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Noted for droll comedies that ruminated on loss, parental abandonment and sibling rivalry, director Wes Anderson emerged onto the filmmaking scene with the ultra-low budget "Bottle Rocket" (1996), which earned him considerable attention inside the industry and drew immediate comparisons to auteurs like Woody Allen and Jean Renoir. With "Rushmore" (1998), Anderson established himself as a critical darling, employing a deft mix of wry humor and subtle poignancy set to eclectic soundtracks. He continued to cement his growing reputation with "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001), a deadpan serio-comic tale about a dysfunctional family of wasted genius peppered with several surprisingly dark moments. A bittersweet ode of Jacques Cousteau, "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" (2004) was yet another pairing with frequent collaborator Bill Murray, although by now many critics and fans alike openly questioned whether Anderson had hit a creative slump. While viewed as an artistic improvement, the familiarly themed "The Darjeeling Limited" (2007) only heightened such speculation. A venture into stop-motion animation with an adaptation of Roald Dahl's "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009) appeared to reinvigorate the...
Noted for droll comedies that ruminated on loss, parental abandonment and sibling rivalry, director Wes Anderson emerged onto the filmmaking scene with the ultra-low budget "Bottle Rocket" (1996), which earned him considerable attention inside the industry and drew immediate comparisons to auteurs like Woody Allen and Jean Renoir. With "Rushmore" (1998), Anderson established himself as a critical darling, employing a deft mix of wry humor and subtle poignancy set to eclectic soundtracks. He continued to cement his growing reputation with "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001), a deadpan serio-comic tale about a dysfunctional family of wasted genius peppered with several surprisingly dark moments. A bittersweet ode of Jacques Cousteau, "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" (2004) was yet another pairing with frequent collaborator Bill Murray, although by now many critics and fans alike openly questioned whether Anderson had hit a creative slump. While viewed as an artistic improvement, the familiarly themed "The Darjeeling Limited" (2007) only heightened such speculation. A venture into stop-motion animation with an adaptation of Roald Dahl's "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009) appeared to reinvigorate the filmmaker, who returned to rave reviews for his tale of adolescent romance and adventure, "Moonrise Kingdom" (2012). Viewed as overly precious by some and unequivocally brilliant by others, there was no denying that Anderson was one of the more unique cinematic voices of his generation.
Born on May 1, 1969 in Harris County, TX, Anderson was raised in Houston by his father, Melver, an advertising executive, and his mother, Texas Anne Burroughs, an archeologist. In 1977, when Anderson was in fourth grade, his parents went through a divorce, leading the 10-year-old to act up at school while trying to hide his embarrassment. He also began writing plays, putting on productions of the Headless Horseman and the Battle of the Alamo. By the time he attended St. John's High School, a prep school that later served as the inspiration for "Rushmore," Anderson had been directing Super 8mm movies with his brothers, Eric and Mel. After graduating, he attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in philosophy and met future star Owen Wilson in a playwriting class. The two became fast friends and eventual roommates. Through their mutual love of movies, classic literature and the Sunday comics, Anderson and Wilson began making short films with equipment from a local cable access station, which also aired the final results.
Joining forces with Owen's younger brother, Luke Wilson, Anderson wrote and directed "Bottle Rocket" (1992), a 14-minute short about two young burglars (Owen and Luke) with too much time on their hands, inspired in part by a real-life break-in staged by the filmmaker to retaliate against a irresponsive landlord. "Bottle Rocket" screened as part of the shorts program at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival, where the sparse black-and-white film garnered considerable industry attention. Championed by writer-director L.M. "Kit" Carson, the film gained the attention of producers Polly Platt and James L. Brooks, who persuaded Columbia Pictures to back Anderson to the tune of $6 million for a full-length version. With Anderson at the helm, Owen and Luke reprised their roles as two Texans who try their hand at a life of crime in search of some sense of belonging. Though the 1996 feature bombed at test screenings, "Bottle Rocket" opened to mostly positive critical notices, but disappointed again with dismal box office numbers. Weird, warm and at times riotously funny, the quirky, atmospheric piece failed to connect with most moviegoers. It did, however, find a devout cult audience and, more importantly, raised Anderson's stature among Hollywood's elite, including Martin Scorsese, who considered it one of the best films of the 1990s.
