Does Anderson romanticize the past?
The Library of Congress has this photofilm library, which is this collection of these black-and-white photographs that this Swiss company and this St. Louis company, they did this joint venture, taking cityscape and landscape photographs, all over the world, colorized them, printed them, and mass produced them. Very rarely did they have people in them, [and] if they did, they were crowds, and they were taken between 1895 and 1910, and there are thousands of them. They're all over the world, but our interest was the Austro-Hungarian empire, and Prussia, and other parts of Europe, and it's like having Google Earth of the turn of the century. When we made "Rushmore," many years ago, I was thinking of places in my school where I'd gone. When I made this, it was sort of through this collection that we own, that theoretically is ours. And often, we went to these exact places. And you can't go to too many of these [places] without feeling a little bit of sadness, because there's so many more people, and the world isn't like this anymore. If you have any nostalgic bone in your body, a process like that ... But I will say, that's not my experience of life in general. I've been spending a lot of time in Europe in the last ten years, and I like the adventure, I like walking down a street I've never been to before, and seeing the layers of history.
When cast in his movies, does he just email everyone and say “I've got a part for you”?
Yeah, that's it. Anyone who I can do that with, that's what I did. I sent the script, my pitch, and some of these photochrome pictures I'd attach. A few people I didn't know. Ralph Fiennes and I hadn't worked together before, but I knew how to reach him. F. Murray Abraham and Tom Wilkinson I didn't know. Tom even now, I think I'd have to reach him through his agent.
How much of M. Gustave H is in Wes Anderson?
There's two things. One, the guy who we based it on, I don't know if he feels like that, but he is like that. By the time he was fifteen years old, he was the person he is now; he's in his fifties now. He was fully formed young, and has always been friends with people thirty years older, and there's something about him that's like someone who was 85. He knows people who you really oughta be older to have known. The other thing is, it's in Zweig, that's a big precedent. His memoir is about how Europe changed, how the world changed during the course of his whole life, and the title of the book is "The World Of Yesterday," and there's something about his description of life before 1914 that is in a way the thing that sticks with you the most—I'd never read a description quite like this, of this world. The end of that world, he writes this book and then he kills himself. It's the thing he's still missing.
What has been learned over the years from casting.
The thing I learned from "Rushmore" was how long it would take to find someone we'd never heard of, and with that one, it must have taken a year. So as soon as we had a ['Grand Budapest Hotel'] script, I gave it to Scott Rudin and [producer] Steven M. Rales, and said, “Let's hire eleven casting directors in these countries all over the world, and let's get a guy to paint this portrait, this painting of 'Boy With Apple.’ ” And luckily, I have these two guys who I've been working with for some years now, and they've just been great, so we started the next day. But it went the same way as with Jason, we looked all over the world, we looked in England, but we found someone who lived in Bel Air. We had casting directors in Israel and Beirut and Morocco, and we had a casting director in Anaheim.
Tony Revolori and his brother Mario were the last two actors who had to vie for the part. Tony got the role, but how close did Mario come?
I saw Mario's audition first, and I thought [it was] interesting. And then I saw the next one, which was Tony, and knew that Mario was never going to get the part. But I feel like Mario was connected to this movie anyway, because in the months before the movie, I would have Tony do the whole movie to me on a video, and then I would do a video responding, and we went back and forth doing the whole movie. And Mario was the person who he did the scenes with, and filmed him.
On working within a budget.
We don't say, “We don't have the money to do this,” because there's no upside, there's no way we can make ourselves feel good about that. But we definitely do the thing of saying we're going to do this in a very weird way, because it's the only way we're going to accommodate ... we have this skiing sequence in our movie, and in the script, when we budgeted it, it was three weeks in Switzerland or whatever. And I had the vague idea we could do the snowglobe version of this scene, but if we didn't do it the way we did, we would have been pretty well up against it. So I have a rule not to give up on something based on money.
How he made the third-act ski sequence.
It's kind of complicated. For instance, the bobsled run, we built the bobsled run, which is about the size of this room, and we used a combination of stop-motion and live-action miniature techniques, plus a lot of digital manipulation. It's using the most old-fashioned movie techniques, with a lot of digital stuff to fuse them together and modify the speed. It's a very long and ongoing process. It's not that I don't want to reveal the magic trick, but I find that when I reveal the magic trick, there's something slightly humiliating about it. But Willem is mostly a stop-motion puppet this tall. Maybe that's obvious, but I'm still reluctant to say it out loud.
"The Grand Budapest Hotel" opens on March 7th.