It’s been a decade since Noonan was Oscar nominated for helming and co-writing “Babe.” The director says he got a bit typecast. “Since ‘Babe,’ I was offered any film that contained animals,” he says. “I didn’t want to repeat the exercise of ‘Babe.’ “
Though this new pic, about British children’s author Beatrix Potter, features animals that come to life, they’re not the main characters. “This film is all about humans, and that’s where the passion and focus of the story lies. Animals are a witty adjunct to it.”
Noonan came to “Potter” thanks to fellow Aussie Cate Blanchett, who suggested the helmer when she was briefly attached to the project. Eventually the pic was cast with Renee Zellweger toplining, and Ewan McGregor and Emily Watson. “I got a cast to die for,” Noonan says.
The helmer, who workshopped and rehearsed with his actors for two weeks before shooting began, admits he was “a little bit nervous about going into a full-on human production.” But he says the thesps jumped right into a collaborative process. “It’s what everyone loved and what I love,” says Noonan, who brought in historians and etiquette specialists to familiarize his cast with Potter’s time. “I wanted everyone to immerse themselves in this period, the social mores. How did people greet each other? What were the subjects of discussion of the time? I wanted everyone to be very au fait with all of that.”
Noonan made sure all his craftspeople were included in the history sessions, too. “All of us in the movie business are creative fantasists. We might as well be creating the same fantasy, so that we’re all creating the same film.”