Is there a director out there today with a more distinctive style than Wes Anderson? An auteur renowned for his quirkiness in films like The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Royal Tenenbaums, audiences are eagerly awaiting his upcoming stop motion animation Isle of Dogs in March 2018. Here’s a 50 interesting nuggets of Wes Anderson info to tide you over.
1. Anderson is of Swedish and Norwegian ancestry
Melver Leonard J. Anderson, his father is half Swedish and half Norwegian, while his mother Texas Ann is of English, Scots-Irish and German heritage.
2. Aged 8, Wes Anderson started making little one-reel shorts
They were usually a few minutes long, filmed on a Yashika Super 8 camera that his father had gotten him. His brothers and friends helped him create the shorts. Anderson has previously stated: “I think the first one was a library book that was probably not a very good story called The Skateboard Four.”
3. He met Owen Wilson at University of Texas, Austin in 1989
They became roommates after they shared an apartment together in the early 90s, resulting in them working on the screenplay for Bottle Rocket together. The original short of the film can be seen below:
4. Bottle Rocket was based on his real-life experiences
When sharing an apartment, Anderson and Wilson had a faulty window. After making demands for it to be fixed to no avail, they decided to break into their own apartment and steal items, before reporting it to the police, but their plan failed and became an inspiration for the film.
5. Bottle Rocket was rejected by every festival Anderson submitted it to
He also said that they once screened it and 80 people walked out. Ouch.
6. He and Owen Wilson became close friends because Wilson suddenly started acting as if they were
“We were signing up for classes,” Anderson recalled, “and he started asking me to help him figure out what he should do, as if we knew each other. As if we had ever spoken before or knew each other’s names. I almost feel like he was taking it for granted that if we didn’t know each other yet, soon we would.”
7. Owen Wilson got expelled from the school where Bottle Rocket was filmed.
This was after he copied answers from his Geometry teacher’s textbook at St.Mark’s High school in Dallas, which later became the set for the film
8. He directed H&M’s Christmas Advert in 2016
It featured Oscar-winner Adrian Brody. Anderson is no stranger to filming advertisements: he also shot an advert for Stella Artois with Roman Coppola, as well as things for Ikea, American Express and a SoftBank advert starring Brad Pitt.
9. He includes a reference to Charlie Brown in every one of his films.
Anderson has cited Bill Melendez, director and animator for many Charlie Brown films, as one of his main inspirations. In Rushmore, for example, Anderson has said that he and Owen Wilson perceived Max Fischer as Charlie Brown plus Snoopy. He also cited that Miss Cross is a ‘combination of Charlie Brown’s teacher and his unattainable love object, the little red-haired girl’. Furthermore, Max is a working-class barber’s son, similarly like Peanuts creator Charles Schulz.
10. Wes was in awe of Bill Murray
On the first day of shooting for the film Rushmore he whispered all of his directions to Murray.
11. Bill Murray sent Anderson $25,000 in order to fund helicopter rental for Rushmore
The helicopter was in the end not used in the film, and Anderson never cashed the cheque, but you can see the montage here:
12. Fantastic Mr. Fox used 535 puppets
Mr. Fox himself had 102 puppets in 6 different sizes and his wardrobe was based on Anderson’s love of corduroy suits.
13. During the filming of The Royal Tenenbaums in 2001, Mordecai the hawk was kidnapped and held for ransom
This caused Anderson and his team to use a second hawk. The original Mordecai and his captors’ whereabouts are unknown.
14. In The Darjeeling Limited Anderson named the three brothers after film royalty
The names were borrowed from three people that Anderson truly admired. Francis, Jack and Peter are named after Francis Ford Coppola, Jack Nicholson and Peter Bogdanovich.
15. Foreshadowing of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou can be seen in Anderson’s Rushmore
Max is shown reading Diving for Sunken Treasure by Jacques-Yves Cousteau, which was the major inspiration for The Life Aquatic.
16. The soundtrack to Anderson’s film The Life Aquatic features a number of David Bowie covers performed in Portuguese by Seu Jorge
These songs were translated and arranged for guitar by Jorge himself, maintaining Bowie’s melody and style. Bowie himself was himself a fan of Jorge’s cover saying: “Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs in Portuguese I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with.”
