29 March 2018

The A-Z of Wes Anderson

All you need to know...

With his latest work Isle of Dogs hitting cinemas tomorrow, we revisit the life and work of visionary director, master of surrealism and symmetry and friend of Bill Murray, Wes Anderson…

A is for…Aspect ratio

Something not everyone will notice when watching The Grand Budapest Hotel is that it was shot in three different aspect ratios. Informing the viewer which time period each scene is from – either the 1930s, 1968 or 1985 – the shots vary from 1.37, 1.85 and 2.35:1. A post-production nightmare by the sounds of it but man does it look cool.

B IS FOR…Bowie

If there’s one name we know Wes admires, then that’s David Bowie. He loved him so much, in fact, that the director hired Portugese singer Seu Jorge to cover several tracks for The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Taking on some of the Starman’s most notorious tunes is a tough task, but Bowie himself praised the director and singer for the creations: “Had Seu Jorge not recorded my songs in Portuguese, I would never have heard this new level of beauty which he has imbued them with”.

C IS FOR…Cakes

Even the food of Wes Anderson is whimsical and wild, and Grand Budapest Hotel‘s Mendels bakery has got the be the crème de la crème of pastry perfection. The tiny tower of the Courtesan au Chocolat is a perfectly intricate creation which, according to producer Jeremy Dawson, “was part of the story from the beginning”.

D IS FOR…Dogs

So Isle of Dogs would suggest Wes is a big ole puppy lover, but it wasn’t always that way… From killing off Snoopy in Moonrise Kingdom to the car crash squashing the Tenenbaum family beagle,  and Mr Fox. drugging Spitz to the abandoned three-legged dog that Steve Zissou claims, it seems Wes and the furry friends have a complicated relationship. But if the new masterpiece is anything to go by, they seem to have made up.

E IS FOR…Eric

Wes Anderson’s artist brother, Eric Anderson, is one of his lesser known collaborators: illustrating all of Anderson’s super pretty Criterion Collection covers, he also created the young Richie artwork… AND cameos as the medical student in The Royal Tenenbaums.

F IS FOR…Family

Searching for identity and a place in the world is one of Anderson’s favourite themes to explore, and there’s nothing like the complexity of family life to use as a jumping off point for trials and tribulations… From the traumas of the Tenenbaum’s to the confusing legacy of the Zissou, there are flaky father figures left right and centre, as well as oddball siblings. Refreshingly un-sugarcoated, Wes sure goes along with the ‘They’ll F**k You Up’ route, and we’re not complaining.

G IS FOR…Go Mordecai!

Perhaps one of the most moving scenes in all of Wes Anderson’s movies is when lil Richie lets his bird fly free in The Royal Tenebaums… But then when isn’t something soundtracked by The Beatles’ ‘Hey Jude’ emotional. Fun fact: the falcon was actually played by three falcons and a hawk.

H IS FOR… Helicopter

As film folklore would have it, Bill Murray loaned Wes $25,000 to film a helicopter montage scene for Rushmore that Disney refused to finance. The scene was cut and Wes apparently never cashed the cheque but still has it in his possession. Saving it for a rainy day perhaps?

I IS FOR…Icons

Martin Scorsese and Wes Anderson

Although an icon himself, Wes Anderson has some serious iconic fans too: one of his heroes, director Martin Scorsese, explained that Bottle Rocket is one of his favourite films. According to Marty, Anderson “knows how to convey simple joys and interactions between people so well and with such richness”. As if that wasn’t praise enough, he went on to call him the “next Martin Scorsese”. Whew.

J IS FOR…Jason Schwartzman

Rushmore was Wes Anderson’s second and highly critically acclaimed movie, and is saw a very young Jason Schwartzman get his first ever role… Bumping into a casting director at an LA party, the then 17-year-old actor fitted the part perfectly: “a 15-year-old teenager who is a playwright and in love with this older woman” who goes to a posh academy. After a quick bond with Wes over funky sneakers and Weezer’s Pinkerton, Schwartzmen took on his debut performance and never looked back.

