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Wes Anderson - Interviews

All about this star

Interview

THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS

Without doubt the funniest film released so far in 2002, The Royal Tenenbaums concerns the messy lives and relationships of a well-heeled Manhattan family who are thrown into disarray when the husband/father who abandoned them 20 years before returns and claims to be dying. Gene Hackman's the sly father, Anjelica Huston his fiery wife, while the kids are Gwyneth Paltrow as a promiscuous playwright, Ben Stiller a a safety-obsessed control freak, and Luke Wilson's an ex-tennis champion who cracked up at the US Open due to his love for his (adopted) sister. There's also sterling support from Owen Wilson (star of Shanghai Noon and Behind Enemy Lines, who co-wrote the film), Bill Murray and Danny Glover. Here TISCALI meets the film's director and co-writer WES ANDERSON, the man behind the brilliant Rushmore, and discovers why he made The Royal Tenenbaums and what those stars are really like...

TalkTalk: Can you tell us about your working relationship with Owen Wilson, how it started?
Wes Anderson: We went to school together in Austin. We were in a play writing class together. And we kind of exchanged short stories and helped each other with our writing. And then we started working on this script for Bottle Rocket, the first movie we did, while we were still in school, and ended up making it as a short, and kind of going on from there. One of the things I enjoyed the most is just working with him as an actor.

TalkTalk: It's worth noting that many of the cast come from famous or dysfunctional families, a bit like the Tenenbaums.
Wes Anderson: It's interesting. You know, Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow, certainly Anjelica Huston, all those families are real achievers, you know, and fame is an issue for their whole families. For Anjelica Huston (daughter of John Huston) I think there's definitely things for her to relate to in terms of the character that Hackman is playing. Hackman - I didn't know much of anything about his background, but after we'd finished the movie I saw an episode of Inside The Actors Studio which he did while we were filming. And he talked about his father, and it seemed to really relate to what he'd been playing in the movie - it caught me so much off-guard. You know, there was no dialogue between us about it, but it was clearly something he couldn't have helped but to tap into.

TalkTalk: What did he say in the programme?
Wes Anderson: His father left his family when he was 13 or so, and he just described this moment when Hackman and his friends were playing in the street, and his father drove by. And Hackman saw him driving by, and his father kind of waved from the window but didn't stop the car. And it was the last he saw him for ten years. And Hackman had really choked up when he was telling it. It was very moving. I'd never heard anything about this at all. And he'd been playing this father who abandons his family for years and years.

TalkTalk: What were your major inspirations in making the film?
WA: The first inspiration for the movie is that I wanted to make a New York film, because I'd always had this fascination with New York. I'm from Texas, but there were so many New York novels that were among my favourites - Salinger, Edith Wharton, Scott Fitzgerald. You know, there's certain Scott Fitzgerald stories that are even about the subject of an outsider who becomes obsessed with New York. And then also movies that I loved, like You Can't Take it With You and Rear Window, a more confined New York movie, but still giving an impression of a place that's very distinctive. But also movies like French Connection and The Warriors that give a different New York. And Scorsese's movies. And then I was always reading the New Yorker magazine, and always feeling like this is all the stuff that I'm missing. All those things sort of fedinto it. I wanted to create some sort of exaggerated version of that imaginary New York.
And then also I had in mind doing something that would be about a family of - quote unquote - geniuses, and about their failure and their development as a family. I like characters when they're aspiring to something that's beyond their grasp. I identify with those characters, but more like as heroes for me.

TalkTalk: The clothes in the movie are really striking - Gene Hackman's suits, Bill Murray's jackets, Gwyneth Paltrow's minks...
Wes Anderson: Well, I'm into colour stuff. You know, with the fur coat, they actually sent me minks to choose from, so I could pick a shade of mink. When they send them, they have the legs and the head on them and everything, with little holes cut out where the eyes were. It kind of brings you a little closer to what furs are really about - makes you think twice.

TalkTalk: Bill Murray also appeared in Rushmore. Apparently, you're a big fan.
Wes Anderson: I'm very impressed with Hackman, he's very exciting to just watch, and to work with. But Murray is different, he's the one that I'm most likely to describe as a genius. He really can be very surprising in the way that he'll come up with something. His thought process is something I can't quite put my finger on at all. A sentence will come out of his mouth that's just the last thing I expect, and I don't quite understand until I think about it for a minute. And I enjoy him personally and that makes it very pleasant to work with him.

TalkTalk: Are your own parents anything like the Hackman and Huston characters?
Wes Anderson: There's a lot more of my mother in the Anjelica Huston character than my father in the Hackman character. You know, my mother was an archaeologist, which that character is, and also there's her approach to raising the children and the kind of household that character runs.

TalkTalk: Aside from the mink, mice have a hard time in the movie too.
Wes Anderson: I never saw a mouse suffer. The ink fades, but I don't know if it gets into their blood stream or anything. We did have one mouse that had something wrong with him, mentally. Any time you set him down, he would run counter-clockwise in a circle. Endlessly. It might be that one of his legs was shorter than the others, but I think it was really like autism or something.

TalkTalk: The movie boasts the finest cast since Gosford Park. How were they to work with?
Wes Anderson: Well, in the case of Gwyneth Paltrow, she really came in with her take on it. She's very eager to hear any direction you have, and - this is my experience anyway - she never questions it. She asks a question only rarely, but when she does, it's something she's thought about and tried to figure it out herself. She asks the question, and then she makes sure, because usually my answer is sort of a metaphor, it's me searching for some words, and some people get it right off the bat, and some people don't. But mostly she had a take on the character, and she got from the script something pretty close to what I had in mind.
In the case of Ben Stiller, he really wants to ask lots of questions and hear lots of stuff back, and try all kinds of different things - how angry should he be here, you know. That's enjoyable for me, because he brings me in. Whereas Gene Hackman doesn't want to talk about anything if he can avoid it. You know, he'd rather not be directed at all. So there's different good things about the different ways.

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