IAR INTERVIEW: Director Wes Anderson and Jeff Goldblum Talk 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

Friday, 07 March 2014 00:11 Written by  Jami Philbrick
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IAR INTERVIEW: Director Wes Anderson and Jeff Goldblum Talk 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

Writer/director Wes Anderson has made a career of creating unique, eccentric and beloved films. Anderson first gained attention for his debut movie Bottle Rocket, and then earned critical acclaim for his next two films, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, the latter of which received an Academy Award-nomination foe Best Original Screenplay. He would eventually go on to make The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and The Darjeeling Limited. However, his next two films would once again earn him Academy Award-nominations, first for Best Animated Feature with Fantastic Mr. Fox, then again for Best Original Screenplay with Moonrise Kingdom. His latest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, opens in theaters on March 7th. 

Anderson is known for using certain actors over and over again, thus creating the “Wes Anderson Film Troupe.” Among the actors in Anderson’s ongoing ensemble include Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Edward Norton, Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Tilda Swinton, Bob Balaban, Seymour Cassell, Waris Ahluwalla, Alexandra Despot, all of which reunite for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Another performer who returns for his second Wes Anderson film is the equally eccentric Jeff Goldblum. The popular actor has a long and impressive resume of film work that includes Nashville, Annie Hall, The Big Chill, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Silverado, The Fly, Jurassic Park, The Lost World, Jurassic Park, and Independence Day, as well as Anderson's The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.

In The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson’s usual group of actors are joined by Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Tom Wilkinson, Jude Law, Fisher Stevens, Saoirse Ronan, and Tony Revolori. The film follows the adventures of Gustave H (Fiennes), a legendary concierge at a famous European hotel between the wars, and Zero Moustafa (Revolori and Abraham), the lobby boy who becomes his most trusted friend.

I recently had the absolute pleasure of sitting down (along with a few other members of the press) to talk with Wes Anderson and Jeff Goldblum about their work in The Grand Budapest Hotel. They both discussed their new film, Anderson’s quirky style of filmmaking, his ensemble of actors, use of music, why Goldblum likes working with the director, what the actor initially thought of the script, and what Anderson thought of the recent SNL sketch poking fun at his body of work. 

I began by asking Anderson about his ongoing ensemble of actors, why he likes working with them, and how his new cast of actors integrated with his regulars. “I guess I don't even think about it. It's not like I'm saying I want to have this many old ones, and this many new ones, or that I even particularly want to have people I've worked with before,” he explained. “Most of those guys are people who I got to know in the first place because I was a fan and went to them because they're my favorite actors. In this movie they are all people who I had some kind of great experience with before and the other ones are people who I didn't know. Ralph (Fiennes) for instance, I never worked with anybody else who could play this part and who would be right for this part. I can't think of anybody who would be quite right for this other than Ralph. I enjoy having people I've worked with before. I like a sort of reunion. The main thing is also well you know they can do it.”

I also asked Goldblum, who has an extensive theater background, why he likes working with Anderson and what it’s like being part of the director’s core group of actors. “I don’t know if I’m a part of group. If I never did anything else, I’d be satisfied and grateful to have done these couple of movies. It is like a theater experience because he sets it up that way and has a bunch of spectacular actors there in order to have a communal, more theatrical experience,” he said. “We were all in Gorlitz, Germany, exclusively in this hotel and had a chef every night. It’s like that. The locations were within walking distance of the hotel. That’s what it’s like and of course his spectacularly meticulous text is more like a play. He leaves space for the pause in the script, where you have to make it seem like you’re improvising. I love that. It’s more like a play. He’s spectacular. He’s an important and genius filmmaker. There are plenty of actors that I know who say, ‘for once I would like to be part of something like that.’ It’s rare and I feel privileged.”

Many Wes Anderson fans got a kick out last year’s Saturday Night Live sketch that poked fun at the director’s eccentric style of filmmaking by showcasing what it would be like if Anderson made a horror film. In that sense, The Grand Budapest Hotel seems like the director’s version of a Hitchcock-type murder mystery. I asked Anderson if that was what he was going for, or if it was just a story that he wanted to tell. “I definitely thought about Hitchcock at certain places along the way. For me, I had these ideas for this character and this relationship, and where it goes is something that happens as you're writing, at least for me. It's not like I have a preconception of the whole thing. I wouldn't have thought in advance that the movie was going to become very fast paced in the ‘30s section, which it does kind of. It just sort of went that way.”

I followed up by asking the director what he thought about the Saturday Night Live sketch, which starred Edward Norton and another Anderson film regular, Alec Baldwin. “It seemed pretty good,” he answered. “Edward had actually wrote me saying, ‘if you were going to do a horror movie what would be a good title for it?’ I would like to do a horror movie and I told him some titles and we had a back and forth. But they didn't use any of my stuff. I guess they felt they knew better than I did.”

Next, Goldblum discussed his initial thoughts about Anderson’s script for The Grand Budapest Hotel after he first read the screenplay. “I loved it, he replied. “It’s a beautiful document in itself. He describes the characters, how they look, and his dialogue is spectacular, musical and wonderful. The script is so rich. Like Moonrise Kingdom, Rushmore and several other films of his, he’s got this wild hearted, fresh raw romance as part of it. It gets me," said Goldblum. "The mentorship, this learning between the two characters I loved. But it didn’t occur to me, even with all this richness, until I saw the movie.”

Academy Award-winning actress Tilda Swinton is almost unrecognizable in the movie as Madame D, an elderly woman that Fiennes’ character seduces. I asked the director about the makeup process and how they transformed Swinton into that character. “We tried to do a lot of things economically and find a solution to how we make this work and adapt to it. But we said with the makeup, spend the money and get the person who does Meryl Streep ‘s makeup. Bring them in and pay, so that's how we did it.”

Finally, Anderson’s movies are known for their use of eclectic songs, but this film predominantly uses a score instead of lyrical music. I asked the director why he chose to abandon using songs for this film and only use a score. “Sometimes I have a bunch of songs. On Moonrise Kingdom I had this music as part of the story really. I had these pieces and then I did some research beyond that and expanded it in the film. But with this one, I just didn't have anything like that. I had some little things that I thought might lead somewhere, but I didn't have pieces that I thought I wanted to do use in a scene. This movie is essentially all score.”

The Grand Budapest Hotel opens in theaters on March 7th. 

To watch our exclusive video interview with Bob Balaban about The Grand Budapest Hotel, please click here

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