TERRY GROSS, HOST:
This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. This year's best movie so far, according to our critic at large John Powers, is "The Grand Budapest Hotel," which was directed and co-written by my guest Wes Anderson, who also made the wonderful films "The Royal Tenenbaums," "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Moonrise Kingdom."
The new film begins with an author looking back on his work, explaining how he came to write a book about the Grand Budapest Hotel.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL")
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As character) A number of years ago, while suffering from a mild case of scribe's fever, a form of neurasthenia common among the intelligentsia of that time, I decided to spend the month of August in the spa town of Nebelsbad(ph), below the Alpine Sudetenvatz(ph) and had taken up rooms in the Grand Budapest, a picturesque, elaborate and once widely celebrated establishment. I expect some of you will know it.
GROSS: The film has a story within a story within a story, but most of the film is set in the late 1930s in the fictional Central European country of Zubrowka on the eve of war. Ralph Fiennes stars as the concierge of the elegant Grand Budapest Hotel. He makes sure everything is just so at the hotel, but as the movie progresses and the plot thickens, his confectionary world is violated by fascism, by the police, who think he's committed a murder and by a greedy family looking to cut him out of a will.
Along the way, Anderson pays tribute to war films, prison break movies and screwball comedies. John Powers says, quote, Wes Anderson's work has always been a tug of war between the pleasures of childlike whimsy and an adult ruefulness about the elusiveness of love and the ravages of passing time. He's never captured this tension more completely than in "The Grand Budapest Hotel," unquote.
Here's a scene in which Ralph Fiennes as Monsieur Gustave, the concierge, finds out that someone on his staff, without first consulting him, has hired a new lobby boy, the boy who helps guests in the lobby and runs errands. The lobby boy is played by Tony Revolori. They're walking through the lobby as they talk.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL")
RALPH FIENNES: (As Gustave) Who are you?
TONY REVOLORI: (As Zero) I'm Zero, sir, the new lobby boy.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Zero, you say?
REVOLORI: (As Zero) Yes, sir.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Well, I've never heard of you, never laid eyes on you. Who hired you?
REVOLORI: (As Zero) Ms. Moser, sir.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Mr. Moser?
LARRY PINE: (As Mr. Moser) Yes, Mr. Gustave?
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Am I to understand you've surreptitiously hired this man in the position of a lobby boy?
PINE: (As Mr. Moser) He's been engaged for a trial period, pending your approval, of course.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Perhaps, yes. Thank you, Mr. Moser.
PINE: (As Mr. Moser) You're most welcome, Monsieur Gustave.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) You're now going to be officially interviewed.
REVOLORI: (As Zero) Should I go light the candle first, sir?
FIENNES: (As Gustave) What? No.
(As Gustave) Experience.
REVOLORI: (As Zero) Hotel Kinsky(ph), kitchen boy, six months. Hotel Berlitz, mop and broom boy, three months. Before that I was a skillet scrubber...
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Experience, zero.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As character) Thank you again, Mr. Gustave.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Straighten that cap. The pleasure's mine, Herr Schneider.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As character) (Unintelligible).
FIENNES: (As Gustave) These are not acceptable.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As character) I fully agree.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Education.
REVOLORI: (As Zero) I studied reading and spelling. I started my primary school. I almost finished.
(As Gustave) Education, zero.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As character) Now it's exploded.
REVOLORI: (As Gustave) Good morning, Cicero, call the goddamn plumber.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: (As character) This afternoon, Monsieur Gustave.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Not now. Family?
REVOLORI: (As Zero) Zero.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) (Unintelligible).
GROSS: Wes Anderson, welcome to FRESH AIR. I love this movie. Thank you so much for making it.
WES ANDERSON: Thank you, thank you Terry. Thank you for having me.
GROSS: Why did you want to set your movie in an elegant world that's been lost to war and to death, but it's a world that you've totally imagined. I mean, it's not - it's based on the real world, but the town doesn't really exist. The country doesn't really exist.