17. 1,800 teenagers auditioned from the United States, Canada and England for the part of Max Fischer in Rushmore
Jason Schwartzman eventually landed the part for his debut film and has gone on to appear in major roles in four of Anderson’s subsequent films.
18. The Godfather Connection
A number of Anderson’s revolving cast members have connections to iconic 1972 film The Godfather. His first film, Bottle Rocket, featured James Caan, whilst Jason Schwartzman, star of Rushmore, is the son of Talia Shire (The Godfather‘s Connie Corleone) and has become a regular in Anderson’s films. Roman Coppola, son of director Francis Ford Coppola and cousin to Schwartzman, has also co-written several of his films.
19. The jaguar shark in The Life Aquatic is one of the largest stop-motion puppets ever constructed
It measured eight feet in length and required five hand-cranked controls for the swimming action.
20. Wes Anderson used a “psychological game” to convince Ralph Fiennes to star in The Grand Budapest Hotel
Genius or mean? He sent Fiennes an e-mail of the script and asked him which role he would want. Anderson later told NPR: ‘I’ve always had this thought that the best way to get an actor to not want to be in your film is to offer them a part. The number of times I’ve had someone say, ‘Well, I like everybody else’s parts — I’m not so sure about my guy.’
21. The base of the story for The Royal Tenenbaums was created out of the divorce of Anderson’s parents
Ethel Tenenbaum is an archeologist, who was based on his Mother, who pursued this career after her divorce. What’s more, to get into character, Anjelica Huston, who plays Ethel, wore his mothers’ real glasses throughout the film.
22. Anderson and Wilson named some Tenenbaums after a friend of theirs from college
The pair had a friend named Brian Tenenbaum who had a sister named Margot, who’s played in the film by Gwyneth Paltrow.
23. Natalie Portman travelled to India for just half an hour’s work on The Darjeeling Limited.
Portman was featured in the prologue to the film ‘Hotel Chevalier’, which lasted just 13 minutes. Anderson has filmed a number of lesser known short movies like Hotel Chevalier, including Castello Cavalcanti, a brief 8-minute film about a racing car driver who crashes his car in a small Italian village. It stars Jason Schwartzman and was financed by Prada.
24. Rosemary’s Baby (1968) is Anderson’s favourite film
The psychological horror narrates the life of a pregnant woman who gradually realises she is being used to carry the spawn of the devil by an evil cult that wants to bring back Satan’s reign on earth. It’s quite unlike the majority of Anderson’s body of work.
25. Wes Anderson used Google Earth to find the perfect locations for Moonrise Kingdom
He was looking for a “naked wildlife” ambience for the 1965 summer setting he was picturing.
26. In The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, the character ‘Intern #1’ was played by Wes Anderson’s actual intern in real life
Now there’s something for the CV.
27. Cinematographer Robert Yeoman has worked on every Anderson film.
28. The first book that Anderson ever owned was Fantastic Mr Fox
This explains Anderon’s interest in adapting Roald Dahl’s well-loved children’s book for the big screen.
29. Wes was named ‘the next Martin Scorsese’ by Martin Scorsese himself
Back in 2000 he told Esquire, “A couple of years ago, I watched a film called Bottle Rocket. I knew nothing about it, and the movie really took me by surprise. Here was a picture without a trace of cynicism, that obviously grew out of its director’s affection for his characters in particular and for people in general.”
30. Most of the props from The Darjeeling Ltd used on the train sets were handmade or decorated
This includes the entire dining room set.
31. Rushmore was filmed at Wes Anderson’s prep school, St. John’s, in Houston
Apparently Anderson looked as far as the UK for settings for the school in Rushmore before realising that he’d been imagining his old school all along.
32. During the filming of Rushmore, Jason Schwartzman (Max) had to stand on boxes so he could be the same height as Olivia Williams (Ms. Cross)
This was during the scene when Ms. Cross and Max feed the fish and talk about deaths of loved ones.
33. Anderson has had a song written about him – ‘Wes Anderson’ by Italian band I Cani.
The music video is a tribute to the director and his movies.
34. The Grand Budapest Hotel was shot in three different aspect ratios
The Fox Searchlight movie was shot at 1.37, 1.85 and 2.35:1. This was to inform the viewer where they are in the timeline, which alternates between three time periods; 1985, 1968 and the 1930s.
