I missed last week's Movie Trivia because I was on vacation, so I figured I'd make up for it today by doing a Tim Burton double feature. First up? Big Fish. If you haven't seen it, it's about William, a son (Billy Crudup) coming to terms with his relationship with his dying father (Albert Finney), who is prone to telling tall tales. William spends the movie sorting through his dad's legends, trying to figure out which ones are real and which ones are just the products of an overactive imagination. His mom is played by Jessica Lange, and the younger versions of his parents are played by Ewan McGregor and Alison Lohman.
The movie was based on a 1998 book by Daniel Wallace called Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions.
There's a parallel between the movie and what was going on in Burton's own life at the time - his father had died two years earlier and his mother died just one month before he accepted the directing job. He said that filming the movie and thinking about father-son relationships and death was really cathartic for him.
Most of the scenes were shot on location in Wetumpka, Alabama, and Prattville, Alabama. Jack Nicholson was the first choice to play Edward Bloom - both the older and younger versions. They were going to use computers to make him look younger so he could play the younger Edward. Burton has said that it became clear who to cast when he came across the pairing of Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney because the two of them seemed to have some sort of a spiritual connection that would be perfect for the movie.
Steven Spielberg was originally slated to direct as of 2000, but as the script went through several re-writer, Spielberg became engrossed in other projects. By the time the third draft was done, the directing job ended up in Burton's hands. Most of the scenes were shot on location in Wetumpka, Alabama, and Prattville, Alabama.
Matthew McGrory, who played Karl the Giant, was once in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the the largest feet in the world - size 29.5. Sadly, Matthew passed away in 2005. He was 7'6" and only 32 years old at the time of his death.
The banjo player that you see when Ed first walks into Spectre is the same actor who played the banjo-playing kid in Deliverance. When we see Steve Buscemi's (Norther Winslow) poem about Spectre - "Grass so green/skies so blue/Spectre is really great! - that's actually Tim Burton's handwriting. Somewhat surprisingly, Tim Burton hates the circus and is afraid of clowns. I knew there was a reason I liked him.
The guy who plays "Colossus" in the first circus scene is actually a circus performer. In the book, the town of Spectre was depicted as incredibly dark and creepy. Tim Burton put his own spin on this and compared his version of Spectre to Burbank - it may look idyllic and sweet (and rather technicolor), but there's something sinister lurking just beneath.
Alison Lohman was cast as Sandra Templeton Bloom because Tim Burton loved her silent movie-esque looks and felt that she was able to convey a whole range of emotions even when she was just standing still.
The part where the elephant takes a massive crap was, obviously, not scripted. Instead of calling that take a loss, Ewan McGregor just acted through it. The cast and crew thought the take with the elephant pooing in the background was hilarious, so it was kept in the final cut.
Ewan McGregor really did get to hang out in a cage with a lion when he filmed the scenes of him performing menial tasks around the circus. He also really learned Cantonese for the scene where he talks to the conjoined twins. I mean, just a couple of lines of Cantonese, but still...
Tim Burton has a very brief cameo - literally a blink-and-you'll-miss-it situation. When the ringleader (Danny DeVito) and Edward Bloom burst out of his trailer because Calloway is morphing into a werewolf, keep your eye on the clowns that immediately scatter from their card-playing table. One of them is Tim.
Speaking of which, in case you're wondering, that's really Danny DeVito in the buff. No stunt doubles were required.
Another brief cameo: the author of the book, Daniel Wallace, can be seen as Sandra's professor at Auburn. If Sandra's fiance (and Edward's rival) looks familiar, I'd be willing to bet it's because you know him as a slightly scruffier character: Roy on The Office. Poor dude is always getting his fiance stolen!
In the scene where Sandra opens the window to find Edward standing there in a field of daffodils that he planted for her, you're really looking at daffodils. They weren't digitally added in later. Tim Burton explains that his crew spent an entire weekend digging and planting and replanting when they didn't look right, but he felt that it was extremely important to the reality of the scene.
Check out Jessica Lange's outfit at the end of the movie during the funeral scene. Her character, Sandra, is the only one dressed in red. This is supposed to be symbolic of the fact that she was quirky and individualistic and the perfect match for Ed Bloom, who wouldn't want her to be dressed in mourning black anyway.
Eddie Vedder composed "Man of the Hour," the song that runs during the credits, after watching an early screening of the movie and adoring it. He apparently went home and wrote the music, had a demo for the band the next day and recorded it with them five days later.