I love everything about Wes Anderson movies. From the way he creates unique worlds to the unusual characters that occupy the screen, Anderson is a one-of-a-kind filmmaker that always makes something special. His newest film, The Grand Budapest Hotel, just premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and it continues his streak of making exceptional films. The story mostly takes place in early 20th-century and revolves around the goings-on at a famous European hotel where a legendary concierge (Ralph Fiennes) mentors a young employee (Tony Revolori) against the backdrop of a changing continent. The film also stars Saoirse Ronan, Bill Murray, F. Murray Abraham, Edward Norton, Mathieu Amalric, Adrien Brody, Willem Dafoe, Lea Seydoux, Jeff Goldblum, Jason Schwarztman, Jude Law, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Tom Wilkinson, and Owen Wilson. For more on the film, here’s all our previous coverage.
The day after the world premiere, I participated in a great roundtable interview with Bill Murray in Berlin. He talked about what it was like to make the film on location in Europe, collaborating with Wes Anderson, the dialogue, whether his process as an actor has changed over time, and more. In addition, he told some great stories about making Rushmore, his thoughts on Saturday Night Live and Bill Hader, why he quit acting for awhile after making Broken Flowers, and future projects. Hit the jump for what he had to say. The Grand Budapest Hotel opens March 7th.
Click here if you’d like to listen to the audio of this interview. Otherwise the full transcript is below.
BILL MURRAY: Oh, thanks. I didn’t have much to do with it. I just showed up and did what I was told. But it’s good, isn’t it?
I think you were right yesterday. For me, it’s his best.
MURRAY: Oh yeah, there’s no doubt about it. I mean, it’s pretty impressive. I mean, that’s quite a vision, to be able to see all that and achieve it effectively.
Was there anything particularly surprising about this movie?
MURRAY: Yeah, I mean, the bobsled run, I didn’t see that one coming. I saw them building it and I was like, “What’s the bobsled run about?” “Oh yeah, well, the bobsled’s going to go down there and they’ll be on it.” “Oh okay.” But, you didn’t expect it to look like that and be that jazzy. It’s pretty cool.
You only have a few scenes in the movie, but did you spent a lot more time on set being that it was Wes’ movie and do you shoot a lot of extra stuff that we never see?
MURRAY: You mean does he shoot a lot that gets cut out? Well, I guess there’s some of that. There’s some of that. You know, when you put it in the third dimension, sometimes you wake up and you see things that you weren’t expecting when you put it on paper. He’s got a pretty good vision of what he’s doing. There wasn’t a whole hell of a lot that we shot that was wrong, because I mean, if you read the script, it’s pretty spare, you know? It’s pretty clean. The storytelling—he spends a lot of time and he’s obviously very specific about how he wants things to look and sound. So there’s not a lot of overage. He’s got a lot of tricky camera moves, so you shoot a lot of goofy takes, where the camera isn’t absolutely perfect, so you do it again. So that’s the only time—that’s the overage. That’s the extra time, is he takes a lot of time to get it perfect.
What’s it like off set, since you spent a lot of time maybe not making the movie, part of this big group of people?
MURRAY: Well, Willem said it was like the actor’s retirement home. We had this small hotel in Gorlitz. It was all us. We were the only people in it. So, you’d come down—
Where was the hotel?
MURRAY: Gorlitz. It’s on the border of Poland and Germany. It’s a town that’s been Polish, German, Polish, German, Prussian, German, Polish, you know, over the last couple of hundred years. We went over to Poland one night and we walked over to Poland, and it was closed. It was closed. (laughter) So we all were in this hotel. We owned the hotel. We were in the old part of Gorlitz, which is really beautiful–they shoot a lot of movies there because it’s intact. It’s a part of Germany that wasn’t affected by the war. There’s these beautiful clock towers that are 500 and 600 years old and it’s really impressive. So people shoot movies there because it’s intact. It was never damaged and we had this old, small hotel there and all of us in there. You’d pad down in the morning and you’d have breakfast. It was our restaurant. It was our hotel. Then, you’d sort of walk across the lobby, “Hi, good morning. Good morning.” You know, and the other side of the lobby was the makeup and the hair place. So you’d say, “Excuse me, hold on a second. I’m going to go get another croissant.” You know, and you’d march back over there all the time like in your slippers and a robe like a bunch of old men dying in a hotel. So, it was fun.
Then, we had a bar that was—we were on a little old town square with a church at the end of it, and there was like a bar across the way. I mean, and it was about 40 steps, but it was snow, all snow the whole time we were there. If you were awake, you know, and you’re in the wrong time zone, you’re jetlagged, you just kind of wake up and go, “Ah,” and you’d walk over there and there’d be someone from the movie over there drinking at any hour of the day. There would be someone drinking like, “Oh hi.” You’d just roll in there and talk and listen to music. There was always something to do. There were only a handful of places that we went to, but we sort of—they were all really interesting. Like, the restaurant had great food and it had like, nine separate rooms in it that you could just go hide in. It was like a hide and go seek town, the whole thing. It was nice.
How long was it?
