One of the chief pleasures of watching a Wes Anderson movie is being immersed in the idiosyncratic, slightly off-kilter worlds he creates. The director’s latest effort, “The Grand Budapest Hotel, whisks the audience to a fictional country in pre-World War II Europe to follow the escapades of a famed concierge seeking to recover a famous Renaissance painting with the help of his trusted lobby boy.
After the film opened the Berlin International Film Festival on Thursday, Anderson and some key members of his star-studded cast -- Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Saoirse Ronan and Edward Norton -- talked about checking in to “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
Anderson said he wrote the lead role of Gustave, the dashing concierge and well-known Lothario, with Fiennes in mind. “This character is quite grand and theatrical and has to recite poetry and has sort of paragraphs of text, and the crucial thing to me is that he be a real person,” Anderson said, adding that Fiennes was the sort of actor who could pull that off.
Fiennes said Anderson’s screenplay “was unlike anything else I’d ever read.” He added, “It was a fantastic role. I responded really to Wes, to his spirit. … It was a no-brainer: a great part, a great director and a great script.”
Anderson said the film was partly inspired by the work of Austrian novelist and playwright Stefan Zweig, who was prominent in the 1920s and ‘30s, around the time when much of “Budapest” is set.
“Zweig has not been popular in America or in English for some years,” Anderson said, although he is “enormously popular in Europe.” After reading Zweig’s “Beware of Pity,” about the tribulations of an Austro-Hungarian cavalry officer, Anderson said, “I started reading all his fiction and his wonderful memoir.” He described “Grand Budapest” as “our own version of a Zweig story.”
Anderson was also inspired by such films as Ernst Lubitsch’s “To Be or Not to Be,” Ingmar Bergman’s “The Silence” and Edmund Goulding’s “Grand Hotel.”
When Anderson was asked how he gets so many good actors together in his films, Murray jumped in to answer on their behalf. Wearing a tiny conical ski hat, he deadpanned, “We are promised very long hours and low wages. And stale bread. That’s pretty much it.” But, he added, “You get to see the world, and we allow Wes to live this wonderful, magical life he has where his dreamscape comes through.”
Norton, who plays the the strait-laced police captain Henckels, said he was happy to be on board as well.
Asked about playing a man in uniform for the second film in a row (the previous one being in “Moonrise Kingdom”) Norton said, “I think Wes just likes tight trousers and epaulets on a man, and I’m happy to wear them for him.”