1 | The Classic Wes Anderson Design
In the film, Ralph Fiennes plays Gustave, a concierge in a pre-World World War II hotel situated in the fictional European republic of Zubrowka. Gustave and bellboy Zero (played by 17-year-old newcomer Tony Revolori) are taken on a journey that’s by turns a crime caper and murder mystery, a love story, prison breakout and even, on occasion, a fanciful action thriller.
“Almost every movie I’ve done is not just one idea, it’s a number of separate ideas that I’ve combined,” says director Wes Anderson about the context for a movie that’s bound together by an especially labyrinthine narrative.
“Wes’s films always have this idiosyncratic lightness of touch inside,” says Ralph Fiennes, who was sent the script by Anderson and asked what role he liked. “He creates an unusual blend that no one else can repeat because it comes from his personal sense of humour and his perception of the world.”
2 | Its Star Guest
The film’s central character is a typical Wes Anderson creation – worthy to be mentioned in the same breath as the likes of Richie Tenenbaum. “Gustave is up there with the greatest Wes characters,” says Edward Norton, who plays a police inspector Gustave has several run-ins with.
“Nobody could have played it more perfectly than Ralph. Gustave is really contradictory: he has this incredibly haughty self-righteous view of proper values and at the same time he’s ferociously loyal.
He’s like a glimpse into an old world right before it disappears.” Anderson persuaded Fiennes to take a rare walk on the comedy wild side, and his performance as the vain, vulnerable and bed-hopping concierge who’s obsessed with maintaining the hotel’s high standards is a triumph. “I think Ralph is funny, as well as scary,” says Anderson. “I loved him in In Bruges and had wanted to work with him for a long time.”
3 | Its Startling Decor
An exact and often saturated colour palette accompanies each of Anderson’s films. “Here I thought of the hotel as a bit like a wedding cake,” he says. “The pink and purple informed the colours for that part of the movie.”
With scenes involving the primary villain Dmitri (Adrien Brody), meanwhile, Anderson wanted “a much darker feel”, and for the gaudy sections set in the Seventies and featuring Jude Law and F Murray Abraham, he decided “to go extreme”, using combinations of bright green and orange.
But it’s not just the colours that matter: each shot in an Anderson movie is meticulously composed and he talks it through with his actors on an iPad. On The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson completed
a voiceover for every single line in the script. “It was like watching the film before we’d made it,” says Saoirse Ronan, who plays Zero’s love interest, Agatha.
4 | The Famous Clientele
Of course, Wes Anderson has form when it comes to persuading big-name stars to front his films. For The Royal Tenenbaums it was Gene Hackman injecting fresh star power, while last time out, on Moonrise Kingdom, it was Bruce Willis. But for every new star Anderson recruits, a whole host of equally stellar regulars return.
In The Grand Budapest Hotel, previous collaborators Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe and Edward Norton all appear as part of Anderson’s glitziest line-up to date, alongside Harvey Keitel, Jude Law, Saoirse Ronan (Hanna) and French actress Léa Seydoux (Blue is the Warmest Colour).
“A lot of people want to work with [Wes],” says Willem Dafoe, who plays the terrifying enforcer/killer, JG Jopling in The Grand Budapest Hotel. “It’s unusual in today’s cinema for a director to have such a heavy personal stamp.”
This article first appeared in Esquire Weekly, our new iPad-only edition. Containing 100 per cent new and original content, it’s published every Thursday on the Apple Newsstand.