ANDERSON: Yeah, that's one we - you know, I have never made a movie before that had such a specific historical context, and yet at the same time I made this choice to sort of vaguely fictionalize it all. And it's an odd combination. You know, it's very clear what moments we're referring to and what region this is taking place in, but we've made our own country and our own Europe, and we've sort of combined the two world wars.
Who knows why in the world I felt it had to be done that way?
GROSS: And there's a place called Lutz(ph), and I have to say I looked it up in Wikipedia because these places sound like maybe they are real. So I looked up Lutz, and it said that it's a figure skating jump. And I thought yeah, yeah it is, isn't it?
ANDERSON: Good, yeah, like a triple lutz.
ANDERSON: Yeah, yeah, well Lutz, and you know, I think Lutz is probably Budapest and Prague and Vienna rolled into one or something. But in the end, in preparing the movie, me and my little group of collaborators, we traveled quite a bit in Central Europe and that part of the world which I didn't really know well. I'd been to a few places before.
But Prague is the one that I feel sort of inspired me the most for this city, for the big city in our story. Prague is just such a spectacular place, and it's one of those places that so much of the history is right in front of you as a stranger wandering around Prague. But the things that are not in the script but that are very clear and, you know, a significant part of the finished movie, there are many things that are just things we gathered in our travels.
You know, the '60s part of our story, much of the story takes place in the '30s. The '60s part of the story in the script was the hotel where it takes place in decline. It's sort of shabby. But after we started traveling around there, we realized the first thing it needs to be is communist, and that has to be - we'd have to visualize that. There are many things sort of like that that we picked up along the way.
GROSS: Your movie is about a lost world and a lost era, and it's a world an era that you're too young to have experienced. A good deal of the story is set in the late 1930s, in the early stages of World War II, though it's not called that because everything in it is kind of a reimagining of the world.
And I feel like, you know, I'm too young to have lived through World War II, but I feel like I've lived through it through the movies. I've seen so many World War II movies and so many Nazi movies over the years and so many movies where people on trains during World War II are asked for their papers, and they don't have their papers, and there's that moment of tension, which you play out in your movie, too.
What is your connection to that era? And do you feel like you lived through it through movies?
ANDERSON: Yeah, I feel exactly the same thing. And in fact I think that's why when you say it's re-imagined, part of why I feel the impulse to re-imagine it rather than just do it is because it's been done so many times before. This is such familiar historical territory. You know, the reason I want to engage with it is because this series of events in Europe are somehow still right in the middle of our lives.
And anyway, it's - the impact is we just feel it in kind of a daily way somehow. For me, I've been - for many years I've been spending, you know, half of my time in Europe for the last 10, 15 years maybe, and for the last few years, I just happen to have been reading a lot that relates to this kind of setting and this period of history.
So usually the movies that I'm making somehow are related to just the thing I'm particularly interested in in whatever that moment is, and that's - you know, one of the biggest inspirations for me was reading this writer Stefan Zweig, who I'd never even heard of until about five or six years ago, and really I just responded to, you know, from the first page I read.
GROSS: Well, before we hear a clip of Ralph Fiennes as Gustave, who runs the hotel, he's the concierge of the hotel, before we hear his voice in the movie, can you talk a little bit about creating his voice?
ANDERSON: Well, in fact the character played by Ralph is based on an old friend of mine and my friend Hugo, who wrote the script with me. Our old friend is really the model for this character. Now, Ralph made it into something that - you know, it's something else in Ralph's hands. It's just as much Ralph as it is anybody else.
But the language of the character is really the language of our friend. It's the way he talks, and it's sort of his personality. The - Zweig somehow filters into it, too. But it begins with this real person.
GROSS: OK, so here's a scene from the movie "The Grand Budapest Hotel." And this is Ralph Fiennes as Gustave, who is the concierge of this old, elegant hotel. And he's a character who has a lot of affairs with older, wealthy women, women who are needy and frail and very wealthy. He's not exactly preying on them. He really enjoys them. At the same time, I think they do, they do give him, you know, financial and tangible materialistic benefits.
