The director of Charlotte’s Web Gary Winick admits he cringed when he had to ask screen legend Robert Redford to overact.
“Overacting is not something Robert Redford is known for,” he says. “I’ve had a pretty good relationship with him through Sundance (film festival) and through a joint project we were working on.
“But he’s kind of one of our best actors, and it’s all about his subtlety.”
In the live-action version of E.B. White’s beloved story first published in 1952, with sales of 45 million copies since, Redford (Ike, the cranky old workhorse) joined actors such as Julia Roberts (Charlotte the spider), Thomas Haden Church (a corn-obsessed crow), Steve Buscemi (a likeable rat), John Cleese (Samuel, a sheep) and Oprah Winfrey (Gussy, a goose) in providing their voices for the film’s “comic chorus” of barnyard animals.
In the second film based on the bestseller – the first was an all-animation made in 1973 – 12-year-old Dakota Fanning plays Fern, who befriends a pig, Wilbur (voiced by child actor Dominic Scott Kay) and learns a lot about friendship.
Winick, speaking from Melbourne the morning after the world premiere of the holiday-season release which was filmed in Victoria, said he’d initially taken the wrong approach with his voice talent cast who recorded their roles in Los Angeles.
“They had to do more with their voices because we weren’t watching them on screen, so I actually had to tell Bob he needed to overact,” Winick said. “To go over the top was probably a first for him. But I think it was a lot of fun. And it’s fun to hear him as Ike in the movie because Bob really goes for it. We thought outside the box when it came to organising the voice talent.”