Wes Anderson’s beloved, and far-flung, movie locations
Filmmaker’s settings are as distinctive as his movies’ characters, including in the newly released “The Grand Budapest Hotel.”
The New York Times
Northwest travel guides
Wes Anderson’s films are best known for their eccentric characters and rigorously whimsical tone. But just as distinctively captured are their settings. Think of the colors and textures of the Indian landscapes in “The Darjeeling Express,” for example, or the lovingly rendered Mediterranean locations in “The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou.”
The director’s latest offering, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” tells the story of a concierge (Ralph Fiennes) between the world wars who becomes a murder suspect. Because the primary location plays such a large role, finding the right spot to shoot entailed intricate. Below, in an edited conversation, is a taste of what that process entailed, and some of the places that have inspired Anderson.
Q: What is the process you go through when choosing a location?
A: For this type of movie we start on Google and Wikipedia and so on — and that was how I wandered my way over to the Library of Congress Photochrom Prints collection, which is almost like Google Earth for 1902. There are a vast number of tinted photographs that take you all over the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Prussia. Then we traveled around Eastern Europe to see many of these particular views. Most of them look radically different — but some are very close to the old pictures.
We decided to work in Germany partly because of the great big tax rebate, and then also because we found this old Jugenstil department store in a little city on the Polish border, Görlitz. It had everything we needed, including abandoned thermal baths, a gigantic ballroom and a very good, terrifying prison about 20 minutes away, in Zittau. The town became the center for our production. Our cutting room was a former tavern in the basement of the town’s City Hall.
Q: What do you look for in a hotel?
A: I am very interested in getting a good rate. Also: the shortest distance from the street to the room. You don’t want to lose hours and hours in the course of time crossing through lobbies and going up and down long corridors. In Görlitz, our entire cast and many in our company stayed in a place called the Hotel Börse, right in the center of the old city. It was perfect. We converted the ground floor into the hair and makeup area; in fact, the owner and his wife and several of his employees appear in the movie in various roles, in particular behind the front desk.
Q: Are there locations for other films of yours that you particularly fell in love with?
A: In Rhode Island, for “Moonrise Kingdom,” we worked in a beautiful scout camp built in maybe the ’20s called Camp Yawgoog. We also found a place we try to get back to called the Matunuck Oyster Bar. In the Himalayan foothills, on location for “The Darjeeling Express,” we stumbled by helicopter across an Indian town called Mussoorie, which I particularly loved.
Also, the Italian island of Ponza, where we worked for a day or two during “The Life Aquatic.” The very best thing about Ponza is the next-door island, Palmarola. You must swim to your table for pasta on the beach.