So one of these older women is played by Tilda Swinton, who is so beautiful. She needed so many prosthetics and so much makeup to look elderly. But anyways, she's about to take a trip and leave the hotel, and she's afraid something bad is going to happen and that she'll never see Gustave again. So, here's Tilda Swinton and Ralph Fiennes, just as she's ready to leave.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL")
TILDA SWINTON: (As Madame D.) I'm not leaving.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) I beg your pardon?
SWINTON: (As Madame D.) I'm not leaving.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Why not?
SWINTON: (As Madame D.) I'm frightened.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Of what?
SWINTON: (As Madame D.) I fear this may be the last time we ever see each other.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Why on Earth would that be the case?
SWINTON: (As Madame D.) Well, I can't put it into words, but I feel it.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Well, for goodness sake, there's no reason for you to leave us. If you'd rather...
SWINTON: (As Madame D.) Come with me.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) To Lutz?
SWINTON: (As Madame D.) Please.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Give me your hand. You've nothing to fear. You're always anxious before you travel. I admit, you appear to be suffering a more acute attack on this occasion, but truly and honestly - oh, dear God, what have you done to your fingernails?
SWINTON: (As Madame D.) I beg your pardon?
FIENNES: (As Gustave) This diabolical varnish. The color is completely wrong.
SWINTON: (As Madame D.) Oh, really? Don't you like it?
FIENNES: (As Gustave) It's not that I don't like it. I am physically repulsed.
GROSS: That's so great. It's such a kind of standard scene, where, like, somebody's leaving, and there's a sense of fear, like, maybe we'll never see each other again. And then he starts looking at her fingernail polish and doesn't like it. You're always, like, doing something that's so kind of out of character - not out of character, but just so not a part of what is supposed to happen in the genre that you're working in.
ANDERSON: Right, right. Surprises.
GROSS: My guest is Wes Anderson. He wrote and directed the new film "The Grand Budapest Hotel." More after a break. This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: My guest is director and screenwriter Wes Anderson. He made the films "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Moonrise Kingdom." His new film, "The Grand Budapest Hotel," is largely set in the late-1930s in a fictional European country on the verge of war. Ralph Fiennes stars as the concierge of an elegant hotel.
One of the things that I think screwball comedies are so perfect at - and these are the screwball comedies of, like, the '30s and the '40s - is the timing. I mean, there's so many screwball comedies in which, like, the entrance and the exit of a character, or who stands up and who sits down at a table is so perfectly timed for comic effect, and you do that, but you do that even in a more extreme way in your movies to, like, underscore the absurdity of the timing.
Your movies are so carefully choreographed. Did you think a lot about the screwball comedies of the '30s when choreographing the movements of your actors?
ANDERSON: Well, you know, it's interesting, because I feel like we plan the shots and the sort of the editing in a way and the construction of the sets and the design of the sets, even if it's on locations, this is all very carefully planned, and we kind of do this step by step. And we gather all the ingredients, and we have it very prepared, so that when the day comes to shoot, everything is sort of quite set in that way.
But the actors, I feel like what happens is they - we all get together. They come on the set, and then it's just sort of chaos. And they take over, and it goes one way or another. And we tend to do a lot of takes, but very, very quickly, one right after another, and anything might happen on the next take.
That's sort of my feeling of what it's like on the sets of the movies I do. There's a choreography, but I always feel like it's coming from them. You know, maybe that's an illusion.
GROSS: It's an illusion.
GROSS: No, no. There's even a scene were, you know, Ralph Fiennes is getting beat up, and the, quote, "lobby boy," his assistant, is getting beat up, too. And they're getting beat up on opposite ends of the screen in identical ways, bleeding from the same parts of their noses. It's perfectly choreographed. That is not spontaneous.
ANDERSON: Yeah. You know, I mean, I guess it's - you know, that's - the way it's shot is - we do this thing now, which I've done ever since we - I did an animated movie a few years ago. And in animated...
