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Interview: Wes Anderson On 'The Grand Budapest Hotel,' Elliott Smith, The Beatles, Owen Wilson, Westerns & More

The Playlist By Rodrigo Perez | The Playlist March 5, 2014 at 2:32PM

“His world had vanished long before he entered it. But he sustained the illusion with a marvelous grace." For all its idiosyncrasies, screwball-like speed, exquisite attention to detail, style and craft and some hilariously vulgar humor, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” Wes Anderson’s eighth feature-length film, might be one of his most soulful in some time. That aforementioned quote might be the heart and soul of the movie too; a beautiful and melancholy adage about a refined character who refused to behave without elegance despite the barbaric age that society was devolving into.
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The Grand Budapest Hotel

At the time you said ‘The Life Aquatic’ was your most difficult film to make because you shot on water, had this gigantic crew, etc. But 'Grand Budapest Hotel' is a big, ambitious undertaking too. Was it more difficult?
No, it wasn't. Because we are much better organized this time. I also have had the experience of doing X-number of more movies and seeing all the kinds of ways movies can go wrong and especially making a choice to not put myself in those same positions.

"Owen and I did have a Western idea. We never wrote it. We had a very peculiar kind of a Western."

I don't want to be going over budget and over schedule. I don't want to be spending more money that I think isn't really right for the kind of story I'm telling. You know, I want to make the movie a more reasonable kind of undertaking. I want to be extremely frugal, which with a movie means to me: I want to do every single thing that’s in the screenplay but I want to find a way to do it that is the most efficient and I want to force ourselves to find economical versions of doing these things because as long as those solutions end up being things that I feel like I like, more than if we just had the money.

So it's trying to find a way where it feels like there's no compromise and yet there's no feeling of waste. Sometimes movies you know – it's no fun for the movie to drag on and luxury, there's certain kinds of luxuries that are fun on a movie and there's certain kinds of luxuries that to me are no fun. Like trailers and things like that. Having six cameras going and two second units. A second unit, and a third unit and all that kind of stuff. There's a lot of stuff that you know, I don’t want to have a big fleet of trucks out there and all that stuff.

Director James Gray told me that you wrote a part for him or tried to get him into ‘Life Aquatic.’
Yes, that's right. He was meant to be. The person we have is such a great actor, it's played by Noah Taylor but before it was Noah, and in fact before we had James in mind we had [screenwriter/producer/Anderson friend] Wally Wolodarsky who has been in lots of my movies. And the character is called Vladimir Wolodarsky. But James was just one of the people who passed on it but the thing is the person we ended up with happens to be a spectacular actor. Who I had not even thought I could approach with this small part but he said yes, I think partly because he was happy to go live in Rome at that period of time. But it's great. That's the kind of luxury we do like: having somebody just tremendously and talented in a part like that.

There was an interview the other day that mentioned your idea for a Bond film. Were you approached about that?
No, no. That was in a Q&A the other day we were just talking about, “would I do a thing like that?” Essentially I was saying I have not been asked but I did have an idea for a Bond thing but it's one that just in and of itself prevents anyone from wanting it to happen.

The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou

You should make your own version of a British spy film, that would be great. Did I read eons ago – circa “Bottle Rocket” – that you and Owen Wilson had a Western movie idea?
Yes, yes. I forgot about that! We did have a Western. We never wrote it, we had a bunch of things and at some point we should get back to that. We had a very peculiar kind of a Western.

Will you and Owen write together again? I believe after ‘Darjeeling’ you guys had said you had another idea you wanted to do.
I think we will. It's just one of the things: we lead very international lives. Owen jet sets all the time. He goes all over the world, he moves freely, rapidly all over the place and I tend to get someplace far away and stay there for a long, long time. I move slowly but I do spend a lot of time abroad so it's not like how it used to be where we're living in the same house together or even living in the same city together in any consistent way.

So it's just been a longtime since we could really settle down and do something together. It would probably be me and him just pressing pause on everything he's got going on for a good stretch but I think we could do it. I do have a set writing time, but I'm not as active a person in the world as he is. So it probably will happen when he feels ...there will be some moment when we say, “Okay we can do this.”

The Hugo kernel that became ‘Grand Budapest Hotel,’ that was sitting around for eight years. Do you have lots of other little ideas lying around that could be movies?
Well, not really and I would have said there's nothing at all, but then you remind me of this Western. And there's probably another fragment or two of something out there. But there's not much. One thing is, we've made a lot of [these fragments] into movies already. A lot of the ones that were sort of waiting there in some form have happened already. And now I've done seven eight movies and so I do have some ideas for the next thing I want to do which is very complicated. I'm not even sure if it even is a movie. But hopefully it is.

Has it got stage elements to it? Because I always feel like that's where you're headed in a way.
Well it could have that, but in a way it's a little bit vaguely avant garde kind of concept, and I'm just not sure if it's going to quite gel.

Are you writing that with anyone in particular?
Roman Coppola and I are working on an aspect of it together. I'm trying to think of a good tease. I think the thing is well, it's a thing where, “many things happen” at once. That could be my tease [chuckles].

This article is related to: Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Features, Interviews, Interviews, Interview, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Rushmore, The Darjeeling Limited, Feature