A parapsychologist encounters one of his strangest cases yet in Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose. Based on the real eponymous figure and infamous legend, the movie centers on Fodor as he investigates reports of a family on the Isle of Man allegedly hosting a talking mongoose, attempting to determine the validity of the family’s belief.
Simon Pegg leads the star-studded roster of Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose in the titular role alongside Minnie Driver, Christopher Lloyd, Edmund Kingsley, Tim Downie, Ruth Connell, Paul Kaye, Gary Beadle and Neil Gaiman as the voice of the mongoose, Gef. Balancing a darker sense of humor amid its historical story, the movie is a unique and thought-provoking look at a fascinating true story.
Related: What Simon Pegg Has Done Since Star Trek Beyond
In anticipation of the movie’s release, Screen Rant spoke exclusively with executive producers Jeff Annison and Paul Scanlan from Legion M to discuss Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose, helping bring the bizarre true story to life, the movie’s ensemble cast, and more.
Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted during the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike, and the movie covered here would not exist without the labor of the writers and actors in WGA and SAG-AFTRA.
Jeff Annison & Paul Scanlan Talk Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose
Screen Rant: Nandor Fodor was really quite a unique project. I caught it earlier this morning, and I was having a riot with it. Interestingly enough, I did not realize it was inspired by true events, were you two familiar with the real story prior to getting your hands on the script?
Paul Scanlan: I’ll speak for myself, I did not, and I once I heard about it, I was fascinated, it was one of the things that really kind of pulled us into this project, was knowing that it was just such a wild, unique story, and it was based on true events. We love the fact that sometimes the truth is stranger than fiction. Jeff, had you heard of it?
Jeff Annison: I hadn’t heard of it before, but it’s amazing how many people have literally come out of the woodwork when you talk about it, and how many people know. One of the most memorable was we were talking to some guy and, “We’re like, oh my god, it’s this crazy story about a talking mongoose from the ’30s,” and he’s like, “Hold on one second,” and he walks over to his bookcase, and he pulls out an original book, first edition book by Nandor Fodor, the actual guy. It’s just amazing to me, so I think it’s super cool, it just makes it that much cooler.
It does, and with a movie like this, it brings the story to people in a fun way without necessarily feeling like an overdramatic biopic or anything like that.
Paul Scanlan: Yeah, it’s a historical comedy.
Jeff Annison: It is, but I’ll also say this about Adam Sigal the director, there is a very high degree of verisimilitude in this story. He didn’t just make up events, [there are] so many times [in the genre where] there’s a nucleus, a grain of truth, and then everything else. This one is actually the reverse, this one is like low-key a documentary, because all of the writings in there from Dr. Price, and the sayings, these are all things that actually happen. He was actually very, I think, rigorous about not inventing a whole bunch of crazy stuff, because there’s a lot of crazy ways that you can take this, but it’s remarkable how closely he stuck to the truth, the recorded facts.
Now, you guys at Legion M have done a great job in bringing a lot of these smaller, unique projects to life, whether it’s Archenemy, or even the Jay and Silent Bob Reboot. How did this script come to you, and how did you go about getting all the people involved for Adam’s vision?
Paul Scanlan: It came through Claire, Claire Bateman on our team, I don’t quite know how she got connected to it, she’s got a lot of pretty broad network of people, and must have been connected to Adam at some point in time. She brought it to us, I think, Jeff, you were the one of the first ones to kind of evaluate it and thought that there was really a lot of potential in it. Then the rest of us read it, it was kind of one of these things, the story, the concept, all of those checked all those boxes, it was a really fun, original idea. And then Simon Pegg [was already attached], and it’s like, “Oh, yeah, Simon Pegg!” I think we even did a poll, as I recall — a big part of what we care about is making sure that the projects that we’re working on are things that our community will be interested in. Without telling our community we’re looking at a Simon Pegg project, we did kind of a post that said, “What do you think of Simon Pegg,” and then, of course, it just blew up with enthusiasm and excitement, so that was kind of reassuring that, “Okay, this is going to be something that will be well-received, not just by our community.” But our community is kind of like a connection to the broader public, and like its own little version of it, so if they’re gonna be excited, we know that the world will probably be excited for the story.
Simon was already attached when the project came to you guys?