GROSS: "Fantastic Mr. Fox."
ANDERSON: "Fantastic Mr. Fox," yeah. And in an animated movie, you draw out the shots, and you record the actors, or a version of the scene, and then you edit it, and you can watch it in a kind of sketch version before you shoot it. You edit before you shoot. And so we do that now in the live action movies. So, in a scene like that, we've done a sort of cartoon version before.
But the way they play it, you know, I feel like they do the words that are written, but they sort of do something different on every take, and they're improvising it. But it's within a kind of a form that we've kind of set. It's, you know, the sort of proscenium is in place.
GROSS: You've made the Ralph Fiennes character this really kind of like, you know, elegant character who, like, speaks very elegantly, and part of it is just kind of theatrical, and part of it is real for him. But you also, in the movie, put him in these kind of tough guy situations, like he's thrown into prison. And in prison, he delivers the food and kind of, like, spices it nicely for the prisoners, and calls them darling as he delivers it.
But he also is able to get these, like, beautiful pink, cupcake-sized pastries, these wonderful delicacies. And so there's a scene in prison where he has one of these beautiful little pink pastries that he's dividing up for his cellmates. They'll are, like, such tough guys. And he's dividing them up with what he calls the throat slitter.
GROSS: And I thought we could just hear that scene. And the bakery that it's from, which is mentioned in this clip, is called Mendels(ph). So here's Ralph Fiennes as Gustave. And a little later in the scene, we're going to hear Harvey Keitel, who plays one of his cellmates, and it's Harvey Keitel who starts talking about a possible prison break.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL")
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Good morning, Pinky.
UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (As Pinky) Mendels again?
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Precisely. Who's got the throat slitter?
FLORIAN LUKAS: (As Pinky) Out of this world.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Mendels is the best. Well, back to work.
LUKAS: (As Pinky) Mr. Gustave?
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Yes?
LUKAS: (As Pinky) Me and the boys talked it over. We think you are a really straight fellow.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) Well, I've never been accused of that before, but I appreciate the sentiment.
LUKAS: (As Pinky) You're one of us now.
FIENNES: (As Gustave) What a lovely thing to say. Thank you, dear Pinky. Thank you, Gunther. Thank you, Wolf. Anything else?
LUKAS: (As Pinky) Tell him, Ludwig.
HARVEY KEITEL: (As Ludwig) Checkpoint 19 ain't no two-bit hoosegow. You got broad gauge iron bars on every door, vent and window. You've got 72 guards on the floor and 16 more in the towers. You got a 325-foot drop into a moat full of crocodiles. But like the best of them, it's got a soft spot, which in this case, happens to take the form of a storm drain sewer system dating from the time of the original rock fortification, way back in the middle ages.
(As Ludwig) Now, nobody's saying it's a stroll down a tree-lined promenade with a fine lady and a white poodle, but it's got what you'd call vulnerability. And that's our bread and butter. Take a look.
GROSS: And that was Harvey Keitel at the end of that scene. You had to visually create this world that you imagined, you know, because it's - like we said, it's not a real country. It's not a real hotel. I'd say it looks real, but it doesn't quite look real. It looks like the Wes Anderson version of a real world that existed during World War II in Eastern Europe.
How did you find the place to shoot? Because you shot on location someplace.
ANDERSON: Yes, we did. The last movie I did, that's called "Moonrise Kingdom," that was the first one after I did the animated one we talked about. And I had a very good experience making the movie, and part of what helped us was we found a key location or two, and we kept everything else very close physically to this, you know, geographically. We kept the movie quite contained.
We shot it in Rhode Island, which as long as you're staying within the borders, you know, the borders of the state, you've got a relatively contained operation. But I felt like I don't want to work in a movie studio. I've done it before, and I don't like it. I like to be on location. I like to have input from the real world that is helping to shape what we're doing, but we adapt it.
