Netflix has teamed up with renowned filmmaker Wes Anderson to produce The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar movie (split into several shorts), based on the stories by Roald Dahl, including The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. The short film is set to have a star-studded cast with Benedict Cumberbatch, Ben Kingsley, Ralph Fiennes, and Dev Patel headlining the cast and is set to debut on Netflix in September.
The movie is written and will be directed by seven-time Oscar nominee Wes Anderson, who is behind the likes of The French Dispatch and, most recently, Asteroid City.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar will be Anderson’s second adaptation of Dahl’s work following the 2009 movie Fantastic Mr. Fox. It’ll also notably be the director’s first-ever movie for a streaming service.
Anderson is producing the movie under his American Empirical Pictures banner. Steven Rales and Jeremy Dawson are producers, with Octavia Peissel, John Peet, and Alice Dawson co-producing.
Frequent collaborator with Anderson, Robert D. Yeoman, will serve as the cinematographer on the project, while Kasia Walicka-Maimone is listed as the costume designer.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar is the first major exclusive Dahl feature film at Netflix following the streamer’s acquisition of the Ronald Dahl Story Company in the fall of 2021, gaining the rights to adapt the author’s entire catalog. It’s worth noting, however, that the movie was first picked up before Netflix had acquired the library.
As you may know, Netflix is planning numerous TV and movie adaptations in the world of Roald Dahl, including adaptations of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Twits.
Wes Anderson’s project first came to light via Baz Bamigboye, who worked for the DailyMail at the time.
When will The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar release on Netflix?
We’ve known for quite some time the new Wes Anderson flick would be released in 2023 release, with it being included in Netflix’s movie slate reveal in January 2023.
Netflix has set The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar to release on the service globally on September 27, 2023.
The short film will also be released in select theaters on September 20th.
Ahead of its Netflix release date, the movie premiered at the Venice Film Festival (taking place between August 30th and September 9th) as an out-of-competition entry.
The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar will have a runtime of 39 minutes
Anderson, speaking to IndieWire, was asked about the upcoming Netflix film and explained that it’s “not a feature film,” adding, “It’s like 37 minutes or something.”
It has since been confirmed via the Venice Film Festival that the short will be 39 minutes in total. Netflix again reiterated the runtime in a press release on August 24th, with it being 39 minutes long.
Continuing on why he chose to do the short film at Netflix and comparing the title to his 2007 Apple short film Hotel Chevalier, Anderson explained, “Because it’s a 37-minute movie, it [Netflix] 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.”
World of Reel reported that they had heard that the 39-minute runtime is rumored to only apply to one of what will be four short stories expected to be released, with all being 100 minutes in total. Their report states that one of the shorts will be stop-motion animation, and another was footage from a stage show shot in 16mm.
In August 2023, we spotted the CARA rating board issue PG ratings to four short subjects with Netflix attached, all expected to be Roald Dahl short stories covered:
- Poison – Rated PG for peril, language, thematic elements, and brief smoking
- The Ratcatcher – Rated PG for thematic elements, brief language, and smoking
- The Swan – Rated PG for thematic elements and violent material
- The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar – Rated PG for smoking
This was confirmed at the Venice Film Festival, where Anderson teased the other upcoming shorts:
“There’s another one that’s in the ‘Henry Sugar’ collection that’s called ‘The Swan,’ we’ve done that with Rupert Friend.
We did a very old one called ‘Poison,’ which is one I always loved… And then we’ve also done a very, very strange one called ‘Ratcatcher,’ which is from a book called ‘Claud’s Dog,’ a kind of obscure Dahl book set in the Eastern part of England. It’s a really rural one, it’s a peculiar story. And they’re all strange. But I don’t really have any other ones in mind. I have some things brewing, but that might be it for Dahl for the moment.”
What’s the plot of Netflix’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar?
As mentioned above, the movie will be based on Ronald Dahl’s short story collection, The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More, first published in 1982. As the title suggests, there are seven short stories in it. Four of these are expected to be covered by the shorts by Wes Anderson.
Per Netflix’s official description of the movie, Anderson’s adaptation will be delving into many of these stories:
“Wes Anderson’s adaptation of several Roald Dahl short stories including The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar.”
Netflix’s updated synopsis is as follows:
“A beloved Roald Dahl story about a rich man who learns about a guru who can see without using his eyes and then sets out to master the skill in order to cheat at gambling.”
The title story centers on Henry Sugar, a man who steals a book that shows him how to see through objects and predict the future. This touches on a series of misadventures that involve evading Mafia henchmen, working with a Hollywood makeup artist to craft new identities, and setting up orphanages around the world.
The other stories in the book include (those in bold are expected to have been adapted):
- The Boy Who Talked with Animals
- The Hitch-Hiker
- The Mildenhall Treasure
- The Swan
- The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar
- Lucky Break
- A Piece of Cake
Poison wasn’t in that collection of stories, but instead part of More Tales and Someone Like You. The Ratcatcher was one of the stories collected as part of Claud’s Dog.
Who is cast in The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar?
Among the first batch of cast announcements for the movie included Benedict Cumberbatch, who will lead The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar for Netflix. Cumberbatch’s recent work includes Netflix’s Power of the Dog and Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Cumberbatch will be joined in this project by Dev Patel, Ralph Fiennes, and Sir Ben Kingsley. Patel can be seen in the acclaimed 2021 film The Green Knight and Netflix’s upcoming Monkey Man, while Fiennes’s recent works include starring alongside Daniel Craig’s last outing as James Bond in No Time to Die, and the Kingsman prequel called The King’s Man. Oscar-winner Kingsley can be seen in Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Rupert Friend, Richard Ayoade, and Asa Jennings round out the main cast.
Netflix has confirmed actors will have multiple roles in the various shorts. Here’s a breakdown of those:
- Benedict Cumberbatch will play Henry Sugar and Max Engelman
- Ralph Fiennes will play Roald Dahl and the Policeman
- Ben Kingsley will play Imdad Khan and Croupier
- Dev Patel will play Dr.Chatterjee and John Winston
- Richard Ayoade will play Dr. Marshall and Yogi
When asked about why he had actors play multiple roles, Anderson said:
“I like the idea, right off the bat, of having a little company play the whole film. Benedict Cumberbatch was a key figure, and someone I had been wanting to work with. I have a little history with Ralph Fiennes, and having Ralph play Dahl: that was something that made me kind of want to do it. I hadn’t worked with Richard Ayoade, but have known him for years and years. Rupert I have worked with, of course. He is
dazzling in The Swan. Dev, I also love, and have tried to work with once before. This time he said ‘Yes.’ Ben Kingsley is crucial. We loved him. It’s nice to have somebody new and legendary at once. It was a great experience with the whole gang from start to finish.”
When did The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar film?
According to The Hollywood Reporter, production for the movie began in January 2022 in the UK and ran through to late March 2022.
Are you looking forward to The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar on Netflix? Let us know in the comments below.
Note: Contains additional reporting from Tigran Asatryan.