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Berlin: 'Grand Budapest Hotel' Press Conference Sets the Bar High, with Anderson, Fiennes, Murray, Swinton and More

Photo of Tom Christie By Tom Christie | Thompson on Hollywood February 6, 2014 at 2:17PM

Things are bound to go downhill at the 64th Berlinale, at least in terms of press conferences. The festival opened today with Wes Anderson’s "The Grand Budapest Hotel," and when you have Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum and Willem Dafoe flanking Anderson on the dais, you’re not likely to improve on either the form or the content.
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Wes Anderson and Ralph Fiennes in Berlin for 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'
Wes Anderson and Ralph Fiennes in Berlin for 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

Things are bound to go downhill at the 64th Berlinale, at least in terms of press conferences. The festival opened today with Wes Anderson’s "The Grand Budapest Hotel," and when you have Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum and Willem Dafoe flanking Anderson on the dais, you’re not likely to improve on either the form or the content.

Murray did his part, dryly. When a reporter lobbed a question to the cast at large how Anderson manages to “get all these terrific people to participate” in his films, Murray cut in loudly -- “I’d like to answer that one if I could” -- before settling in to his usual deadpan: “We are promised very long hours and low wages. And stale bread. It’s this crazy thing. You lose money on the job because you spend more on tips than you ever earn, but you get to see the world. We allow Wes to live this wonderful life, where his dreamscape comes true. I guess it’s because we like him that we do this.”

Grand Budapest Hotel

Relationships were the theme of the day. Asked how he would define his with the director after making so many films together, Murray said, “Well, the romance is gone.” It’s clearly not, of course. Producer Jeremy Dawson noted that it didn’t matter where they make a film as “we kind of have a family, whether they be cinematographers or music supervisors or prop people or actors.”

The young Irish actress Saoirse Ronan added that during the shoot in Goerlitz, a small town on the border of Germany and Poland, the entire ensemble would come together at night for dinner and often go out. And sometimes they would watch movies that served as an inspiration for "Grand Budapest Hotel," including "Grand Hotel," "To Be or Not To Be," "The Good Fairy" with Margaret Sullavan, "Love Me Tonight," "The Mortal Storm" with Frank Morgan, and Bergman’s "The Silence."

As for a direct inspiration for "Grand Budapest Hotel," Anderson said that it grew out of his reading the writer Stefan Zweig, immensely popular in Europe but still largely unknown in the U.S. “It’s really more or less plagiarism. It’s Zweig’s introduction to 'Beware of Pity' that we have adapted into our film. He says that when people know you’re a writer, they bring their stories to you. I always thought that it’s just as likely with him that he added this intro because it sounded good, not necessarily that it was true but that it lead into the story he wanted to tell, and established a theme. It was a way to express what was coming. For me, it’s really because I liked it in his book and I thought it set a mood.”

This article is related to: Festivals, Berlin International Film Festival, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson, Wes Anderson, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Bill Murray


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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.