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'The Grand Budapest Hotel': A conversation with Wes Anderson and Tony Revolori

A scene from the
A scene from the "The Grand Budapest Hotel."
A scene from the
Jason Schwartzman and Jude Law star in Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel."
A scene from the
A scene from the "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

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"The Grand Budapest Hotel" is director Wes Anderson's eighth film and perhaps his most spectacular.

The film revolves around a young lobby boy named Zero, played by local actor Tony Revolori, and his boss, a fastidious concierge named Gustave, played by Ralph Fiennes. He is beloved by elderly ladies who visit the hotel, including an octogenarian played by Tilda Swinton.


Earlier this week, Take Two had the chance to talk with director Wes Anderson. Wearing a brown corduroy jacket and tie, the filmmaker looked much like a human version of one of his characters, Mr. Fox to be exact.

We began by asking him what inspired him to make this latest film.

"Well the first inspiration was my friend Hugo and I made a little short story version of the script. But eventually I had the idea of combining that idea with something in the vein of Stefan Zweig stories that I'd begun to read and so I sort of mixed these things together and then we were able to write the movie."

Steffan Zveig was an Austrian novelist and journalist who, during the 1930s, was one of the most popular writers in the world. Most of The Grand Budapest Hotel is also set in this era, but parts of the film is set in 1968, and other scenes in 1985.

"That also partly comes from Zveig, who used this device of a character meets a mysterious stranger and eventually that person says, 'well if you like, I will tell you my story.' We've seen that done in many different books and movies, and it's a familiar sort of device. It's something I would tend to associate more with tales, like Kipling, or Conrad or those kind of stories. Zveig's work is much more intimate, psychological, tormented. It's a stranger kind of story to do in that way."

Wes Anderson is of course known for the moods and feeling of his films and he had trouble setting the stage for this one. The film takes place at the Grand Budapest Hotel in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka, but finding an actual hotel was a challenge.

"We thought we were going to find a real place, and we had done lots of research. Eventually it just became clear that things that were interesting in the photographs and in the descriptions of the hotels of the period we were trying to recreate, they don't exist, and we couldn't quite find something that was right."

After a lengthy search in places like Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Austria, Anderson and his team decided to use a department store in Gerlitz, Germany as the lobby of the Grand Budapest Hotel. 

There was also a long search for the actor who would play Zero, the middle-eastern lobby boy central to the film. 

"I just wanted to get the right guy...We looked in the Middle East and in North Africa. I think the thing to do is start as early as you can and cast as wide a net as possible, because there's no guarantee that you're going to find the right person...My experience is they end when the person walks in the door and you say 'there he is' or 'there she is."

That may be how Anderson recalls it, but that's not quite how seventeen-year-old actor Tony Revolori remembers it.

"I didn't get the part right away, Wes flew me out to Paris to meet him and to talk with him and read the script for a day, not even a day, 17 hours then he flew me back. About two months after that he offers me the role of Zero and I completely and utterly screamed and said yes."

Tony's family is from Guatemala, and he grew up in Anaheim. While Wes Anderson searched the world to find the right Zero, in the end it came down to Tony and his brother Mario.

"I mean, he was happy for me, we've been doing this for a very long time, he's beaten me for roles. Sometimes none of us get it, so we prefer it to be one of use two, so he was very happy...he said congratulations, I'm proud of you and kick butt."