“We’ve gotten to the point where we do this ultra-prepared thing before we start. We prepare it almost like an animated movie where it’s even been edited even before we’re shooting it, with drawings and things, but when the actors come on the set, they all take over and it feels like chaos.” —Wes Anderson
After a recent free screening of The Grand Budapest Hotel for Film Independent Members, writer/director Wes Anderson shared some behind-the-scenes stories with Film Independent at LACMA curator Elvis Mitchell about the making of his new film, which stars Ralph Fiennes as a concierge of a big hotel in the ‘30s. Cast members Adam Stockhausen and Tony Revolori were also on hand for the Q&A. In typical Anderson style, it’s an ensemble film—with Tilda Swinton, Willem Dafoe, F. Murray Abraham, Jeff Goldblum, Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman, Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and oh so many more—and it revolves around the battle for a rich family’s inheritance that he gets caught in the middle of in the context of an actual war that’s about to begin.
The next day, Anderson did a longer interview with Mitchell on KCRW’s, The Treatment, where the filmmaker revealed a few quirks—he’s reluctant to take planes: “I like them as objects.”—along with several insights into his iconoclastic work. Here are some highlights.
On why he likes collaborating with co-writers:
“One thing I get is their ideas and lines and everything, my friend Hugo had tons of things that are in the movie. But I get from myself something different. It’s fun for me to work with a friend. I think I’m better at pitching my ideas and getting a response, and we go back and forth. Hugo [Guiness] has his own experiences and perspective on what’s happening in our story that’s something that’s quite different from mine—knowledge I don’t have. He brought all sorts of things into it. I’ve worked with Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman and we have in some ways more similar American backgrounds, quite different kinds of American backgrounds, but we still spur each other’s ideas. Owen Wilson and I have a very similar background. We’re from Texas and we’ve known each other since we were teenagers. Each of these collaborations reflects the friendships between the people and their individual personalities.
You try to look at what has this director’s trajectory been like and see if you can to learn from other directors, and I do have the sense sometimes, didn’t this director have somebody saying ‘this works, this doesn’t.’ It helps if the work is questioned and challenged enough and I usually have a lot of people challenging me in various ways. I need that.
I make a certain kind of movie, you can tell it’s my thing, and it makes me especially interested in making sure it can work the best it can. I don’t want to just do my thing. I want to make an experience that people feel things and that’s entertaining and interesting and engaging. I need help for that.”
Making movies as a social event:
“I like it to be fun. I need it to be fun. I like to work with people where there’s a chemistry in the group that makes something positive. We all took over this small hotel in the town of Görlitz, Germany, and we all lived in the place together, we had dinner together every night. We had a friend who’s a cook who’d come from Italy and was there with us. It’s a group of friends gathering together at the end of work. I’m looking forward to dinner in the middle of the day when the tension is higher. Somehow that’s valuable to me.”
On using narrators:
“It’s kind of an old-fashioned thing to do. In the kind of movies I do, it sometimes helps to have somebody who just says to the audience very explicitly… sometimes the information is just handed over very simply and directly because the scenes can get a little abstract and it can help ground the story.”
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