Admire the charming and imaginative look and feel of director/writer Wes Anderson’s films over the last decade, but the Houston-born filmmaker wants everyone to know that when it comes to the projects he’s made over the years like ‘Rushmore,’ ‘The Royal Tenenbaums,’ The Darjeeling Limited,’ and ‘Fantastic Mr. Fox,’ it’s the screenplay that is always the most important.
“Whatever the movie is going to be, it really comes from the writing,” Anderson told me during a roundtable interview at the SXSW Film Festival a couple weeks ago. “The actors invent their performances themselves, but they work with this script. A lot of it comes from what’s on the page.”
There’s plenty to work with from the pages of his new comedy caper, ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel,’ which stars Ralph Fiennes as M. Gustave, a devoted hotel concierge accused of murdering a hotel guest who bequeaths to him a priceless painting. Her death sets in motion a splendid chase through the snowy backdrops of a war-torn Europe. For ‘Grand Budapest,’ it began with writing Fiennes’ character first, although Anderson isn’t quite sure how all that creativity really comes together.
“This movie started with one character, played by Ralph, and figuring what that character was like and figuring out a story for [him] and then, eventually, having an idea for a setting,” Anderson said. “All the visual stuff came after the script was finished. It’s kind of a mystery how anybody writes.”
Along with Fiennes’ role in the 2008 dark comedy ‘In Bruges,’ Anderson cast him based off a play he had seen him in called ‘God of Carnage’ and a 2006 independent film he starred in called ‘Bernard and Doris’ alongside Susan Sarandon.
“[Ralph] also knows the person, my friend, who [Gustave] is inspired by,” Anderson explained. “He had a sense of what the real guy is like. It was the combination and also being around him personally.”
As for killing off beloved pets in his movies (a dog meets its demise in both ‘Tenenbaums’ and 2012’s ‘Moonrise Kingdom’), Anderson quips. In ‘Grand Budapest,’ he lets the pooch live, and instead proves that not all cats land on their feet when they hit the ground.
“Human actors often want to have a death scene to play,” he says. “So, in a way, it’s trying to share this opportunity with other animals. I’m just trying to write a good part for a cat.”