was a dazzling thing,” he said in a recent NYTimes interview. “It’s the house of somebody who has a very strong sense of how he wants things to be.”
I remember the dinner table, a great big table with normal chairs, but at the end of it is an armchair — not a normal thing at a dinner table — with a telephone, a little cart with pencils and notebooks, some stacked books. Essentially, “You can all eat here, and this is where I sit and have everything I want.” Also, he bought art and he had a good eye. I remember there’s a portrait of Lucian Freud by Francis Bacon next to a portrait of Francis Bacon by Lucian Freud. The place is filled with interesting things to look at.
He also got a look at the writing hut, “still filled with his things and left the way he had it.”
There was a table with all these sort of talismans, little items laid out, which I think he just liked to have next to him when he was writing. He had this ball that looks like a shot put, made of the foil wrappers of these chocolates he would eat every day. He’d had a hip replacement, and one of the talismans was his original hip bone. And there was a hole cut in the back of his armchair because he had a bad back. It is odd to have somebody write in a way that’s sort of cinematic.
Here’s a 1982 interview with Dahl (including him sitting down to write in his shed) from the BBC Archives:
I really loved the adaptations — I watched “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” first, and then I read the original stories of “The Swan,” “The Ratcatcher,” and “Poison” that night, then I watched each short the night they came out. They’re nasty little stories, like a lot of Dahl’s work, and that nastiness matched with Anderson’s visual sweetness makes for delicious confections.
It’s a little baffling to me what a non-event the release of these short films has been. I agree with Richard Brody: “Though the Netflix release of Anderson’s four Dahl adaptations is a wondrous bounty, they deserve screenings and a DVD compilation as the unified feature that they implicitly are.”