Di­rec­tor Noam Murro takes us down the rab­bit hole of his all-star Water­ship Down re­boot

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Rab­bit, yup, yup, yup, rab­bit, rab­bit, bunny, rab­bit, rab­bit, yup, rab­bit.

“i didn’t see Water­ship Down as a child so I didn’t have the op­por­tu­nity to be shell­shocked by it. I guess I’m the anom­aly,” laughs Noam Murro, di­rec­tor of this month’s glossy an­i­mated re­visit of Richard Adams’ sem­i­nal chil­dren’s book. This joint Christ­mas present from the BBC and Net­flix marks the first ma­jor retelling of Adams’ po­lit­i­cally charged tale of rab­bits seek­ing so­lace amid the perils of man and na­ture. It fol­lows Martin Rosen’s no­to­ri­ously bloody and haunt­ing 1978 edi­tion, which fea­tured the voices of John Hurt and Richard Bri­ers.

Cut to 2018 and James McAvoy, Ni­cholas Hoult, Rosamund Pike and Sir Ben Kings­ley are among the im­pres­sive line-up of tal­ent lead­ing Murro’s new four-episode se­ries. Im­pres­sive – but it was an easy sell for all in­volved.

“Ev­ery­one who par­tic­i­pated had an in­cred­i­ble un­der­stand­ing of the ma­te­rial, its im­por­tance and their re­la­tion­ship as chil­dren, adults and as Bri­tish to this text,” Mur­row tells Red Alert a few weeks be­fore the show’s Christ­mas de­but. “James was the first to be ap­proached and when he re­ceived the script he was wear­ing an old Water­ship Down t-shirt. He’d stud­ied it and had a very pro­found un­der­stand­ing of the story.” Join­ing rab­bit leader Fiver (McAvoy) and his clair­voy­ant brother Hazel (Hoult) in their war­ren-on-therun is an en­sem­ble cast that in­cludes Olivia Col­man, Daniel Kalu­uya and Peter Ca­paldi. How­ever those still scarred by Rosen’s pre­vi­ous in­car­na­tion beware: Murro isn’t shy­ing away from the darker side of this rab­bit tale.

“The idea was al­ways to be true to the book and do vi­o­lence in a way that’s part of life,” the di­rec­tor says of the story’s blood­ier mo­ments. “I think that’s the beauty of Water­ship Down: it deals in a re­spon­si­ble way with vi­o­lence and doesn’t negate it. The world is tough and we all face hard­ship – we just had to do it in a re­spon­si­ble way.”

This re­spect­ful tone is mir­rored in the film’s el­e­gantly an­i­mated aes­thet­ics, which Murro ex­plains were in­spired by a very grounded source. “I was in New York’s Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral His­tory and walked into the dio­rama room,” he re­calls. “I thought, ‘Wow – I don’t think that’s been done be­fore,’ where you use the dio­rama feel. There was a very hard rule when we were mak­ing Water­ship Down that we weren’t go­ing to put the cam­era where it couldn’t be in real life. If I couldn’t shoot it in live ac­tion, I wouldn’t be do­ing it in an­i­ma­tion.”

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This ma­ture look and sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity for Adams’ work sets the scene for some fes­tive view­ing that’ll do a bit more than keep us en­ter­tained af­ter we’ve scoffed too much Christ­mas cake – Murro hopes to get us

think­ing, too. “The ba­sic story – which for me has al­ways been a post-war dystopian novel in the same vein as Ge­orge Or­well’s An­i­mal Farm – is uni­ver­sal and time­less,” he sug­gests. “The ideas of home, mi­gra­tion, who we are, how we de­scribe our­selves as a so­ci­ety and who is lead­ing whom – all these ques­tions are at the heart of this won­der­ful story and are still rel­e­vant. I think if you open the news to­day, you’ll un­der­stand why we’re mak­ing this se­ries again.” SBl

Water­ship Down will air on BBC One over Christ­mas in the UK, and will stream on Net­flix in­ter­na­tion­ally.

“WHEN I BE­GAN, I DIDN’T KNOW WHAT THE HEll I HAD. I THOuGHT IT MIGHT BE A SHORT STORY.” Twenty-eight years later, Ge­orge RR Martin is still work­ing on A Song Of Ice And Fire…

Hazel, Fiver, Big­wig and co are all back for this re­make. We’re hop­ing these bun­nies are made of choco­late.

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