Writer/director Wes Anderson is a one of the most distinctive filmmakers working today, with such movies as Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom and the animated Fantastic Mr Fox.
His new film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, tells the story of Gustave H (Ralph Fiennes), a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between World Wars, and his lobby boy, Zero (Tony Revolori), who becomes his friend and heir.
Peppered with unique performances from Anderson’s repertory company, which includes Bill Murray, Adrien Brody, Jeff Goldblum, Edward Norton, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson, the movie involves the murder of one of the hotel’s most loyal guests, the theft of a priceless painting and a battle for a family fortune, all unfolding during the backdrop of a changing Continent.
I spoke with Wes Anderson about The Grand Budapest Hotel today, which opens on Friday, March 7th.
I know you wrote the role of Gustave for Ralph Fiennes, but was he aware that you were writing it for him? And what would you have done if he had turned it down?
I just had Ralph in mind and I didn’t say anything to him, because sometimes it feels like the way to make somebody not want the part is to offer it to them. I don’t know if it’s just an actor’s psychology.
I only do one movie at a time, I don’t have six different scripts sitting around, and I only had one guy that I thought could play this, so I was very anxious about it.
I don’t think I would have accepted Ralph saying no. I would have been all over him and, at a certain point, he probably would have had to break down. I couldn’t think of anybody who I thought would [make] this character seem like a real person who you might meet, and that’s what he did.
Given the wartime aspects that surround this whimsical story, how difficult was it to know what to focus on?
Somebody asked me that question in Berlin. He said, ‘How do you balance the darkness of this period with the fact that this is a comedy?’
I answered him that there is blood all through the movie, but most of the violence I had thought in some way was funny violence, even if it [was] quite brutal. The violence is there because there’s a brutality that’s building in the world, and maybe that’s the answer.
Your movie opens this Friday against 300: Rise of an Empire, which is shot entirely on green screen. Would you ever consider doing a movie that was green screen?
I don’t have much fun shooting on green screen. I would rather we make [a set]. When we do [movies] we use some paintings, we use some miniatures.But it’s digital galore; at least half of the shots in the movie have some kind of digital element in them.
It’s an amazing kind of luxury.