The New York Film Festival wrapped up over the weekend, and one of the events that actually makes me wish I’d been in New York to attend was a 10th anniversary screening of Royal Tenenbaums, with Bill Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow, Anjelica Huston, and Wes Anderson in attendance, with Anderson collaborator Noah Baumbach moderating. ThePlaylist has the whole rundown, but probably the most interesting bit was about how everyone thought Gene Hackman was a mean, scary, prick. And thank God they put up with him, because that mean, scary prick is like a pretend father to me. Gene Hackman as Royal Tenenbaum is all-time, Badass-Hall-of-Fame-level greatness.
BUT FIRST! Did you know the part of Mordecai the hawk was originally written for Jason Schwartzman?
Though it was nearly 10 years before Anderson reunited with his “Rushmore” star in “The Darjeeling Limited,” his intention was to include him much earlier. The part of Mordecai, eventually portrayed by a hawk in the film, was originally conceived for Jason Schwartzman. Anderson explained, “We had a character that was called Mordecai, which in the movie was the name of a bird, but Jason Schwartzman was supposed to be a boy who lived across the street from the Tenenbaums in some embassy or something in an attic.”
Jason Schwartzman is okay, but let’s be honest, he’s no hawk. Dude can barely catch mice.
…Right, but we came here to hear about Gene Hackman. The gist of this next block quote: Gene Hackman called Wes Anderson a c*nt, and once told him to “pull up his pants and act like a man.”
Anderson and Paltrow both admitted they were “scared” of working with Hackman, with Huston saying, “I was a lot scared but I was more concerned with protecting Wes,” and said that no one involved with the film had “heard or seen of Gene since this movie.” She then added that the tempestuous Hackman had told the director to “pull up your pants and act like a man.”
Anderson said that all of the cast members helped to protect him from the difficult actor. “You did defend me, all three of you did at various times but that’s making it sound bad,” he said before adding, “[well], he did call me a worse name” with Baumbach filling in the blank by saying, “He called you a c*nt, didn’t he?” Poor Anderson turned red and shrank his in his chair, clearing not wanting the audience to perceive that the cast and crew didn’t enjoy Hackman. In fact, near the end of the evening, Anderson steered the conversation back to the topic Hackman, trying to salvage things, saying, “Can I say something? I kind of feel, through my own fault, we kind of made Gene look bad. Do you think we gave enough balance to him?”
Despite the challenging behavior, the director still fondly remembers the experience. “He was one of the things that pulled everybody into this movie. Anytime we are together and talk about the movie we always talk about him. He’s a huge force and I really enjoyed working with him. Even though he was very challenging with me, it was very exciting seeing him launch into these scenes,” Anderson said. Hackman told Anderson during filming that he thought ‘Tenenbaums’ would be his last film though he did go on to make several others before retiring unofficially in 2004.
I’d love to see a reality show where we find foppish hipsters and bring in Gene Hackman to go all angry grandpa on their asses. “But grandpa, these pants are vintage!” “Cut your hair, hippie. Whimsy is for fagg*ts.”
This next bit is from a segment we like to call “Shut the f*ck up, Gwyneth.”
“We make jokes about him being challenging, well he was, but it was also exciting to [work with him] for me,” Anderson said. Paltrow reminisced fondly, “I loved being in the same scenes with him. He was a bear of a guy but I also found something very sweet and sad in there and I liked him a lot. I think he’s one of the greatest actors who ever lived. Working in his presence and watching him do his thing, you know, if you’re Gene Hackman you can be in a f*cking bad mood if you want to, you’re Gene Hackman.”
In other dudes-we-already-knew-were-awesome news, it turns out the task of protecting Wes Anderson from grandpa Gene fell to Bill Murray, the only one who wasn’t scared of him. Bill Murray: zero f*cks given since 1985.
Anderson had tried to stay positive but recalled that Murray had actually come to set, even when the actor was not involved in filming, just to protect the director. “You were not scared of Gene,” Anderson said to Murray. “I noticed early on so I started asking you to come be there. I remember, there was a scene where Gene goes for a walk in the park and I looked up on the top of this rock and you were standing with a cowboy hat watching the set. And you were just there to show solidarity and I was very touched by that.”
Can we just stop and realize how awesome that quote is? “I knew Bill Murray had my back from the first moment I saw him hiding behind that rock in his cowboy hat.”
Man, I would kill to have been on that set. Specifically, Gwyneth Paltrow. I would kill Gwyneth Paltrow.
Murray added with his usual deadpan approach. “I’ll stick up for Gene too,” Murray said, “You know, the word ‘cocksucker’ does get thrown around a lot. But I’ll just take that word and throw it out of this room; it doesn’t belong here. I’d hear all these stories [like], ‘Gene threatened to kill me today.’ Kill you? You’re in the union, he can’t kill you. ‘Gene threatened to set fire to all of us.’ [I’d say], it’s a union shoot! He can’t set anyone on fire!”
Reached for comment on what the other characters had to say about him, Gene Hackman said, “Characters? What characters? All I saw was a bunch of little kids dressed up in costumes.”
Gene Hackman: ultimate hardass; cold and distant father figure. And deliverer of one of the best performances of all time. It just goes to show that every Wes Anderson movie needs at least one silver-haired badass, whether it be Gene Hackman, Bill Murray, or George Clooney. Otherwise you just get a bunch of intellectuals trying not to offend each other. Then you end up with the Darjeeling Limited.
[you can see video of the Q & A over at ThePlaylist]