Wes Anderson’s eighth feature film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, releases this Friday and so far has been positively received (Vince’s review). The film’s IMDB page lists about half of Hollywood in the cast, with Ralph Fiennes in the starring role as a hotel concierge trying to prove his innocence after being framed for murder. If you like Wes Anderson movies, you’ll probably love it, and if you’re not a fan of Wes Anderson’s work, then why are you even reading this?
To celebrate what’s sure to be another eccentric entry into Wes Anderson’s body of film, here are 25 facts you might not know about his other movies. Now with 25% more Murray!
1. Bill Murray paid for the helicopter scene in Rushmore. How the helicopter scene in Max’s Vietnam War-themed play cost $25,000, I have no idea, but it did and Disney didn’t want to front the cost for it. Being the awesome human being that he is, Murray wrote Anderson a check to cover the costs.
2. Bottle Rocket almost forced Owen Wilson into the military. Owen Wilson helped write the movie, but initially had no plans to act in Bottle Rocket. After the movie bombed horribly at the box office, Wilson was convinced he had no future in entertainment and seriously considered enlisting in the Marines.
3. That’s not Ben Stiller’s hand with the lodged BB in The Royal Tenenbaums. It’s actually the brother of Owen and Luke Wilson, Andrew Wilson. When they were kids, Owen shot Andrew in the hand with a BB gun and the BB has been stuck there ever since.
4. Creating the jaguar shark for The Life Aquatic was no easy task. At eight feet long, the jaguar shark was one of the largest stop-motion puppets ever made for a film. The shark required five hand-cranked controls to operate its swimming function. The song “Starálfur” by Sigor Rios was used during Steve Zissou’s second encounter with the jaguar shark, but for whatever reason did not make it onto the film’s soundtrack album.
5. Bottle Rocket producer James L. Brooks was worried about Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson’s work ethic. After a shorter version of the film caught the attention of James L. Brooks at the Sundance Film Festival, Brooks helped Wilson and Anderson get financial backing from Columbia Pictures for a feature film version. Brooks was concerned about Wilson and Anderson’s work ethic though as they never took notes during meetings. After buying them plane tickets from Texas to Los Angeles, Owen Wilson tried to exchange his plane ticket for a bus ticket in hopes of pocketing the extra cash.
6. Rushmore hinted at The Life Aquatic. The book that Max is reading in the movie is Diving For Sunken Treasure by Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Cousteau of course would provide the main inspiration for Wes Anderson’s 2004 film, The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.
7. Bill Murray didn’t take the Rushmore part for money. When Bill Murray takes a role on a Wes Anderson film, it’s never for the money. For his part in Rushmore Murray took home $9,000 and jokingly details in the clip below that working with Wes often involves long hours for little cash and some stale bread.
8. Indian director Satyajit Ray’s portrait can be seen in The Darjeeling Limited. The film was dedicated to Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray who’s portrait can be seen hanging above Owen, Jason, and Adrian while riding on The Bengal Lancer.
9. The bullhorn parenting in Moonrise Kingdom was based on Roman Coppola’s childhood. The bullhorn that Mrs. Bishop uses to call her children was based on a practice used by co-writer Roman Coppala’s mother when he was a child.
10. Margot’s cigarettes in The Royal Tenenbaums haven’t been made since the 1970s. I’d imagine being the prop master on a Wes Anderson film has to be one of the most irritating jobs in showbiz. Take Margot’s cigarettes for example, the brand she smoked were only ever sold in Ireland and were discontinued in the 1970s. Anderson specifically wanted this brand of smokes because it correlated with the 70s theme of the film and made Margot’s secret smoking habit that much stranger.
11. Fantastic Mr. Fox replaced curse words with just “cuss.” Dialogue that called for cursing was replaced with the alternative of “cuss” including graffiti on a spray painted wall. In an interview on Fresh Air, Anderson explained the benefit of this: “I don’t even remember. It think it was just to use the concept of profanity as a replacement for profanity itself. It turned out to be very versatile.”
12. The score from The Royal Tenenbaums appears in The Life Aquatic. The music that plays when Steve Zissou gives the tour of his boat is the score from The Royal Tenenbaums, only played in reverse.