Jeff Annison: Yeah, Simon was attached, and for me, for us, that was one of the key things, because we knew from our community that we had kind of like a blaring greenlight for anything with Simon Pegg attached. There’s just certain names that, you know, Guillermo del Toro is another one, like, if we ever had a chance, we would just jump at the opportunity for people like that. So, it started off as Simon Pegg was attached, but the cast just kept on getting better and better, they added Minnie Driver, which was amazing, and then they managed to get Christopher Lloyd, which was amazing, and then they got Neil Gaiman, which I think is the coolest thing ever, as the voice of Gef. And then, honestly, Tim Downie, I didn’t know him prior to this, but in a lot of ways, I think he steals the show, his character is so great. But top to bottom, I think it’s a great cast, and we have a lot of respect for Adam now as a director, just because he’s got such a cool aesthetic and style, we couldn’t be happier with the way the film came out.
When I saw Neil listed in the trailer, I was immediately like, “Okay, I’m even more hooked than I was before.” Was that Adam’s idea, was that the casting director, how did Neil’s name get into the mix to play this talking mongoose?
Jeff Annison: I have no idea. I don’t know if you do, Paul. There were a lot of different names that they had been bandying about, and it was literally one of the very last things, because, obviously, it’s a role that you could cast, and it could be the very last thing that you did. I don’t know where the connection to Neil Gaiman came from, or who made the decision, I just think it’s genius.
Paul Scanlan: I think it was done almost as just as a suggestion, and might have even come from Simon. I know that Claire was involved with it as well. Before, it did come to us of like, “Hey, what do you guys think of the idea of going to Neil?” And we were like, “Oh, my gosh, genius. What an awesome idea, let’s go do it and see if we can get him.” One of the things that we did with this project, and I think it was a little unorthodox, it’s not necessarily a Comic-Con project, Nandor Fodor. It’s not based on a comic book, it is based on history. But we took it to Comic-Con last year — not this past Comic-Con, but the year before — and we had a lot of success with it. We had a really big panel filled, and everyone was really excited about it. We didn’t have Simon, but we had Minnie Driver, and Christopher Lord was supposed to come, but then ended up getting sick.
Jeff Annison: But Adam was there. Ruth Connell was there, too, she’s amazing.
Paul Scanlan: Yeah, Ruth Connell is awesome. But what we learned from that, one of the things that we did kind of test the boundaries of is like, “Why not? It’s a fun movie.” Comic-Con loved it, it got an amazing reception, we had a lot of buzz coming out of it. I think Neil’s such a huge name in the world that it just made sense that after being there, like, “Okay, this just kind of solidifies that part of this project, and makes it even more exciting for that audience.”
It’s definitely got that unique genre feel to it, where it would be perfect for the folks at Comic-Con, in addition to then, of course, the names of Simon and Neil, and Christopher Lloyd attached.
Paul Scanlan: Yeah, some of the biggest names. By the way, when we brought Minnie Driver to Comic-Con, it was her first Comic-Con she’d ever done, her and her family and, seeing them experience it for the first time.
I love Minnie, amd I grew up with her in Tarzan and Gross Pointe Blank. In talking about all these high-profile names that can sometimes balloon a budget more than meets the director’s vision. What was that like for you guys, as producers, really helping Adam reach his vision and his ambitions for this movie, while also still not going to the point of being too expensive?
Jeff Annison: I think all the credit goes to Adam, we were able to work in, and it came in on budget. We were actually looking at a larger budget, he was able to kind of bring it down, and I think that talent likes to work with talent, and I think in that case, it all comes back to Adam Sigal.
Paul Scanlan: One thing I would add to that, which is maybe what I think you mean by talent works with talent, is having Simon, because Simon was the first attachment, and when you have Simon attached, then going and getting those other cast members, they’re more interested in it immediately. Sometimes, cast members want to work with each other, and I know Minnie was excited to work with Simon. We’re in the independent film space, all the people that are working and participating in our projects, we’re not usually cutting out the biggest checks, they get their big checks from the major studio projects, but this is really what they love to do.
I mean, they love doing all of it, but I know that these projects, especially for Simon — it’s such a bummer right now, with the SAG strike, Simon really loves this project, and I know he would genuinely be out there shouting from the rooftops, because this is the story that he was really excited about. I think he helped bring in other cast members. We have another project that we’re working on, and we attached Ed Harris really early, and having that Harris attachment for going and getting those other cast members just makes it that much easier.
I would have loved to talk to Simon about this as well. I’ve talked with him before, he is definitely, whether it be Mission: Impossible, or The Undeclared War, he definitely puts his passion behind the project, so I love to hear that he was just as excited about this.
Paul Scanlan: All the cast members are, Minnie loves this project, everybody loves it. But this is just some of the collateral damage of the strike right now, you know, hopefully, it’s a temporary thing. We already have a release date, so we just gotta kind of follow through with it.
How does that feel for you, knowing that you are taking the steps that you can to really make sure that your actors and your writers are as supported as possible, while these bigger companies are not doing the same, and then you have, as you say, this kind of collateral damage for your projects?
