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‘A Monster Calls’ Director Says Film Is His ‘Love Letter to Fantasy’

At the New York premiere of “A Monster Calls,” held Wednesday night at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13 theater, actress Sigourney Weaver told Variety that while she appreciated that directors such as Joss Whedon (“Alien: Resurrection”), Greg Mottola (“Paul”), and “Monster”-helmer J. A. Bayona sought her out because of her “Aliens” and “Ghostbusters” pedigree, she never set out to be a genre queen.

“I never go out of my way to find a sci-fi film or a fantasy film, but the use of some of these elements to tell a story is absolutely apt,” she explained. “I think great literature has always involved a certain amount of fantasy and a lot of imagination. To me, these genre labels are not very helpful. Sci-fi is a genre that’s often dismissed, but some of our most interesting films, such as ‘District 9,’ come out of it.”

An adaptation of a popular children’s book by Patrick Ness, “A Monster Calls” tells the story of a young boy, played by Lewis MacDougall, who is comforted by a tree monster, voiced by Liam Neeson, after his mother becomes ill. “Nowadays, it’s tough to find something that deals with the world of childhood so seriously,” Bayona said, about why he was attracted to the project. “It reminded me of movies like ‘The NeverEnding Story’ or ‘E.T.,’ and I wanted to be the director of one of those.”

“I consider the movie almost a love letter to fantasy; it’s about how we need fantasy to understand reality,” he continued. “This is why we read books and why we go to the movies, because somehow books, they give us a better comprehension of life, more than life itself does.”

“A Monster Calls” opens in New York and Los Angeles on Dec. 23, and hits theaters nationwide on Jan. 6.

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