Anderson's second feature effort, "Rushmore" (1998), was afforded about twice the budget of "Bottle Rocket" despite its predecessor's relative failure. With this film, Anderson and Owen collaborated on the script to tell the tale of a misguided, but well-meaning and slightly sociopathic prep school student, Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), who has an overwhelming slate of extracurricular activities and failing grades. He meets and quickly falls for the school's first grade teacher, Miss Cross (Olivia Williams), whom he loves almost as much as the titular campus itself. Max also strikes up a friendship with Mr. Herman Blume, a bemused businessman and former Rushmore student who crosses his new friend when he also takes a romantic interest in Miss Cross, leading to an instantly classic sequence where both exact revenge on each other while The Who's "A Quick One While He's Away" blares on the soundtrack. Full of the kind of singularly evocative and empathetic moments - most tied inextricably to the seminal soundtrack - that set Anderson apart from his contemporaries, "Rushmore" reached a much wider audience than "Bottle Rocket," bringing in over $17 million in box office grosses while becoming a favorite of critics and fans alike.
Moving on to his next project, Anderson directed "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001), which was set in the filmmaker's adopted home of New York City. A story about a family of child prodigies who never reached their potential, the film boasted Anderson's most impressive cast: Gene Hackman as the eponymous patriarch; Anjelica Huston as the graceful mother (based on Anderson's own mom); Danny Glover as her gentlemanly suitor; Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow and regular Luke Wilson as the three siblings in a state of arrested genius; and rounded out by Owen Wilson and Bill Murray. Mixing the colorful characters with hyper-realistic surroundings, Anderson succeeded in setting the scene and bringing his script about the dysfunctional family to life. Despite a mixed reception from critics, "The Royal Tenenbaums" became his biggest financial success to date. Anderson continued to explore large ensembles of extremely quirky characters, if less successfully, in his next outing, the offbeat comedy "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" (2004). Half-serious, half-cartoonish, the film explored a famed oceanographer-cum-filmmaker (Bill Murray), whose fading fortunes and increasing ennui are reversed when he adds his possible son (Owen Wilson) to his crew and embarks on a quest to kill the "jaguar shark" who ate his best friend. Reuniting past regulars Murray, Wilson and Huston, "The Life Aquatic" also brought Jeff Goldblum, Cate Blanchett and Willem Defoe into the Anderson fold. Still, the film was underwhelming compared to "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums."
Around the time "The Life Aquatic" was released, Anderson directed and starred in an American Express commercial, which featured the director on the set of a mock action movie while he talked to the camera as if being interviewed. Titled "My Life, My Card," the ad was notable for a long continuous take where Anderson moved about the set dealing with one absurd issue after another while talking about what it is like making movies. For his next feature, he reunited with Schwartzman and Luke Wilson and added Adrien Brody to form a trio of American brothers who embark on a spiritual trek through India following the death of their father. Also featuring Anjelica Huston, Natalie Portman and Bill Murray in a cameo role, the droll existential comedy featured many of Anderson's recurrent themes, including sibling rivalry, forbidden love and parental abandonment. Despite the generally positive reviews, "The Darjeeling Limited" suffered weak box office returns, taking in even less than "Rushmore" did on its release. Some of this might have been in part to a public's unease with seeing Owen Wilson in a comedic role so soon after he had shockingly attempted suicide in August 2007, and the fact that the actor ended up doing little-to-no press for the film. In an effort to spread his creative wings, Anderson directed "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009), a stop-motion comedy adventure about a crafty fox (voiced by George Clooney) who finds himself and his family targeted for death by three dumb farmers tired of losing their chickens to him. Anderson's near-universally acclaimed film earned nominations for Best Animated Feature Film at both the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.
As well received as "Mr. Fox" had been, Anderson's return to live-action filmmaking delivered a bounty of accolades the likes of which the idiosynchratic writer-director had not enjoyed since "Tenenbaums." A charmingly eccentric and loving look at the fleeting moments of childhood in the summertime, "Moonrise Kingdom" (2012) starred Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis and Frances McDormand in the tale of two young runaways (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) who find love and adventure on a small New England island in 1965. His work brought him Indie Spirit nods for Best Screenplay, Feature and Director, as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay that he shared with co-writer Roman Coppola.
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"It didn't quite get the studio push, but I guess that's what everybody says when their movie doesn't make any money."---Wes Anderson on his debut feature "Bottle Rocket" as quoted in Daily Variety, January 15, 1997.
