When it comes to certain directors, they have a unique style that is easily recognizable right from the start of the opening credits. Wes Anderson is one such director, whether you consider his literary storytelling or his visual use of color.
His third film, The Royal Tenenbaums is considered one of Anderson’s best films. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the film, which tells the story of Royal Tenenbaum and its bizarre dysfunctional family. Anderson shares the story as if it were a literary classic told with chapters and narration. To celebrate Anderson’s movie, here are 20 original behind-the-scenes trivia, from improv spots to family cameos that may or may not surprise fans.
The Royal Tenenbaums is the third writing collaboration between Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson
The film marks the third and final collaboration between Anderson and Wilson as a writing team. The first two films were Rocket in bottle and Rushmore. Their third film was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the 2002 Oscars. Wilson would go on to star in Anderson’s films, including Aquatic life, Darjeeling Limited and The French dispatch.
The director makes an appearance
Much like a book, each segment of the film is told in chapters. So it makes sense that the film opens with a book borrowed from the library. Plus, if fans watch closely, they’ll notice Wes Anderson’s hand as she stamps the library card. Anderson has slipped into a few of his own films including the voice solving the equation in Rushmore’s opening as well as Weasel’s voice in Fantastic Mr. Fox.
The BB Loged In Chas’s Hand is inspired by real events
When Royal shoots Chas with a BB pistol at the start of the film, it gets lodged between his fingers. Later, when the BB is shown, the hand does not belong to actor Ben Stiller. According to Mental Floss, this is Andrew Wilson, the older brother of Owen Wilson and Luke Wilson. When they were kids, Owen shot a BB gun at Andrew’s hand and he’s been there ever since.
Andrew Wilson has additional cameos throughout the film
The hand with the BB wouldn’t be the only role Andrew would play The Royal Tenenbaums. He would appear again as Margot’s biological father who accidentally cut off her ring finger.
Even though not on screen, Andrew’s voice can be heard as one of the commentators covering Richie’s tennis match during his famous seizure. The voice of the other commentator is Wes Anderson.
The location of Tenenbaum’s house does not exist but the house is real
111 Archer Avenue may not exist in real life, but the Big Tenenbaum House does. It is located at 144th Street and Convent Avenue in New York City. In the same Mental Floss article, it was revealed that the production team had to convince the owner of the house to delay the move in order to renovate as needed.
The Lindbergh Palace does not exist either
The hotel where Royal stays at the start of the film and is subsequently kicked out is also not an actual location. The Lindbergh Palace Hotel is actually the Waldorf Astoria in New York City. According to Mental Floss, the hotel only gave Anderson and the production crew two hours to film all the shots they needed.
Gwyneth Paltrow has one of the scenes close to her heart
Margot Tenenbaum has one of the best costumes from the Anderson movies. The scene where Margot gets off the bus in her iconic fur coat to meet Richie has a special place in Paltrow’s heart according to We magazine. Her father, Bruce Paltrow, was on set as she filmed the scene. A few years later, Bruce died of oral cancer and pneumonia.
The name “Tenenbaum” comes from Wes Anderson’s college friend
The last name used in the film, according to Mental Floss, comes from Anderson’s college friend, Ben Tenenbaum. His friend appears as background characters in The Royal Tenenabaums as a paramedic in one of the last scenes of the film as well as Rocket in bottle and Rushmore.
Margot’s wooden finger was meant for another Wes Anderson character
After having his finger cut off, Margo Tenenbaum puts a wooden finger in its place. In the same Mental Floss article, the wooden finger was supposed to be for another Anderson character in his previous film. The character of Margaret Yang in Rushmore was supposed to have her finger pulled off in a science experiment that went wrong. The idea was then dropped and used for this movie instead.
The role of Royal Tenenbaum was written for Gene Hackman
Anderson wrote the role of Royal Tenenbaum with Gene Hackman in mind. When he asked the actor to be in his movie, Hackman was reluctant as he was about to retire. His agent, according to Mental Floss, would convince him to take the role. Thank goodness he did it because Hackman would win the Golden Globe for Best Actor and it would be one of Gene Hackman’s best roles to date.
Anderson also wrote Etheline Tenenbaum with Angelica Huston in mind.
In addition to having written this role for her, The Royal Tenenbaums wouldn’t be the last time Anjelica Huston would appear in a Wes Anderson movie. She would go on and appear in both Aquatic life with Steve Zissou and Darjeeling Limited.
Etheline Tenenbaum was inspired by Wes Anderson’s mother
Etheline Tennenbaum’s character was inspired by Anderson’s mother. Much like Etheline in the film, Anderson’s mother became an archaeologist after her divorce. In the film, Huston wears Anderson’s mother’s real glasses.
Go-Cart scene with Royal, Ari, and Uz is a nod to another movie
When Royal Tenenbaum returns home to spend more time with his family, he takes Chas’s children, Ari and Uz, to go karting. The scene is a nod to another Gene Hackman movie, The French connection. The film was released in 1971 and featured one of the best car chase sequences in Hollywood.
A plaque commemorating Richie Tenenbaum’s loss in tennis can be seen at Forest Hills Stadium
According to Initiated, there is a plaque that says, “This is where ‘the Baumer’ collapsed” at Forest Hills Stadium. The plaque refers to the scene of The Royal Tenenbaums where Luke Wilson’s character Richie, nicknamed “The Baumer”, takes off his shoe and collapses in the middle of his tennis match in front of everyone.
The scene where Royal and Henry’s fight had to be filmed through a window
In the same Initiated article, it is revealed that the scene where Royal and Henry, played by Danny Glover, compete for Royal’s place in the Tenenbaum family was not filmed in the Tenenbaum house. Due to the confinement of the room, the scene was actually shot in a small kitchen located next to the main house.
A line by Richie Tenenbaum is taken from another movie
In his bathroom, Richie Tenenbaum declares that “I am going to kill myself tomorrow”. He then tries to commit suicide by cutting his wrists. However, in the same Mental Floss article, it is revealed that the line is taken verbatim from the 1963 film Le feu follet by director Louis Malle (The Inner Fire.)
Three cast members turned down Ocean Eleven roles to be in this movie
that of Steven Soderbergh Eleven from the ocean movies would have a different cast if it weren’t for The Royal Tenenbaums. According to Hollywood.com, Danny Glover, Luke Wilson, and Owen Wilson (who co-wrote the film) all turned down roles in Ocean eleven.
Wes Anderson deliberately hid New York’s landmarks
Despite the shooting The Royal Tenenbaums in New York, if the public looks closely, they won’t find any cues in any of the shots. It’s because Anderson hid them. According to Rotten tomatoes, Anderson blocked the Statue of Liberty in the scene where Royal and Pagoda are talking in Battery Park playing the friend and assassin in front of her. Anderson and production even changed the road signs.
One of the more interesting facts behind the scenes in Anderson’s movie is that Huston’s hair was accidentally set on fire during filming. During the opening credits, Etheline Tenenbaum celebrates Margot’s birthday with a birthday cake filled with candles. Apparently one of the burning candles was the culprit. Anderson thanks the actor Kumar Pallana, who plays Pagoda in the film, for helping to put out the fire.
One of the film’s last shots was taken in one take
The end of The Royal Tenenbaums, where Eli Cash played by Owen Wilson, crashes his car at Etheline’s wedding and Henry was filmed in one take. According to Mental Floss, it took the production crew 20 takes, but it was the 18th take audiences saw in the final film.
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