13. The Life Aquatic is both a tribute to Jacques-Yves Cousteau and Harry Belafonte. So French sea explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau’s ship was the Calypso, Zissou’s ship is named The Belafonte and Harry Belafonte was known for singing popularized versions of Calypso songs. During the scene where Zissou is introduced to the Italian audience there is a model of Cousteau’s ship the Calypso on his desk, only painted blue instead of black.
14. Bill Murray and Francis McDormand taught the Moonrise Kingdom kids about life. Bill Murray taught Jared Gilman how to tie a necktie for the first time and neither Jared nor Kara Hayward had ever seen a typewriter. Francis McDormand showed them that the keys on a typewriter were laid out in the same way as on a laptop.
15. Not enough Indonesians in Italy. Anderson’s original script called for the pirates in The Life Aquatic to be Indonesians, but it turns out there weren’t many Indonesians in Italy, so the pirates were switched to Filipinos. One of the pirates can be seen wearing a Longhorn’s cap. This was a nod to Anderson’s alma mater, The University of Texas at Austin.
16. Natalie Portman traveled overseas for a half hour’s work. Natalie Portman made the trip to Jodhpur, India to shoot for half an hour on The Darjeeling Limited. She spent the remaining 10 days vacationing around the country.
17. Max’s go-kart in Rushmore is a recreation of a 1909 photograph. The photo of Max sitting on his go cart is a recreation of a photo called “Zissou’s Bobsled With Wheels” by French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue. The two people go-kart riding in the background of the shot with Max are Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson.
18. Ten rail-cars were specially made for The Darjeeling Limited. Filming on the train proved to be a tricky task for cinematographer Robert D. Yeoman because no filming equipment could be fixed to the ceiling and nothing could be more than a meter out the rail-car’s windows. Wes Anderson and his production designer approached Northwestern Railways about creating ten rail-cars that would be redecorated for filming and moved around on the train’s trip from Jodhpur to Jaisalmer.
19. Wes Anderson had never been to India before writing the Darjeeling Limited script in 2006. Anderson wrote the screenplay’s second draft with Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman as they traveled throughout India. Upon seeing the country in person, much of the dialogue from the later part of the film was trimmed down as Anderson wanted to the country’s natural beauty to speak to the audience.
20. The actors of Fantastic Mr. Fox did their voice over work in the woods. Anderson explained that he chose to have his actors record their dialogue on location rather than in a studio to increase natural awareness.
“For scenes that were outside, we did them outside, by a river, or in the woods. We went to different places that corresponded with what’s in the scene.”
21. Gene Wilder was offered the part of Royal Tenenbaum. Wes Anderson offered the part to Gene Wilder who turned it down, opting to stay in retirement. (Don’t get me wrong, Gene Hackman was tremendous as Royal, but in my opinion, Gene Wilder could have been equally good.) Hackman considered turning it down as well, because he felt there had been times in his life that he was just as insensitive to his family as Royal was to his sons.
22. Meryl Streep drew inspiration for her Fantastic Mr. Fox character from an actual fox encounter. While filming Mama Mia! in the summer of 2007, Streep was staying in an apartment in central London. The actress explained to Examiner that she saw a fox outside her bathroom window and had a staring contest with the woodland creature for 12 minutes.
“We looked at each other for 12 minutes. I had my little clock. I kept looking. We didn’t break our engagement for that amount of time. It was so surreal. I had never looked into an animal’s eyes that long. My dog won’t look at me that long. It was really weird.”
23. Mordecai was kidnapped on the set of The Royal Tenenbaums. Two different hawks were used during filming after the first Mordecai was kidnapped and held for ransom. Production couldn’t stall to get the original back, which is why the hawk in the later part of the movie has more white feathers. What fate became of Mordecai 1 is not known.
24. Mr. Fox had 102 puppets. 535 puppets were used for the film with Mr. Fox being 102 puppets in six different sizes to match his 17 different styles in the movie. Mr. Fox’s wardrobe was based on Anderson’s own penchant for wearing corduroy suits.
25. Bill Murray, Ed Norton and Jason Schwartzman crashed Wes Anderson’s house during Moonrise Kingdom. While filming Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson had rented an old mansion in Newport, Rhode Island for himself, his editor, and the director of cinematography, with the cast staying in a nearby hotel. Eventually, Murray, Norton, and Schwartzman made their way to the mansion and took up residence.