Paul Scanlan: Yeah, I can speak to it. I would say the overarching impact that the strikes are having on us at the moment is a little bit of a lack of clarity. Because on the one hand, what we’re hearing from that strike, the SAG-AFTRA union is saying, “We want independent producers to be strong and healthy, and we want them to be productive, and so we’re willing to do interim agreements/waivers with them, so they can keep moving with their projects.” But then we also have actors saying, “No, we don’t want anyone working on anything,” and it’s like, “Well, you guys gotta organize, get that straight.”
Because, for us, if SAG wants us to be producing, we want to produce, and I think that makes a lot of sense, frankly, because I don’t think anyone wins in the independent film market, and companies like Legion M, that are trying to do the right thing in this industry ended up being collateral damage to the strike. I think that’s what SAG means when they say, “Look, we don’t want the independent films to be impacted.” I know they are working hard to try to minimize the impact, of course, there will be impact, like, this project will be impacted to a certain degree, but at least it was finished when the strike started. But yeah, I would say one of the things that for Legion M, on our side, is that we’re really doing a lot of thinking about, and strategizing, and looking to other industry professionals of, “How can the fans be a part of the solution?” Right?
Because at the end of the day, what you have is we’ve got these two forces, you’ve got the studios, and they’re trying to protect their interest, and then you’ve got the creators, and they’re trying to protect their interests. The fans are worried, we are the lifeblood of the industry, we feel it, right? Everyone says, “Well, the studios have all the partners, have all the money.” They only have the money, because the fans are choosing to watch the projects, and they’ve got the franchises, but it’s really a big part of what Legion M is about. It doesn’t matter what the industry looks like 10, 15, 20, 100 years from now, the one thing that will never stop mattering is creators, we need good creators, right? Unless you believe that AI is going to create, but we’re still going to need some creation, that element of it, and an audience, and that’s where the power is. We’re really kind of stretching our imagination to try to understand how can Legion M and the creators come together, because together, we probably have a lot more power than each one of us do individually. I think it’s an opportunity for Legion M to not just be an innocent bystander waiting to see what’s going to happen in the industry, but to take an active role and say, “Hey, we can help here, there are solutions.” It starts with creators and fans kind of forging an alliance and a relationship.
Jeff Annison: Yeah, it’s worth noting, too, that when it comes to our projects — just to be clear, on Nandor, we’re an executive producer, we were involved throughout the whole thing, we had Legion M people on set. Did you — not to put you on the spot — watch the post-credit scene?
I did not, I didn’t think to look for one on this!
Paul Scanlan: Oh man!
Jeff Annison: You need to, when this interview is over, you missed the best part of the whole thing! But the point of it is that we’re at a point now as a company where we are producing projects that we 100% own. Legion M owns, including this Morgan Freeman and Ed Harris movie with Sonequa Martin Green and Natalie Morales, our William Shatner documentary that we just did. We actually went out to our community to ask them how they felt about the strike, and what they felt Legion M should stand for, because at the end of the day, the shareholders, they literally own the company, Paul and I report to them, our job as managers of the company is to protect their interests, and do what they want. But so we asked them, “What do they think and what should Legion M do?”
The response was overwhelming, 90% of the people said that Legion M, we should strive to create an ecosystem that has value for Legion M, but also takes care of the creators and has value for them, even if that makes us less money as a studio and less money for shareholders. Only 10% of our community said we should go out and negotiate as hard as possible to try and get the best possible deal from the creators. It’s really interesting, because that’s kind of the flip, I think, of what you would expect at a studio right now. The studios are out negotiating hard to get as much as possible, and I don’t think it’s because they’re evil or greedy, it’s just because they have a fiduciary responsibility. Their shareholders of their companies are judging them on one thing, which is, “What are your quarterly results, and what’s the bottom line?” It’s just, I think, an illustration of the way that Legion M is different, and I think that, honestly, our approach, and this idea, of taking a long-term view that considers the whole ecosystem as opposed to the short-term view that’s focused on short-term gains, I think that that’s actually way more powerful in the long run. I think, ultimately, our hope in what we’re trying to prove is that yeah, when you go out, and you take care of people, and you plant seeds, and focus on growth as opposed to just like, “Okay, how much can I harvest today?” that you can create something that has enormous long-term value, and that’s what it’s all about.
What is the big thing that you both are really hoping audiences can take away from this movie after the fact?
