Wes Anderson talks about premiere of “The Grand Budapest Hotel”


Sarah Montgomery

With quirky characters, colorful settings, speedy dialogue and a splash of melancholy, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” encompasses all of the tools director Wes Anderson uses in his films.

Anderson, a UT alumnus, showcased his latest feature at the Paramount Theatre last Monday as a part of South By Southwest Film. People arrived two-and-a-half hours before the showing started — creating a line that wrapped around two downtown blocks.

The enormity of the turnout contrasts Anderson’s first movie screening of his 1996 feature “Bottle Rocket” at Hogg Memorial Auditorium. Only nine people attended, two of which, Anderson said, left as the credits started rolling.

The idea for “The Grand Budapest Hotel” began first with a short story Anderson and a friend wrote about someone whom they knew. This character turned into Monsieur Gustave, the concierge played by Ralph Fiennes. Anderson made this transition after being inspired by writer Steve Zweig’s work. He decided to turn the short story into a film following characters set in the ’30s in wartime Europe. 

“It started with this one character, and then eventually having an idea of the setting that this was going to be a European war background,” Anderson said. “Then making the script, then all the visual stuff came after the script was finished.”

The movie follows an orphaned lobby boy named Zero, played by Tony Revolori, and his mentor Gustave. The story is told by Zero decades later, as he sits at dinner with a writer, played by Jude Law, in the now-dilapidated hotel.

“The writing is the first and foremost thing,” Anderson said. “The actors, they invent their performances themselves, but they work with the script.”

Jason Schwartzman saw the film for the first time at Monday’s SXSW premiere. Schwartzman is only in a few scenes, but his appearance, in addition to Bill Murray, Owen Wilson and others, follow Anderson’s fashion of sticking to the same company of actors with each of his movies.

“It was exciting; I’m a fan of [Anderson’s films] so much,” Schwartzman said. “It’s so funny.”

This movie takes after Anderson’s earlier films with the same style of framing, dialogue and use of color. He also uses animation and miniatures alongside live action in “Grand Budapest Hotel,” as he did in his 2009 animated feature “Fantastic Mr. Fox.” While the live-action portions were shot on location in a town between Poland and Germany, many miniatures and the animation used were created in Berlin.

“With the stop motion, you edit the whole thing and then you shoot it,” Anderson said. “I started doing that with the live-action movies more where we do the same kind of animatic [sic] and kind of prepare it in more detail.”

Anderson’s trademark style is visible in “Grand Budapest Hotel,” but he does include new techniques. The film jumps around between various time periods, with a different screen format to denote each one. 

Anderson is known for meticulousness. The numerous perfumes worn by Gustave and the fake mustache worn by Zero during the movie intensify characterization and give a more tangible representation of the personality these characters have. 

“It’s either inspired by something we’ve stolen somewhere and forgotten where it came from, or it came from our life or something,” Anderson said on the subject of coming up with different details to use in his films.

Having Anderson’s latest success premiere in Texas, where his career began, emphasizes the all-encompassing feeling that his latest movie holds.

While back in Austin for the SXSW premiere, Anderson took time to visit the UT campus, his alma mater and the place where he met close friend and actor Owen Wilson.

“It’s great,” Anderson said. “I went to all my old classes and my old house where me and Owen lived. It’s the same. There are a few new buildings, but it’s very much the same.”

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” released this past weekend in select theaters making $811,166, the highest grossing amount for a limited weekend debut.