‘Fish’ tale brings Burton to fantasyland

Lohman plays younger version of Lange character

True to form, director Tim Burton’s latest film, “Big Fish,” takes place in a fantastical world.

Gregarious patriarch Edward Bloom (played by Albert Finney, and in flashbacks by Ewan McGregor) spins yarns about his mythical past, populated with encounters with giants and Siamese twins.

The only thing that keeps this eccentric grounded is his wife, played by Jessica Lange. When it came to casting her younger counterpart, veteran producer Richard D. Zanuck says the production team knew that Alison Lohman would be the ideal candidate.

“They look remarkably alike. But we had to cast someone who wasn’t only pretty but had great strength of character,” Zanuck explains. “In ‘White Oleander,’ Alison had such power and control and she held her own with some heavyweight actresses. Tim felt that way, too. We’re all quite taken with this girl.”

Speaking from the film’s set in Montgomery, Ala., Lohman says she’s eager to begin production. “My part’s small but I’m excited to get to work with Tim Burton.”

The actress is also relishing the chance to play a character so unlike herself.

“I’m such a tomboy but I’m going to play this very feminine 1950s sorority girl,” she says. “I just went to get my nails done today and I wear this big, blond hairdo. I’m nervous . I didn’t get to meet her (Lange) but I’m going to be able to get some footage of her to see what she’s done with the character.”

When told of the ingenue’s preshow jitters, Zanuck isn’t surprised.

“She hasn’t said that to us, but even old pros get nervous,” he says. “I’ve made six pictures with Paul Newman — the last being ‘Road to Perdition’ — and he was nervous on the first day when I went to see him in his trailer.

“Alison’s got a wide range and ability. I think she’s wonderful and we’re all thrilled to see her getting that award.”