Jeffrey Wright interview: ‘The French Dispatch’
“Do students of the table dream in flavors?,” ponders food journalist Roebuck Wright, played by Jeffrey Wright, at the opening of his story in “The French Dispatch.” When asked ‘what performers dream in?’ the actor reflects, “I think they may dream of scripts like the one that I was gifted from Wes Anderson. This movie was one of the most beautiful pieces of writing that I have had the good fortune to be asked to play. If they dream of anything, they dream of good words, and that’s what I got.” Watch our exclusive video interview above.
“The French Dispatch,” co-written and directed by Anderson, is set at the outpost of an American newspaper in 20th century France. It revolves around the publication of the newsletter, telling three stories that make up the feature articles. Wright plays the author of the third piece, titled ‘The Private Dining Room of the Police Commissioner.’ In it, Roebuck goes to review the cooking of the police commissioner’s (Mathieu Amalric) renowned private chef,Nescaffier (Stephen Park). The food review quickly escalates as the commissioner’s kidnapped son needs to be rescued.
Roebuck recounts the story, with meticulous sharp dialogue and nuanced heart, while we watch the events unfold. The actor admits, “I just fell in love with the tone of the story, the tone of the language and the irony, and just the fluidity of the language. I tried to put the joy and the love that I found inside the writing into the character. The film in some ways is about aloneness, and my story is no exception, a man who’s fine with finding his own corner of the world. A corner table with a meal to himself, with something of beauty set before him by an artist, a chef. In that he finds a degree of peace. When we did the film, I recognized there were those elements at the center of this character. But it was after the lockdowns that accompanied this ongoing pandemic that I had greater appreciation for that element of the story. We’ve all had to experience ourselves alone, much more so, than we might ordinarily have done.”
Towards the end of Roebuck’s piece, Nescaffier states that “a new flavor is a rare thing.” Wright muses, “The thing that was rare for me about the experience was, again, the words. When Wes sent me the script, it immediately seeped into my head like a melody that you hear on the radio that you hadn’t heard before, but it just stays with you. It was the journey of this man searching for some degree of space away from the turmoil. The way he viewed his writing about food as an attempt to transcend the vulgarity of things outside the table. It was the poetry within the writing and the irony, but also the melancholy. There was so much in those words that it just stayed with me. Mostly, if I work on a piece, I can do a scene and almost immediately delete it from my hard drive. It’s gone. But even today, and it’s been three years now, the words are still in my head. I just love playing them so much.”