Fantastic Mr Balaban

Bob Balaban on Wes Anderson, David O. Russell and François Truffaut

by Anne-Katrin Titze

Bob Balaban with Celia Weston at La Grenouille
Bob Balaban with Celia Weston at La Grenouille Photo: Anne-Katrin Titze

At the La Grenouille celebration for David O. Russell's Joy with Robert De Niro, Bradley Cooper, Isabella Rossellini, Elisabeth Röhm, Dascha Polanco, David O. Russell, Diane Ladd and Virginia Madsen, Bob Balaban, the narrator of Wes Anderson's Moonrise Kingdom and Kent Jones' documentary Hitchcock/Truffaut shared memories of working with François Truffaut on Steven Spielberg's Close Encounters Of The Third Kind with me. Bob recalled meeting the Spanking the Monkey director, when he was filming The Last Good Time with Armin Mueller-Stahl and Maureen Stapleton and unfortunately, having never met Alfred Hitchcock.

When I told him that I was presenting Fantastic Mr. Fox at the Alliance Française later that afternoon, he exclaimed "Oh, mon dieu! I love that movie!"

Fantastic Mr. Fox event poster at the Alliance Française
Fantastic Mr. Fox event poster at the Alliance Française

Anne-Katrin Titze: I very much liked your narration in Hitchcock/Truffaut. Kent [Jones] told me that you were friends with Truffaut.

Bob Balaban: I was. We worked on Close Encounters Of The Third Kind together where I played his interpreter [David Laughlin]. And from time to time, my French actually improved during the filming of the movie and I actually was his interpreter for a while.

AKT: Did you enjoy working on Hitchcock/Truffaut, on Kent's film?

BB: It was actually really fun because Truffaut had talked to me a bit about how he worked with Hitchcock and how it came to be and this experience. So it felt very comfortable for me. I never met Alfred Hitchcock but he is certainly somebody we all admire enormously. I certainly do. But simply to be a little bit close to Truffaut, if only talking about him a little bit while working on this movie was wonderful, because I miss him. I just loved him.

AKT: We all would have loved to have him here longer. Right after this lunch, I will be walking over to the Alliance Française, where I am going to introduce a screening of Fantastic Mr. Fox.

BB: Oh, mon dieu! I love that movie!

AKT: In my introduction, I am actually mentioning you because right now, Wes [Anderson] is doing his second stop-motion movie.

BB: Yes!

AKT: I've heard you were involved. Is there anything you can tell me about it?

Bob Balaban, the narrator in Moonrise Kingdom
Bob Balaban, the narrator in Moonrise Kingdom

BB: I can't tell you anything about it. I could be excommunicated. I can only tell you that I think it will be wonderful and it's incredibly unique and different from anything he's ever done - which is generally true about whatever he does.

AKT: You don't have to say anything, just nod your head. Is it about dogs?

BB: I could neither confirm nor deny!

AKT: Japanese? Dogs? Bryan Cranston? You can't give me anything more on this, I see. What is your connection to Joy?

BB: I loved the movie and I'm a great fan and an acquaintance of David O. Russell.

AKT: How did you become acquainted?

BB: We met ten or 15 years ago. We played charades and I run into him once in a while and I really enjoy him. And I love his work. His first movie and one of the first movies I directed were both produced by the same little production company in New York. I encountered him during Spanking The Monkey, actually. So, I vaguely know him through the years and I love his work.

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