November 29, 2001

The Magnificent Anderson

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Wes Anderson Transcript – An interview with the director of The Royal Tenenbaums

Q: Do you base your characters on people you know?

A: They all tend to eventually come around to that, but none of them are like based on one person. But they’re all sort of drawn from different people and different relationships and things. Most them I try to like avoid giving examples because they’re like people that I’ve already told, “I don’t know why you think that has anything to do with you. That could be anybody.” You know? But, the mother in the story is an archeologist and my mother used to be an archeologist. And then her way of nuturing the children, especially encouraging them to do all these different activities and putting their art up… that’s just something from my mother. That’s probably the safest example.

Q: The film is about those who fail young and you’ve had nothing but positive reviews in your career so far, are you afraid of taking a fall?

A: I wouldn’t say I have any fear about it, but I’m interested in it. I feel like it’s inevitable. I just like the idea of people who peaked early, and then what are they going to do? There can sort of be a mood associated with people in that situation. There’s sometimes sort of a sadness, and sometimes it’s a sort of heroic sadness. Especially if it’s like some guy who was like a great track star who got in a car accident or something… some sort of fated glory or something. You know, Orson Wells is a very good example. That one’s very sad.

Q: How did you put together the music for the soundtrack. Like The Beatles’ stuff, how did you get the rights to all those songs?

A: Everything else is set, but The Beatles is …well, we’re still working it out. The Beatles won’t be on the soundtrack even though they’re in the movie. But, we have to have it in the movie. I’m determined to have it in the movie. I’ll pay anybody’s debts, even Michael Jackson’s.

Q: How does the soundtrack for this movie compare to that of your other movies?

A: I feel like it’s a little bit darker than the other ones. More melancholy sort of music, especially that Nico song when Gwenyth Paltrow’s character is getting off of the bus. And then there’s the Ramones, and the Velvet Underground. Just a little different from the other ones.

Q: I’ve never seen a movie where a character is listening to an LP in the scene and one song goes right into the next without a break. Did you carry that idea around with you?

A: I knew she [Paltrow’s character] was supposed to play that record, but I didn’t know that the scene would go that long. [laughs]

Q: How did you decide to shoot the film?

A: The rules that we had for the movie were that we weren’t gonna have any steady cam. We weren’t gonna have much hand-held stuff. And, that I wanted to stage scenes where we wouldn’t have a lot of cutting. We had wide screens so we could put all of the actors together and if they’re going to move, then the camera is going to move. Most of that stuff is just instinctive choices. Some of these are only… I mean there are 250 scenes in the movie… Some of these scenes are five seconds long. We see glimpses of things all through it. The stuff that goes around those glimpses has to be visually designed to get you in and out of those scenes properly, and that’s about it. Most of the visual choices have to do with what we made to put in front of the camera and what they’re wearing and all those things. The way it’s shot is very similar to the way we shot Rushmore except… because we used the same lens… just one lens that we use. And, you know, different situations dictate different locations, and that’s about it.

Q: Do you consider yourself to be more of a technical director?

A: Um, I know enough to control the things that I want to control, and I don’t know enough to be my own director of photography. Like Steven Sodderberg has been his own director of photography. I don’t think I have the knowledge. I mean, it’s a good thing. I admire it. The more you know the more you can say, “You know I have an idea. If we didn’t use any size 2K whatever it is it would get this effect. I don’t even… I mean there is no 2K.

Q: What about Gene Hackman inspired you to write this part for him. It’s not your typical Hackman character. What made you write this character for him?

A: I saw Hackman as very charming. That’s the main thing that I thought goes into that character. Somebody that can always talk his way through it. And he can usually talk his way through it in a way that he ends up on top. I always saw him as someone who has a really strong magnetic appeal for people. I always felt like he was a guy who would walk in and sit at a table like this and have everybody laughing and, in fact, he’s a more reserved person. But, he has a real range. I wrote to what I’d seen him do in movies. I was thinking of all of them, but there were a couple in particular, especially Mississippi Burning. I mean in Mississippi Burning, the accent that he has is like the accent that he is faking in this movie. Like in this movie, he doesn’t exactly fake an accent, but he has this kind of way of talking like, “Let’s shag ass,” or, “You got those boys couped up like a pair of jack rabbits.” And this is a guy who’s a New Yorker. Obviously he didn’t grow up saying people were couped up like a couple of jack rabbits. It’s something that he’s affected.

Q: There’s an early seventies appeal throughout the movie, in the dress andthe d