35. Anderson had the actors in Fantastic Mr. Fox do all of their voiceover work in the woods
This was meant to increase natural awareness while voicing. The actors also recorded in barns, horse trailers, and on a motorbike.
36. 111 Archer Avenue from The Royal Tenenbaums isn’t real, but the Tenenbaums’ house is
Both the interior and exterior of the house were used when filming and the house is located at 144th Street and Convent Avenue in New York City. It is also thought that the owner of the house was paid around as much as it cost them to buy the house originally; so technically they got the house for free.
37. Futura is the typeface Anderson uses in all of his movies
Anderson has made extensive use of the font in posters, props and titles, particularly in The Royal Tenebaums, where it was even used for the film’s buses, hospital signs and book covers.
38. Wes Anderson designed a bar in Milan
The bar is called Bar Luce and is located in a complex called Fondazione Prada. On the bar Anderson said, “there is no ideal angle for this space. It is for real life, and ought to have numerous good spots for eating, drinking, talking, reading, etc. While I do think it would make a pretty good movie set, I think it would be an even better place to write a movie. I tried to make it a bar I would want to spend my own non-fictional afternoons in.”
39. Moonrise Kingdom star Jared Gilman was taught how to tie a tie on set by Bill Murray
Further proof of Murray’s awesomeness. The man can do no wrong (other than maybe Garfield).
40. Bill Murray loved the plot of Rushmore
So much so that he was willing to be in the movie for free. Murray has appeared in every one of Wes Anderson’s films since Rushmore.
41. He earned about $9,000 for his role
He had to be paid something.
42. He uses a technique called ‘Planimetric staging’
Anderson’s films are synonymous with a visual style known as ‘Planimetric staging’. This has been used in all of his films since The Royal Tenenbaums and sees the director place the camera at a 90 degree angle with the subject of the shot, giving his films their almost perfectly symmetrical look.
43. Owen Wilson wrote the script to Bottle Rocket with Wes Anderson but had no interest in acting in it
The film was the actor’s debut appearance before going into star in a number of Anderson’s other films alongside mega Hollywood movies like the Cars franchise and The Night at the Museum.
44. After the film flopped Owen almost joined the Marines
Speaking to Maxim magazine he said, “The studio said Bottle Rocket was their worst-testing movie in history, so I looked into the marines. “Maybe I was influenced by An Officer and a Gentleman or those Marine commercials – they were so cool! Like a Led Zeppelin song come to life, full of people pulling swords from rocks and fighting lava monsters.”
45. Originally The Kinks were going to score the entirety of Rushmore
Anderson wanted The Kinks to make up the whole soundtrack – however, this changed during filming, where only one Kinks song remained on the soundtrack – ‘Nothin’ in the World Can Stop Me Worryin’ ‘Bout That Girl’. The soundtrack also included Cat Stevens, The Who and John Lennon. The Kinks also featured at the beginning of The Darjeeling Ltd, with ‘This Time Tomorrow’.
46. Cate Blanchett was actually pregnant on the set of The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
During filming she played pregnant journalist, Jane Winslett-Richardson. Blanchett only found out that she was pregnant after she passed out while wearing her fake pregnancy suit.
47. Anderson voices one of the tennis commentators during Luke Wilson’s tennis match in The Royal Tenenbaums
Another one of the commentators was Owen’s brother, Andrew. Anderson’s latest voice cameo saw him credited as Daniel in the recent children’s animated film Sing.
48. Anderson attempted to use The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ for the opening of The Royal Tenenbaums
Instead he had to use a cover version by the Mutato Muzika Orchestra, because he couldn’t afford the rights.
49. A character study, not a story
Plotting a story out before filming it isn’t Anderson’s style. He doesn’t see his narratives as narratives but as an amalgamation of characters and information. “Every movie I’ve done is this accumulation of information about these characters. Who they are, what their world is and slowly figuring out what’s going to happen to them.”
50. Ben Stiller was cast as Chas Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums because he was an early fan of Bottle Rocket
Ben Stiller liked Bottle Rocket so much that he cast Owen Wilson in his film The Cable Guy. Wilson then co-wrote The Royal Tenenbaums and got Stiller cast in the film.
Words: Rory Marcham, Sylvie Devaney, Madeleine White, Gabriella Quine