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Discover the Wes Anderson Experience

Photo of Tom Christie By Tom Christie | Thompson on Hollywood February 25, 2014 at 12:44PM

Upon this earth there are a few fortunate souls lucky enough to receive a role in a Wes Anderson film. In a series of interviews done round-table style after its recent Berlinale screening, the “Grand Budapest Hotel” cast members together suggested an on-set atmosphere not so different than the charming nature of the film itself. “It’s the Wes Anderson experience,” intoned Jeff Goldblum, “which is a lovely, delightful, uncommonly beautiful communal art project.”
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"The Grand Budapest Hotel"
Fox Searchlight "The Grand Budapest Hotel"

Upon this earth there are a few fortunate souls lucky enough to receive a role in a Wes Anderson film. During a series of interviews after its recent Berlinale screening, the “Grand Budapest Hotel” cast members together suggested an on-set atmosphere not so different than the charming nature of the film itself. “It’s the Wes Anderson experience,” intoned Jeff Goldblum, “which is a lovely, delightful, uncommonly beautiful communal art project.” (Fox Searchlight opens the movie stateside March 7.)

The set was like the actors retirement home, said Bill Murray, quoting Willem Dafoe. “We were all in this really old hotel in Görlitz [on the Germany-Poland border]. "And you’d walk across the lobby and say, ‘Good morning,’ all the time in your slippers and your robe, like a bunch of old men dying. We walked over to Poland one night,” he added with deadpan precision, “and it was closed.”

'The Grand Budapest Hotel' posse in Berlin
'The Grand Budapest Hotel' posse in Berlin

Murray has of course been working with Anderson for a long time, since “Rushmore.” With that film, he recalled, “there was a lot of pressure to meet Wes. They sent me the script and said do you want to meet this guy? I said, 'I don’t need to meet this guy because whoever wrote this script knows exactly what he wants to do.' It was so precise, what he wanted, that I didn’t have any doubt that he would be able to do it.”

“Grand Budapest” is Murray’s seventh film with Anderson, and the actor sees a change: “I think the thing that’s different is the scripts are better. You feel like the script is coming to you, you don’t have to drive the boat. All the props he has, the sets, they’re all so perfect. You just have to relax, it’s almost like being part of a chemical process... You’re like the flower in the picture, the still life.”

Several cast members spoke of Anderson’s incredible attention to design and detail, including the young Irish actress Saoirse Ronan, who noted that she’s a big fan of “Bottle Rocket”: “I love how disorganized in a way that film is compared to others of his films, and I asked Wes about it and he said it was like that to shoot as well, and so from then on he decided to be very strict in the way that he shot them.”

Yet according to Dafoe, that strict way of shooting has also been a learning process: “In ‘Life Aquatic,’ some of those scenes weren’t so figured out; some of the long takes he choreographed in the moment. With ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox,’ he loved that kind of preparation, because with animation of course you have to really have it worked out.”

This article is related to: Interviews, Interviews , The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson, Wes Anderson, Bill Murray, Ralph Fiennes, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Berlin International Film Festival, Reviews, Reviews


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.