Wes Anderson talks ‘Grand Budapest,’ Oscars, Ralph Fiennes, and near-injury on set

The Grand Budapest Hotel” has a leading nine Oscar nominations going into Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, including Wes Anderson‘s first ever Best Picture and Best Director nominations and his third in the Original Screenplay race. The recent BAFTA and WGA Award winner was on-hand for a screening and Q&A for his film at the Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood on February 9, and Gold Derby was there. Here is a transcript of some of his highlight responses:

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On the inspiration for the character of Gustave:
“The character comes from a real person who’s an old friend of mine and old friend of also Hugo Guinness who is my co-writer on this. The real person is somebody who maybe bases himself on literary characters a bit. He probably throws in a few Graham Greene lines from time to time. Most of the characters in these movies we’ve done, I would say at least half of them are partly based on somebody we know. But they’re always mixed together, and they’re always pulling a little something from a movie or a book too, and they’re also part of the story. Sometimes the character comes from what’s going to happen to the character. It all mixes together. But this one, maybe more than any, this character is very particularly close to this one person who is a person that’s not like anybody else.”

On his approach to story, plot, and character:
“Plot has never been considered my strongest. The first one we did, ‘Bottle Rocket,’ we sort of had to shoot the beginning after we edited it together and realized we didn’t have one. With this one, one of the things that comes from [Stefan] Zweig is the idea of most of his stories have that form of ‘somebody meets someone who will eventually tell them him or her story,’ and that’s what the big thing is. That’s a kind of classical 19th century storytelling mode. One of the movies we did, ‘Royal Tenenbaums,’ we had a narrator and I liked doing that because my natural instincts not to have the story make any sense or follow or flow are challenged by a character who really is the storyteller and sort of forces it to be a story. It simulates a story and in this one we have devices like that too.”

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On how and why he wanted to adapt Stefan Zweig’s material into a movie:
“You know the first one I read was called ‘Beware of Pity,’ and I feel like I read the first page at the bookstore and was hooked. 20 pages into it I thought, ‘I would like to adapt this book’ and I really never with books I love, I don’t think about making it into a movie. This one I did, and then I read lots more of his work and then eventually realized I like all of these and I’d sort of like to steal from all of them at once and make my own thing out of that. It’s been a long time since I’ve had such an instant reaction to a writer’s work in that particular way.”

On Tony Revolori‘s skill as an actor and near injury on set:
“With this movie a lot of my energy went into working with Ralph [Fiennes] and paying attention to Ralph. Tony and I, we did preparation before the movie, but when it’s a scene where one guy has eight paragraphs of text to do and the other one is listening to them, you can almost sort of forget about the one that says nothing. In the editing room we see he’s always tuned in and always playing the scene. He was always with it. That’s something that I’m not in any way responsible for because I didn’t even notice at the time. I just sort of picked up on it later and was happy to see it. And yeah he didn’t know some of the safety rules and tricks like that. He needed them explained to him like, ‘You can’t just stop right in front of a dolly. Dolly grips are big guys and they push the thing very fast and they’ll just bowl right over you’ and he almost got badly hurt.”

On the first time he met his Oscar nominated Cinematographer Robert Yeoman:
“I loved ‘Drugstore Cowboy’ which he had shot so I had asked to meet him. And also he had taken over the shooting of ‘To Live and Die in LA’ and I loved that movie and knew he was a part of that one too, so that was the reason why I was interested in him. He liked what we had planned to do; I could tell he was into it. Bob and I watch movies together, that’s kind of our ritual, and this one we looked at [Ernst] Lubitsch movies: ‘The Shop Around the Corner’ and ‘Trouble in Paradise’ and his earlier musicals and then lots of other movies, ’30s movies. We had other kinds of touchstones, things that we were probably taking things from, but that was the real core of it.”

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On Ralph Fiennes:
“I knew Ralph a little over the years, and a few summers ago I was at somebody’s house and Ralph was there and he was planning to direct his first movie, ‘Coriolanus,’ a Shakespeare film. He had commissioned the script and he had made a kind of trailer to try and raise the money, and I asked him ‘How would this scene be done in the movie? Like what you have here in the trailer?’ And he actually played this scene for me to me on the couch and Ralph is a powerful actor and in the sofa setting it’s extremely impressive. It was when I got up from the couch that I thought I really would like to work with Ralph. I was just very excited to work with him.”

Reaction to his Oscar nominations:
“Well, you know, it’s great to get nominated for an Oscar. It’s great news. It’s umm, what do people say normally? I don’t know. I love it.”

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