‘The French Dispatch’ composer Alexandre Desplat on his longtime collaboration with Wes Anderson

Prolific and Oscar-winning composer Alexandre Desplat has worked with Wes Anderson on every single one of the director’s films since 2009’s “Fantastic Mr. Fox” — and Desplat even won his first Academy Award for one of the auteur’s most well-received projects, 2014’s “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” What’s the key to their fruitful collaboration and where does it start on each project?

“It’s like when you play with a train and little soldiers, we gather all the toys we’ll have and we decide, we’ll use these toys,” Desplat tells Gold Derby during our “Meet the Experts” composers panel. “Then from there I start writing demos and we share that very quickly and very quickly we find a direction that seems right for the film.”

In the case of “The French Dispatch,” Anderson’s latest feature, the inspiration came from its setting — a fictional French town where a New Yorker-like magazine is publishing its last issue. 

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“It’s a movie set in France so I already have an advantage — I’m one step ahead of the story because I’m French, I have some French history behind me,” Desplat says. “What is beautiful in this film is that it’s a real homage to Wes from French culture. We know he’s living part-time in Paris. But for true love of French culture: literature, music, cuisine —  he likes French cuisine. The movie shows that too.”

In keeping with Anderson’s recent work, “The French Dispatch” has an all-star cast, including Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Adrien Brody, Timothee Chalamet, and Jeffrey Wright. For the anthology film, Desplat wrote music for the introduction as well as the first section (primarily focused on an artist, played by Benicio Del Toro and his muse, played by Lea Seydoux) and final section (where Wright plays a food critic caught up in a police standoff). 

“When I read the script I always try to find what is behind the virtuality of words, the virtuality of the camera moves, and production design and costumes,” Desplat says. “There’s humor, a lot of humor, there’s a great craft, but the stories are very deep. But this depth is always a bit blurred and out of focus. Because maybe he wants to protect his emotions. He doesn’t show them too much. But all the subjects he shows in his films are very deep and moving. He shows it through poetry, a lot of poetry, and ‘Dispatch’ has a lot of that.”

“The French Dispatch” is out now.

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