K IS FOR…Keen

1,800 teens from the US, Canada and England auditioned for the role of Max Fischer in Rushmore. And it’s also how we feel for the rumoured theme park that Wes wants to design with his music collaborator Mark Mothersbaugh.

L IS FOR…Losers

If there’s someone Wes Anderson loves, it’s a good ole loser. From the lonely nerd to the silly squares, they all hold a sweet spot in the dorky director’s heart, and we luv em too.

M IS FOR… Miniatures

Wes’ world is simply too pastel, too intricate and too magical to exist IRL, so any actual buildings that feature in his films (i.e. The Grand Budapest Hotel itself) need to be built in miniature and filmed accordingly. Of course, internal scenes featuring actual humans are filmed on a constructed set.

N IS FOR… Nominations and Awards

Unsurprisingly, there are loads. Click here to read them all.

O IS FOR… Obscure references to Charlie Brown

Anderson is a committed fan of melancholy cartoon Peanuts, especially its protagonist Charlie Brown. Charlie Brown’s influence is so strong on Wes that he includes obscure references to him in each film. Apparently, Max Fischer of Rushmore’s character was inspired by the thought of Charlie Brown and his dog Snoopy combined.

P IS FOR… Pastels

Washed out pinks and baby blues are everywhere in Wes Anderson movies. From the uniforms at The Grand Budapest Hotel to the classic Indian train in The Darjeeling Limited.

Q is for… Quick Cameos

Anderson made fleeting appearances in his first three films. He’s uncredited for roles in Bottle RocketRushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, in which he has a voice-only part as a tennis commentator.

R IS FOR… Real Life

Anderson’s feature-length debut Bottle Rocket is based on real life experiences: When sharing an apartment, Anderson and Wilson had a faulty window. After making demands for it to be fixed to no avail, they decided to break into their own apartment and steal items, before reporting it to the police, but their plan failed and became an inspiration for the film.

S IS FOR… Symmetry

Alongside pastel hues and Jason Schwartzman, symmetry is guaranteed to appear in Wes Anderson movies. Scenes that are a little too perfect for real life are essential the the magic realism in Wes’ world.

T IS FOR…Tunes

David Bowie (originals and as performed by Seu Jorge), The Kinks, The Beach Boys, Hank Williams, Nico and the Velvet Undergrond and eminent composer Benjamin Britten have all appeared on Wes Anderson soundtracks, setting the mood for family feuds, love affairs and epic redemptions. Fun fact: The theme song of The Royal Tenenbaums plays backwards in The Life Aquaticwhile Steve Zissou is giving a tour of his boat.

U IS FOR… Unexpected high-fashion collaborations

Way back in 2007, Marc Jacobs, during his time at Louis Vuitton, designed the iconic luggage for The Darjeeling Limited. Then in 2013, Anderson collaborated with Prada, not only to direct a film for their “Candy” fragrance but also to design the bar at the Prada Fondazione. Cool! 

V IS FOR…Very consistent use of the futura Typeface

That’s right, Wes has uses the Futura typeface for all his movies. It’s even on the buses and roadsigns in The Royal Tenenbaums.

W is for…Wilsons

Luke and Owen. The latter roomed with Anderson and the University of Texas. Both actors would go on to appear in multiple Anderson films. A third Wilson brother, Andrew, was used for the scene when Ben Stiller shows a ball bearing stuck in his hand. Owen shot Andrew with a BB gun as a child and the ammo was never removed.

Y IS FOR…Yeoman, Robert

The cinematographer behind all of Wes’ movies. Here’s to you, Rob.

Z IS FOR…Zissou

And not just Steve Zissou as played by Bill Murray in Anderson’s melancholic The Life Aquatic. See, Zissou became an official line of Adidas sneakers in homage to the ones Murray wears in the film. OK, so officially it’s just a re-run of the Adidas Rom runner, but look how they replaced Adidas with Zissou! Genius!