We make - we're building sets and designing things, but we're designing them and building them out in the real world. And we did the same thing with this "Grand Budapest" movie. We found this department store in this town called Gorlitz, which is in Saxony. Half of Gorlitz is in Germany, the other half is in Poland. It's on the border. And it's about 20 minutes from Czech Republic.
So, in a way, it's really right where our story would be, if there was such a place as the one in our story. And this department store that we found, we made into our hotel, the big entrance hall of our hotel, and then we found everything else for the movie within a certain kind of radius of that department store.
And we discovered all sorts of things and people as we traveled around, figuring it all out. And we kind of made a pastiche of the greatest hits of kind of, you know, Eastern Europe that found their way into our movie. And especially, we met people in Budapest and in Prague and in Berlin and in Poland who we asked to come play roles. And their faces and voices are in the mix in the movie, too.
GROSS: Wes Anderson will be back in the second half of the show. He directed and co-wrote the new film "The Grand Budapest Hotel." Here's music from the soundtrack, composed by Alexandre Desplat. I'm Terry Gross, and this is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross, back with Wes Anderson, the director and co-writer of the new film "The Grand Budapest Hotel." He also made the movies "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Moonrise Kingdom." "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is set largely in the late 1930s in a fictional European country on the verge of war. Ralph Fiennes stars as the concierge of an elegant hotel.
In several of your movies - including this one - there's a combination of miniatures. Like I assume that the outside of the hotel is a miniature as opposed to a full-scale building that you created. So there's this mix of miniatures and of, you know, real life and real scale things happening. And it creates this unique image, you know, this unique movie that's very much like Wes Anderson, you know?
GROSS: Because it's part handmade and part real. Can you talk about like intentionally going after that combination of part handmade and part real life?
ANDERSON: Yeah. Well, you know, the thing is, I thought we were going to find the perfect hotel and that we'd just do it there. We didn't. You know, we looked for a very long time and we found all kinds of great parts of hotels and ideas, but we didn't find the right one. And in fact, the more we looked the more we wanted to use things from multiple places. So eventually we made this - we had this, you know, me and the collaborators that were - Adam Stockhausen, our production designer, Jeremy Dawson, our producer, we decided we're going to do a miniature. And you know, we set to work on designing it.
One of the advantages - first, I love miniatures. You know, it's just an old movie technique, an old-fashioned approach that I have always - there's a certain charm in miniatures to me, I just like them. But also, when you're doing a miniature it means you can make the thing exactly the way you want. You don't - you have essentially no limitation. So we could put our hotel where we wanted it, we could make it look how we wanted it, and we could put things around it that we wanted.
We sort of went a step further. Rather than making a miniature and putting it into a realistic setting, we were quite inspired by these paintings by Caspar David Friedrich and their landscapes, you know, their sort of views. And they were - and we used them in different ways, but we decided maybe we would make our - the whole sort of hillside, the whole spa town would be presented in a painting, in sort of mural with the miniature in it. And we did it in the style of Caspar David Friedrich, so it became a miniature and a painting.
GROSS: Did you stay - well, actually, I read that the whole cast stayed in a hotel together. You all stayed in the same hotel during the shoot.
ANDERSON: Yes. We had a small hotel in this town, in this town Gorlitz, that we managed to take over, a great little kind of quiet place, and we made it like our house. In fact, the guy who was - the guy who owned the hotel was usually at the front desk but he was also in our film at the front desk of the hotel in the movie. So we'd see him in the day behind the front desk in his purple uniform and then at night he would somehow have already gotten back to the hotel where we lived and he'd be there in his present day outfit waiting for us behind that front desk.
GROSS: So did everybody meet in costume for meals, or did they just meet as themselves as actors?
ANDERSON: They took off the costumes as quickly as they could.
GROSS: Well, let me ask you, did you want to run into everybody from the movie when you woke up and went to breakfast or did you want some time away from everybody?