Paul Scanlan: I mean, one of the things, and I think it’s probably kind of parlaying a little bit into understanding why Adam wanted to make this movie, it’s really for people that understand that it’s okay to have different beliefs. I think that’s at its core. It’s actually kind of interesting how relevant the story is today, it happened so long ago, 100 years ago, but yet, it’s still relevant in a lot of ways where we are. We have these two sides, there are people that believe, and then there are people that don’t believe, and the people that believe don’t understand why the people that don’t believe don’t believe, and the people that don’t believe can’t stand that the people believe, and at the end of the day, it’s like — Minnie Driver’s my favorite character, she’s like, “Why does it matter? It brings them joy. Why does it matter? Why do we have this need to diminish someone else’s belief?”
I think, at the end of the day, for me, that’s the message I get, which is, “Yeah, it’s okay, it’s okay. Everybody can believe in their own thing.” I’m not saying that fake news is okay, that’s taking it a little bit too far, but if this brings this town joy, and they believe in it, great. And if it’s not doing any harm, so what? It brings them something, and that’s important, but I guess it really just depends, like, “Do you believe, or do you not believe, at the end of the movie? What, what do you think? Was there a talking mongoose in the Isle of Man, or was that a hoax? And does it matter?”
Jeff Annison: Yeah, I agree with that. I think, to me, the most important thing is the conversation. I love movies that you can walk out of and have a spirited debate with somebody about it. I mean, my gosh, if we can’t have spirited debates about movies, of all things, it’s art. It’s designed, especially a film like this, to spark conversation. I think, to me, this is about people that seek magic in the world versus those that seek to dispel it, and I think it’s really interesting. It’s not an answer, but it’s a question that’s really fun and fascinating to talk about.
For my very final question, I mentioned it earlier, but I was actually a really big fan of Archenemy, I did press for it back when it was coming out, and spoke with Adam Egypt Mortimer at the time, and he had said he had ideas for follow-ups. Obviously, we just had a big conversation about the strikes, but has that been something that’s been in talks with you guys in the couple of years since that movie came out?
Paul Scanlan: Well, we know that Adam has another movie, I’d have to look it up right now. It was a movie that we were interested in, but at the time, it didn’t line up with our schedule. But we love Adam Egypt Mortimer, we would love to work with him again. I think he’s got a really unique style, just like Adam Sigal. There’s pretty much not a director that we’ve worked with to date that we wouldn’t work with again. We want to be diverse, it’s really important for our community, like we did our movie, Mandy, with Nic Cage, and I remember right on the heels of that, we had an opportunity to do a Nic Cage movie, and we didn’t stop loving Nic Cage, but we didn’t want to follow it up with another Nic Cage movie, because we’re just so small right now that we were gonna be pigeonholed as like, “Oh, that’s the company that works with Nic Cage.”
Like, now, enough time has passed, we’re ready to do another Nic Cage movie, because we’ve sprinkled some other stuff in between, and I think I would say probably the same applies to Adam. I do remember the project, and it’s pretty interesting, but I don’t know what the status is right now, if it’s finished or released yet.
Jeff Annison: It’s also cool, I think if you look at just Archenemy, and doing some sort of follow-up, or a sequel, or something like that — it was unfortunate that that movie came out when it did with COVID, it’s been a difficult time, but I do think it’s a really fun universe, and I think it’s a really colorful cast of characters, and so I always hold out hope that maybe there’s something we could do in the future, even if it was just a comic book, or a kind of graphic novel. That would be a fun place to start, maybe, to build out that universe a little bit. So we’ll see, maybe, keep your fingers crossed. If it’s something you hope for, and put it out into the universe, hopefully, it will happen.
You took the words right out of my mouth, I was literally gonna say, I’m gonna keep my fingers crossed for that kind of expansion.
Paul Scanlan: I kind of feel like, Jeff, to a certain degree, Archenemy could be the Beyond the Black Rainbow was for Mandy, you know, get that foundation, and get ready to kind of do something pretty exciting. It’s an interesting idea, Grant, we’re gonna credit you with that idea if we go back to Adam. I remember talking to Adam, and he does have other ideas that relate to that universe, and we love working with Joe Manganiello. He’s awesome, we are still very much in contact with him, and talking to him about different projects, so I’m sure there would be some interest from his side as well.
About Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose
Simon Pegg, Minnie Driver, and Christopher Lloyd star in this wildly entertaining adventure based on a (possibly) true tale set in 1935 London. When famed paranormal psychologist Dr. Nandor Fodor (Pegg) investigates a family’s claims of a talking animal, he uncovers a mysterious web of hidden motives. Soon, everyone becomes a suspect in Dr. Fodor’s relentless pursuit of the truth.
Nandor Fodor and the Talking Mongoose hits theaters on September 1 followed by digital platforms on September 19.
Source: Screen Rant Plus