"All thse words that are tossed around -- filmmaker, auteur -- you gag on them, but Wes is for real. I mean, he's not going to do 'one for them'. Other directors are always thinking, 'Gee, if I do three for them, I'll get to do one for me.' Every one Wes does is going to be for him, out of his sensibility."---James L. Brooks on Wes Anderson to Time Out New York, December 10-17, 1998.
"I like characters that are trying to realize their projects. They have a strong idea of something they want to execute and they just won't let anybody shut 'em down. It might seem ridiculous or it might seem too big -- I mean, building an aquarium, that's crazy; putting on a Vietnam play with explosions from the stage is crazy -- but [Rushmore's] Max Fischer does that. Of course, it's a movie, so I can have whatever I want to have happen. But I do like that kind of thing of people with unrealistic ambitions and their ambitions are not just to be rich. They have ideas and projects that they want to do. So that has a strong appeal to it."---Anderson quoted in Salon, January 21, 1999.
"He's a shy guy, the kind of guy who never dances, but when it came to the movie, he was tenacious. It reminded me a lot of working with John Cassavetes. They're both directors that get actors to trust them. That's why Wes got such good performances from Jason [Schwartzman], who'd never acted before, and [Bill] Murray, who usually wants to be the only funny guy on the set, but was really restrained for this part."---"Rushmore" co-star Seymour Cassel on Anderson to the Los Angeles Times, January 29, 1999.
"He doesn't play games with his actors. He'd come up and say, 'The thing you do with your face when you smile, don't do it.'"---Olivia Williams, co-star in "Rushmore" on Anderson as quoted in The New York Times, January 31, 1999.
"He's not doing anything to let you know that he knows how to move the camera, you don't have to worry that he's gonna do anything affected or tricky, or show that he's seen all of Scorcese's movies. It's exciting to watch, but not pretentious."---Owen Wilson on working with Anderson to Premiere, February 1999.
"The darkest hour was the evening of our first test screening, in Santa Monica, at which we had 85 walkouts. The head of the studio said, 'Congratulations. Seriously.' [My agent] Jim Berkus said that our goal for the next screening should be for someone to say 'congratulations' without having to say 'seriously' afterward. And then later that night, my girlfriend broke up with me."---Anderson in Premiere, March 1999.
"Wes Anderson, at age thirty, has a very special kind of talent: He knows how to convey the simple joys and interactions between people so well and with such richness. This kind of sensibility is rare in movies ... I remember seeing [Jean] Renoir's films as a child and feeling connected to the characters through his love for them. It's the same with Anderson. I've found myself going back and watching 'Bottle Rocket' several times. I'm also very fond of his second film 'Rushmore,' it has the same tenderness, the same kind of grace. Both of them are very funny, but also very moving."---Martin Scorsese quoted in "The Next Scorsese" in Esquire, March 2000.
"That's something I've done in all the movies. In 'Rushmore', Max wears his school uniform, and then goes through his depressed barber phase. Bill Murray wears the same thing but his shirt colors change. In this one, there are many more characters and it's much more noticeable because their outfits are more extreme. I like them to have a uniform. I feel like if there's a uniform for the actors, then every time they put it on, they can make their shift from what they were like before they arrived on the set. And it sort of unifies them throughout the movie."---Wes Anderson, on his decision to dress many of the characters in "The Royal Tenenbaums" in the same clothes throughout the film, even as it spans time, to Film Comment, November -December 2001.
"Owen had always been pushing me to do something about my parents' divorce, and so that was a part of what I was going to do with this. The movie ends up being something totally different from what I would have envisioned, because the father in the movie is nothing like my father. The family dynamic is quite different than mine. That opening scene in the movie is Royal [telling] the kids that they're going to get a divorce, and the questions they're asking are the questions we asked."---Anderson on the real-life inspiration for "The Royal Tenenbaums" as quoted in New York's Daily News, December 9, 2001.
"With Wes, he attracts such a great cast every time... And because the actors are willing to work with him for a price, you can get away with making these movies inside the studio system. Not only are you getting the joy of watching a singular filmmaker express himself, you also feel like there's something there for your marketing department to be able to sell."---Nina Jacobson, president of Disney's Buena Vista motion picture group to New York Times, November 28, 2004.
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