Wes Anderson announced in an interview with IndieWire that his upcoming Netflix movie “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar,” based on Roald Dahl’s 1977 short story collection, will only be 37 minutes long. The film is Anderson’s second Dahl adaptation after “Fantastic Mr. Fox” and stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Ralph Fiennes, Dev Patel and Ben Kingsley. Notably, “Henry Sugar” marks Anderson’s first Netflix original. He told IndieWire that collaborating with the streamer was more out of necessity than personal preference.
“In my case it’s a little bit of a weird thing,” Anderson said about partnering with Netflix. “I knew Roald Dahl since before we made ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox.’ I met Lindsay Dahl, his widow, when we were shooting ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ like 20 years ago. For years I wanted to do ‘Henry Sugar.’ They set this story aside for me because I was friends with them. Lindsay kind of handed the torch to Luke, Dahl’s grandson. So I had this waiting for me. But I really couldn’t figure out the approach. I knew what I liked in the story was the writing of it, Dahl’s words. I couldn’t find the answer, and then suddenly I did. It’s not a feature film. It’s like 37 minutes or something. But by the time I was ready to do it, the Dahl family no longer had the rights at all. They had sold the whole deal to Netflix.”
“Suddenly, in essence, there was nowhere else you could do it since they own it,” Anderson continued. “But beyond it, because it’s a 37-minute movie, it was the perfect place to do it because it’s not really a movie. You know they used to do these BBC things called ‘Play for Today’ directed by people like Steven Frears and John Schlesinger and Alan Clarke. They were one hour programs or even less. I kind of envisioned something like that.”
It appears “Henry Sugar” will be more akin to Anderson’s 2007 short film “Hotel Chevelier,” a 13-minute prologue to his feature film “The Darjeeling Limited” that starred Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman.
“It’s not quite the choice between a full-fledged cinema release and a streaming release because you would never distribute a short film like that and distribute it in cinemas,” Anderson said about his “Henry Sugar” adaptation. “They’d have to sell cheaper tickets or do a double feature… I had only a good experience with Netflix, but I’m very happy to be putting ‘Asteroid City’ in cinemas. Focus and Universal are doing it the real cinema way. That’s the way I really want my movies to be shown.”
First published in 1977, Dahl’s “Henry Sugar” is a collection of seven short stories. Cumberbatch is playing Henry Sugar, the protagonist of the titular story, which poses the question: “If you could see with your eyes closed… would you use your power for good or for personal gain?” Netflix acquired the Roald Dahl Story Company in September 2021.
“Asteroid City” is Anderson’s latest directorial effort and opens exclusively in theaters June 16. “Henry Sugar” is expected to arrive on Netflix in the fall.