ON SET

The Grand Budapest Hotel

Director Wes Anderson takes us down the rabbit hole of his wartime adventure.


Photographer: Martin Scali

Wes Anderson’s films seem to exist in a bygone time and place that is at once familiar and elusive, built (as memories often are) on things both real and imagined. Though his latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, is based on the books of Stefan Zweig, an Austrian Jew who was among the most admired writers in Europe before he was exiled by the Nazis, the adventure tale is uniquely Andersonian. It begins in an opulent old hotel in the Alps but is located in a country that is “some combination of Czechoslovakia and Poland and maybe Hungary, too,” Anderson says. The year is 1932, and the coming war that throws the lives of the hotel’s esteemed head concierge, M. Gustave H. (Ralph Fiennes), and his lobby boy, Zero Moustafa (Tony Revolori), into spirited disarray “is meant to be something like the two world wars mashed together.” Against this stormy forecast, the plot turns on the death of Madame D. (Tilda Swinton), a countess and hotel regular who leaves an invaluable treasure to Gustave instead of her own villainous offspring. By telling the story through flashbacks—a game of cinematic telephone, really—Anderson further blurs the lines between history, source material, and film. “I wanted to make a movie that wasn’t based on a specific Zweig story but rather one that was ‘of his world,’ ” he explains. What he has made is informed by Ernst Lubitsch, Fritz Lang, and Billy Wilder—European filmmakers who created their own visions of Mitteleuropa in Los Angeles. Even the lavish decor of the Grand Budapest is not of one period but took cues from “all sorts of hotels from the 19th and 20th centuries,” Anderson says. “You might say it’s a composite.”

Photos: The Grand Budapest Hotel

Wes Anderson.

Photographer: Martin Scali

“Adrien Brody plays Madame D.’s son, Dmitri Desgoffe und Taxis; Willem Dafoe, who isn’t pictured, plays his henchman, Jopling.”

Photographer: Martin Scali

“Adrien is with Saoirse Ronan, Zero’s love interest, Agatha—that’s a birthmark on her cheek.”

Photographer: Martin Scali

“Tilda Swinton, whose character, Madame D., is getting into a car after her stay at the hotel. She’s afraid to leave the Grand Budapest and her beloved concierge, M. Gustave H.”

Photographer: Martin Scali

“F. Murray Abraham, who plays Zero as an older man years later, in 1968. By then, he has become the mysterious owner of the Grand Budapest Hotel.”

Photographer: Martin Scali

“Tilda, as the elderly Madame D. Tilda put on her lipstick in three brisk strokes: two on the top lip, one across the bottom. She said it was her grandmother’s system.”

Photographer: Martin Scali

Jude Law and Jason Schwartzman.

Photographer: Martin Scali

“Jeff Goldblum as Deputy Vilmos Kovacs, the most prominent attorney in fictional Nebelhorn, Zubrowka.”

Photographer: Martin Scali

“Dmitri’s three sisters, who always talk simultaneously. I think of their costumes as sort of Czech-style.”

Photographer: Martin Scali

“Ralph Fiennes as head concierge M. Gustave H. and Tony Revolori as his lobby boy, Zero.”

Photographer: Martin Scali

“Léa Seydoux, who plays a maid, and the wonderful Mathieu Amalric as Serge X, dressed all in white.”

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