An casting the complex role of Edward Bloom, master storyteller but absentee father, the filmmakers on director Tim Burton’s “Big Fish” had to face the challenge of finding two actors to play Bloom’s older and younger counterpart.
“Our casting director, Denise Chamian, found a magazine from 1997 with side-by-side photos of Ewan McGregor and Albert Finney from 1963 when he starred in ‘Tom Jones,’ ” says Oscar-winning producer Dan Jinks (“American Beauty”). “The resemblance was remarkable. (Producer) Bruce Cohen and I were certainly big proponents of the idea of catching the two of them as a pair.”
While Finney and McGregor never shared any screen time, they still bonded on the set, often working on their Southern fishing technique together to make sure it was authentic for the camera.
“Ewan is in awe of Albert as an actor,” explains Jinks. “They shared a great bond while filming.”
On screen, it’s a natural fit. Both characters have the same lust for adventure that makes the audience a virtual accomplice in their elaborate fabrications. But it’s Finney’s delicate handling of the elder Bloom confronting his mythmaking and his own mortality that gives the film its emotional pull.
“Talk about great storytellers,” Cohen says, “Albert Finney is one of those in real life. He’s an incredibly sweet and jovial raconteur and has all these wonderful stories of his life and career that he would always share with us.”
Starting with his startling turn as an angry young man playing Laurence Olivier’s son in “The Entertainer” (1960), Finney’s illustrious career includes such films as “Murder on the Orient Express,” “Shoot the Moon,” “Miller’s Crossing” and, most recently, the role of unlikely real-life hero Ed Masry in “Erin Brockovich.”
A native Brit, the 67-year-old Finney has been nominated for 12 BAFTA’s and five Academy Awards but has yet to hook one.
“It’s wonderful people are saying that this is one of the great roles of Albert’s career,” says Jinks. “He certainly deserves an Oscar and, who knows, maybe this time will be the charm.”
Coming attractions: “Joan of Arc: The Virgin Warrior”