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Wes Anderson Beams With Joy as 40-Minute ‘Henry Sugar’ Delights Venice With Four-Minute Standing Ovation

Wes Anderson beamed with joy as his 40-minute short film “The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” received a nearly 4-minute standing ovation at its Venice Film Festival premiere.

Prior to the screening, Anderson was given Cartier’s Glory to the Filmmaker Award, which was presented to him by his frequent collaborator Alexandre Desplat. Anderson humbly accepted the honor, remarking that he had researched the award in advance and observed that it had been given to filmmakers “at their premieres of some of their worst movies.”

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“I hope I’m not going to repeat that,” he wisecracked.

After the quirky comedy — starring Ralph Fiennes, Benedict Cumberbatch and Dev Patel — played its end credits, it became clear that Anderson had not joined that list of worst movies, but he continued to convey humility, bashfully waving goodbye to the crowd before the applause had fully ceased.

Based on Roald Dahl’s 1977 short story collection, “The Wonder Story of Henry Sugar” is an anthology film made up of several short films: “Henry Sugar,” “The Swan,” “Poison” and “The Ratcatcher.” The project is notable for being Anderson’s first with Netflix. It’s also his second Dahl adaptation after his beloved stop-motion film “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

Friend previously told Variety that he appears in “The Swan” and “Ratcatcher.”

“Wes took four of [Dahl’s stories] and put together a smaller troupe of actors: myself, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Kingsley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dev Patel and Richard Ayoade,” Friend said. “We each play in around two of the stories and kind of change roles. I think Ralph might be in all of them.”

Anderson previously spoke to IndieWire about teaming up with Netflix for the first time despite his preference for theatrical exhibition.

“In my case it’s a little bit of a weird thing,” Anderson said. “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.”

“Henry Sugar” is Anderson’s second world premiere of the year following “Asteroid City,” a feature film that world premiered in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in May. The film went on to earn $48 million at the worldwide box office and is now available to stream on Peacock. “Henry Sugar” premiered out of competition at Venice, but it was one of several movies Netflix brought to the 2023 festival. Pablo Larrain’s “El Conde,” David Fincher’s “The Killer” and Bradley Cooper’s “Maestro” all premiered in competition.

“The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar” will debut Sept. 27 on Netflix.

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