MURRAY: I was only there a couple of weeks. But, we laughed about yesterday like, why do people work with Wes? I say, “Well, it’s long hours and little pay.” So, and that’s sort of true, but you get this great experience of going to these places. Then, he was like, “No, wait a second. You worked in India,” and it’s true, on The Darjeeling Limited, I worked. I was supposed to have like, three days of work, which I got done in a day and a half. Then, I was supposed to work one other day and I did, and it was 45 minutes. But, I got to go to India twice and spend like, a month in India just hanging around for these couple of days of work. So you get a great experience. You get to see and do things.
Mr. Anderson writes very specific dialogue. I was wondering, when you’re on the set, are there a lot of changes, or is it done pretty much exactly as written?
MURRAY: Well, it’s pretty much done as written. You know, like I say, he’s very specific about it, but once again, it’s that third dimension thing, where when you put it on its feet, there’s something required that’s not there, you know, that wasn’t there. You go, “Oh, I gotta get from there to here.” So, and at its most cuts, in movies are all audio cuts, so you have to sort of figure out how to orally end something. So, you change it a little bit, but not so terribly much. But he loves when you find something good. All of these people are all pretty slick, pretty good at finding those things.
Is there something that you added?
MURRAY: In this movie? Oh, I don’t know, maybe. I’ve kind of—the speeches are tongue twisters. Try to speak some of those lines sometime, especially in the cold, because we were shooting outdoors, like in the cabs and all those escape scenes where you’re in the car talking? Those were shot out in Torrence at night and it was freezing. It was freezing cold. Then you’d think, “Okay, how cold can it be?” Well, zero. Let’s just say it’s zero, okay? So it’s zero, but it’s not zero, really. It was about minus 10 or 15. So, let’s say it’s minus 15, what they call minus 15 over here, which is about 10 degrees, somewhere between eight and 10. And you’re doing this scene for hours because the camera’s not right, the lights’ not right, you know? So, it’s okay the first hour or so. You’re speaking kind of normally. Then, after an hour or so you’re starting to get a little heavier, like that. Then, the third hour, you’re just trying to get words out. All the time you’re trying not to breathe too much because you don’t want to blow smoke everywhere because your breath is making all this smoke, so you’re trying to really kind of control your voice, so you’re sort of (mumbles)… That’s what that was like.
MURRAY: Well, when you think of the film as this character’s film and then all of a sudden a gunfight breaks out inside this candy store, inside this bakery. It was this pink walls and everything. Then, there’s the guy shooting berettas at each other. It’s just kind of funny that a gunfight breaks out, and he actually does a pretty decent job. It seems like a pretty decent gunfight. It looks—the way it’s staged, you know, all the eye contact and the visuals and stuff. Even the blows, even the explosions in the walls and stuff looked good. They looked good. So it’s what it really looks like when you put a bullet into a wall. So he did a nice job with that kind of stuff. I mean, just the design elements of the crazy army, whatever that army represents, you know? Those uniforms were so hilarious. You know, you see two people having an intimate scene talking together and then you’d cut out the window and there’d be Norton, Ed Norton and these crazy guys in these ridiculous outfits just standing there. The attention to the detail and knowing what the picture’s going to be like going from this side to that side, and the music. I mean, even the crazy Russian dancer guy at the end of the movie, you know, he just wouldn’t quit. He still had more in him. He still had more he wanted to get out. The balalaika orchestra, they had like, 80 guys. It was not one guy, not two guys, not four guys, 40. They had 40 guys blasting balalaikas at each other in these recording sessions, and it sounds crazy. Doesn’t that music sound wild? I mean, and not to hire two guys and double it 40 times, 40 actual guys. You get this—you feel the real madness of the playing. It’s great.
I’m curious about your process as an actor and how it’s possibly changed over the time that you’ve been working. Is there something that you do now that you didn’t do? Have you streamlined the way you get ready?
MURRAY: I wake up later. No, I haven’t streamlined the way—hrm. Well, I think the thing that’s different is the scripts are better. You know, when I started, the scripts just weren’t as good, and you’d have to go to work and you’d have to have a huge burst of energy to go, “Sheesh, how am I going to? I can’t do this. This stuff’s no good.” So then, you’d have to create something. You’d have to improvise something or create something or try to work with the ware and try to figure out, how do you make this visually and orally acceptable, entertaining? So you’d have to go to work and, you know, synch up your belt and make something. Nowadays, the scripts are just so much better, that you don’t have to feel that way. You feel like the script’s coming to you, you can just relax. You don’t have to drive the boat. It’s always about relaxing, even when you’re doing the early stuff, trying to create, you had to be really loose to be able to see something that was something you could use. Now, I mean, all these props that he has, all the sets, they’re all so perfect. You know, you just have to sort of relax and be a part of the chemical process sort of, you know? It’s almost like just the developing of a photograph, the way it is that if you’re in the midst of it, you’re all a part of it, all this picture that he’s made is part of it. You get to just be the flower—you’re almost not a still life, exactly, but you’re like the little flower that’s in the picture, the thing that’s in there. You have to just sort of be a resonate voice, speak the lines, you know, tell the truth.
Do you sort of intuitively know what he wants at this point? Or, what goes into your collaboration with Wes?
MURRAY: What he wants?