ANDERSON: I like to keep everybody together. I think, you know, in the mornings, I feel like everybody's kind of busy and doing their thing. You cross paths with everybody but everybody's kind of hurrying to get themselves ready and get on the way. The makeup, for instance, and hair and stuff happened in the lobby of the hotel. They put on their costumes in the hotel, which is not the way it's normally done. Usually you'll go to the set and everything is there and people get put together there. We tried to do it this other way. And then...
GROSS: Why? Why do you do it that way?
ANDERSON: Well, I think it's just faster. You know, I think what happens is people go to a movie set and they're in their normal clothes and they show up and they get a coffee and they get something from the, you know, from a craft services table that's filled with all kinds of little foods and things, and then they make their way over to the makeup and they checked her text messages while they're getting made up and they - and then someone calls on a walkie-talkie and asks how much longer they'll be, and then they go and put on their costume and it's all, it has a, it just doesn't have an urgency. And whereas I feel like if people wake up and it's right there and they do it and they get ready and when they - there's a set time when they need to be in the car completely ready. You know, it's not about reporting to makeup at a certain time, it's about reporting to work at a certain time. That's just more, I just feel like it makes it happen quicker.
But the other thing is, I like to have, when we finish work, everybody goes back to the same place. And Ralph had said to me before, I told him here's how we like to do it and here's how we have it be. And Ralph said, what if I want to have my - what if I want some quiet time and I don't want to have dinner with everybody? What if I have some other - I said you do whatever you like. We can have it in the other room, you can have - you can go out to wherever you want to go for dinner. It's not, it's available to you. Well, Ralph was there for dinner literally every single night of the entire movie. He never - I never saw him feeling like he wanted to go away. You know, the actors, I feel they're drawn to each other and it's usually very relaxing and it's fun because the day's work is kind of high tension, and at the end of the day people really do kind of just of release themselves.
GROSS: I want to play another scene from the film. And this is a scene when Ralph Fiennes, as Monsieur Gustave, who is the hotel concierge, one of the older dowagers who he's very close to has died. And so he and his assistant, the lobby boy from the hotel, go immediately onto a train to the home of the woman who died where the will will be read. And this is also just as the country is about to be invaded and war is breaking out. So they're on the train and the Ralph Fiennes character, Monsieur Gustave, is feeling very guilty because this wealthy dowager had been reluctant to leave, she had this premonition something bad would happen and he sent her - he said just go, it'll be fine. So here he is on the train. And this is Tony Revolori as the lobby boy, his assistant.
(SOUNDBITE OF MOVIE, "THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL")
FIENNES: (As Monsieur Gustave) I blame myself. She tried to tell me she had a premonition. I didn't listen. All of us will be dressed in black except her own ghastly, deceitful children whom she loathed and couldn't bear to kiss. They'll be dancing like gypsies there.
(As Monsieur Gustave) There's really no point in doing anything in life because it's all over in the blink of an eye. The next thing you know, rigor mortis sets in. Oh, how the good die young. With any luck she's left a few (unintelligible) for your old friend, but one never knows until the ink is dry on the death certificate. She was dynamite in the sack, by the way.
REVOLORI: (As Zero Moustafa) She was 84, Monsieur Gustave.
FIENNES: (As Monsieur Gustave) I've had older. When you're young it's all fillet steak, but as the years go by you have to move on to the cheaper cuts, which is fine with me because I like those - more flavorful, so they say.
GROSS: And the music in the background is by Alexandre Desplat. If you're just joining us, my guest is Wes Anderson and he directed and co-wrote the new movie "The Grand Budapest Hotel." His other recent movies include "Moonrise Kingdom" and "Fantastic Mr. Fox." Let's take a short break and we'll talk some more.
This is FRESH AIR.
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
GROSS: If you're just joining us, my guest is screenwriter and director Wes Anderson and his new movie is called "The Grand Budapest Hotel." And it's set in the - kind of on the eve of World War II in an imaginary Eastern European country that gets invaded during the movie. And most of the movie is set in an old, elegant hotel in this imaginary Eastern European country.
