Ten things we learnt from the Wes Anderson SXSW Q&A for The Grand Budapest Hotel

Following the SXSW special screening of the new Wes Anderson film The Grand Budapest Hotel, Austin was graced with the presence of Mr. Anderson himself, in conversation with director Richard Linklater and accompanied by the film’s music supervisor Randall Poster and actor/long-time collaborator Jason Schwartzman. In addition to the comment on the possibility of sequels, here are ten things we learnt from the special Q&A:

Austin hasn’t always been so kind to Wes Anderson
Introduced onto the stage by Austin’s own auteur, Richard Linklater, Wes Anderson opened his latest film by looking back at a screening of his Bottle Rocket short film at UT, where the “number of guests from the film (in attendance) threatened to outnumber the audience.” Naturally, there was no risk of that tonight, with SXSW attendees lining up for hours to get access to the film, filling the 1,000+ capacity room in what seemed like minutes…

Inspiration is drawn from the people he knows…
When asked what aspect of the story in Budapest came first for Anderson, he had this to say, “7 or 8 years ago, my friend Hugo (Guinness, the co-writer) and I decided we wanted to create a story about our mutual friend. He’s not a hotel concierge (like Ralph Finnes’ character), but everything else is like him. We originally wrote a short story out of the idea.” But they were never sure what to do with it, until… “When I found out about (early 20th century Austrian author) Stephen Zweig, I thought I’d take an approach to the story like his, and combine it with that work (the original short story)”. And voila! After 7 or 8 years, the film about a mutual friend was born.

Fantastic Mr. Fox expanded Anderson’s toolbox…
“Each movie I do expands my toolbox. Doing an animated film like Fox has certainly affected my films, using more miniatures and animation…”

While he loved making Budapest, he doesn’t look back kindly on The Life Aquatic
When talking about how much he enjoyed every day on the set of The Grand Budapest Hotel, Anderson reflected on his experience making The Life Aquatic, saying that production issues including budget and the difficulties of underwater filming made it something he’d “do very differently” if he had the chance…

The actors had their own Grand Hotel during the making of the film.
Schwartzman: “Though most of us didn’t appear in scenes together, all the actors lived in the same hotel during the making of the movie. It was a wonderful way to make a movie, as we’re an ensemble off screen. The times I’ve had with Wes are the greatest of my life.”

Wes on working with the same actors…
“I’m a fan before I work with any of these actors. There’s always a temptation to see if i can work with them again. Thankfully I have their e-mails!”

And often he writes a character specifically for them…
Take Ralph Finnes’ character in Budapest, for instance, “We wrote the lead part just for Ralph, because I’d always wanted to work with him. He’s a mthod actor and brings that charge to the set. It was a pleasure working wit him.”

Jeff Goldblum would often sing his lines on set.
Such Goldblum. So music. Everyone has their methods, right?

Linklater thinks the Academy ratio is “gutsy” and Jason Schwartzman calls a dose of a Wes Anderson film “nutritious”
Much of The Grand Budapest Hotel is displayed in the early cinema “Academy Ratio”, or 1.37:1. Though other films like The Artist have also gone back to the old format for aesthetic purposes in recent times, Richard Linklater commented on the decision as “gusty”. Meanwhile, on the film, Schwartzman said “There’s a joy.. a happiness in watching this film. It’s beautiful and breathtaking. I’m a fan of all of Wes’ movies. It’s like a nutritious hit of ‘movie’ when you watch one…”

And finally, a little bit of insight into his creative process…
“I don’t know how I’m going to make a film while I’m writing it.” But once he starts to go down that road, he points of one resource that helps him out: The US Library of Congress Photochrom collection.

Stay tuned for our review of the new film, here on The Iris, and more coverage live from SXSW. The Grand Budapest Hotel is now screening in the UK and the USA, and is released in Australia on 10th April, 2014.