The Set

Big Fish

FABLE OF A SMALL TOWN

Welcome to Spectre, Ala., where nobody wears shoes -- or so swears a dying salesman (Albert Finney) in director Tim Burton's amalgam of tall tales. The central character is a serial fabulist (played as a younger man by Ewan McGregor) who claims he once stumbled onto this slightly creepy one-street burg that didn't want him to leave. To give the place the right ''Twilight Zone'' vibe, production designer Dennis Gassner -- an Oscar winner for Bugsy and a frequent Coen brothers collaborator -- built it from scratch on a private Alabama island. (The island's owners plan to make it a tourist attraction.) ''We were traveling from New Orleans to Savannah and back, photographing every little town we were going into,'' says Gassner. ''In the end, we said, Let's just fuse them all together.'' Result? An old-fashioned town not from any single place or time -- ''more eclectic and generic than period.''

Originally posted Nov 14, 2003 Published in issue #737 Nov 14, 2003 Order article reprints