There's so many shots in this film and in some of your other films where there's, say, two characters standing side-by-side, looking straight ahead kind of into the camera. And it gives the movie a very two dimensional, like an intentionally two dimensional look, whereas most movies are trying to give a three-dimensional look. But it also makes it seem like the character is looking at you, like they're staring at you while you're staring at them.
GROSS: Can you, like why do you like doing that kind of shot? And I love the way it looks and the expressions on the characters' faces, they're usually great to and they're usually almost like still photographs. The actors usually holding that expression for a few seconds.
ANDERSON: Yeah. That's, you know, I think there's something about, you know, often you're kind of trying to get the eyes as close to the middle of the lens as you can. And really I feel like there's just electricity in people's eyes. The way they, the behavior is, you know, that's - it sort of - that doesn't come from me, it comes from them. But I have my own way of kind of blocking things and framing things that's sort of kind of built into me somehow. I compare it to being like handwriting and I don't fully understand why my handwriting is like this but in a way it's - there's some sort of tonal thing. With the kind of stories I do, they tend to have some fable element and I think my visual sort of predilections are somehow related to trying to make that tone and make my own writing work with performers and - something like that.
GROSS: Which are the movies about World War II that made the biggest impression on you and if you saw any when you were young that particularly scared you?
ANDERSON: Well, you know, when I was a kid, you know, I remember we had World War II books. For whatever reason, boys are very interested in war and there were Time-Life books that were just, you know, had every detail about the war, about the military machines. But you know, some of the inspirations for this movie are a bit odd. Like I feel like as much as it might be a John Ford war movie, it's also, you know, "The Sorrow and the Pity" and "Shoah." You know, somehow those kind of...
GROSS: Movies about the Holocaust.
ANDERSON: Yeah. They triggered something in me and made me want to kind of enter into this area.
GROSS: You said that boys are interested in war and there were all these like books for boys about the war, showing combat scenes in detail. Were you one of those boys interested in war?
ANDERSON: Well, you know, I think I was. I wasn't one of the experts. Some of these kids knew all the planes and tanks and they built models of them and all that kind of stuff. I think, you know, for me, I was, you know, I was in the school of thought where we had moved our wars into space and that was really where you wanted to see the fighting. So, you know, I think I'm(ph) influenced by some important Hollywood filmmakers - you know, we were more, we needed to be on foreign planets for the fighting.
GROSS: So you weren't one of the boys who have the models of all the planes from World War II and the tanks and you didn't know their names. But you must've loved models, though, you know, models of, I don't know, planes or homes or anything, because like that's so much of what you do is create little miniature models of things.
ANDERSON: Well, I do like models. I never was that good at them. My older brother, on the other hand, my older brother is, you know, he always did models and he's very, he has great dexterity and he's just careful and he made wonderful models, but I never could, you know, I could never get those right. But, you know, I did just see, I was just in Chicago a couple of days ago and I went to see this thing I've seen many times. Have you ever heard of it, the Thorne collection of miniatures, it's in the Chicago Art Institute?
GROSS: I'm not familiar with it.
ANDERSON: It's a wonderful - it's in the basement of the Chicago Art Institute. This woman commissioned these rooms and they're all through history and they're just, you just, it's usually filled with kids and they look through the glass and they're just rooms, but they're so intricately detailed. And they are imaginary rooms but they evoke different periods and different places and you kind of go all around the world looking through windows into these tiny rooms. It's a really fascinating thing. I think there's something about miniatures, there's just - there's something kind of, you know, mesmerizing about them - for whatever reason.
GROSS: Wes Anderson, thank you so much for talking with us and for making the movie.
ANDERSON: Thank you. Thank you very much for having me, Terry. I had a great time.
GROSS: Me too. Thanks.
Wes Anderson wrote and directed the new film "The Grand Budapest Hotel." Here's more music from the soundtrack, composed by Alexandre Desplat, who also wrote the music for Anderson's films "Fantastic Mr. Fox" and "Moonrise Kingdom."
(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)
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