Royal Tenenbaum and his wife Etheline had three children -- Chas, Richie, and Margot -- and then they separated. Chas started buying real estate in his early teens and seemed to have an almost preternatural understanding of international finance. Margot was a playwright and received a Braverman Grant of fifty thousand dollars in the ninth grade. Richie was a junior champion tennis player and won the U. S. Nationals three years in a row. Virtually all memory of the brilliance of the young Tenenbaums was subsequently erased by two decades of betrayal, failure, and disaster. Most of this was generally considered to be their father's fault. "The Royal Tenenbaums" is the story of the family's sudden, unexpected reunion one recent winter.
Touchstone Pictures presents an American Empirical Picture, "The Royal Tenenbaums," directed by Wes Anderson ("Bottle Rocket (1996)," "Rushmore (1998)") from a screenplay written by Anderson and his writing partner Owen Wilson. The cast includes Danny Glover, Gene Hackman, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray, Gwyneth Paltrow, Ben Stiller, Luke Wilson, and Owen Wilson. The film was produced by Anderson, Barry Mendel ("Rushmore (1998)," "Sixth Sense, The (1999)") and Scott Rudin ("Wonder Boys (2000)," "Searching for Bobby Fischer (1993)") and distributed by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.
The screenplay for "The Royal Tenenbaums" evolved over the course of a year. "We had the idea of a family of geniuses, each member being exceptional and adept at a particular skill," Anderson says. "But family life was so awful that it left each of the children as they grew older particularly ill suited to deal with any of the problems that most people are able to handle.
When Royal is evicted from the Lindbergh Palace Hotel and shows up on the Tenenbaum doorstep claiming a terminal illness and a desire to regain a relationship with his family, he sets the plot in motion.
"Ultimately, I think Royal does want his family back," Anderson says. "He's reached an age where he starts to realize that there's something he can't get anywhere else that his family provides for him. "
Ben Stiller points out, "Royal's not honest with his family about why he's coming home - he says he's sick, when he's not - but I think that down on some gut level, one that he might not even acknowledge, he feels that he is sick, and that this is his last chance to try to make amends. "
What the story says is that even though everyone goes through hell with their family, still--as corny as it sounds--family members are still the ones you have to be close to, and really the only ones who will understand what you're going through. We don't balk at showing some of the rough stuff families endure, but we show in the end that it's worth it," Owen Wilson says.
Producer Barry Mendel, who also produced Anderson's "Rushmore (1998)," observes that although the screenplay says that it is often one's family that can do the most damage to people, the family is finally also the most important and best place to return to heal.
"The film says that one can act stupidly, cruelly, and ineffectually in the world but that there's the possibility to take responsibility for one's actions; failures in life can destroy one or can give one the opportunity to reconnect," he says.
Anderson says that the idea he and Wilson first developed had to do with the figure of Richie, the youngest Tenenbaum child, coming home after having been away for a long period of time. Richie had been a champion tennis player and experienced a breakdown on the court during the U. S. nationals. As a result he isolated himself from everyone in his world, traveling the seas aboard an ocean liner.
But Richie's situation in the film has roots in the malaise that affects the way his brother and sister also lead their lives. "The characters had these terrific accomplishments and a kind of supreme confidence in themselves," Anderson says. "What is interesting to me is how they deal with the fact that it's all behind them, that they must find their self-esteem elsewhere, and that leads them back to their family, where everything begins. "
Producer Scott Rudin points out that what "started out to be more about geniuses, ended up being more about failure.
"i think 'The Royal Tenenbaums' represents a big advance over Wes's earlier films, 'Rushmore (1998)' and 'Bottle Rocket (1996),'in terms of complex, Fully developed, sophisticated adult relationships," Rudin says.
Anderson says, "In our earlier films nothing could be that serious because of the tone. My idea now was to make something that was more ambitious on an emotional level. The other films did deal with the issue of family, but they were metaphorical families, groups of friends, someone obsessed with a school and wants to be part of it. This one is more directly connected with issues of family, issues that are deeply personal, emotional and serious. "
Anderson was careful however not to abandon the stylized point of view and tone that shaped the material initially, and worked to maintain a proper balance between stylization and naturalism in the film. "It became something where you had to make a whole world that was heightened so these things could naturally fit in it. The whole goal is for that stylized stuff to help to make it exciting to be in the world of these characters, but then to quickly seem natural, and to give you details that you respond to and tell you more about them as you go along. "
Rudin says, "The relationship between irony and emotion is unique here.
Most films tend to use irony to distance you. This film uses irony to bring you in emotionally. "
Part of Anderson's inspiration for the project stems from his vision of New York. According to Wilson, "Wes wanted to try to do a big ensemble movie and wanted to do something that would involve New York. But New York in a romantic way that doesn't really exist. "
The entire film is steeped in some kind of New York literary history, Anderson explains, noting that many of the characters in the movie, their personalities, temperaments, habits, and emotional exploits, could have easily come off the pages of the New Yorker magazine as it existed in a bygone era.
"Authors like Joseph Mitchell, A. J. Liebling, Lillian Ross, J. D. Salinger, John O' Hara, E. B. White, James Thurber, all of them provided inspiration for the film in ways I'm not completely conscious of. In recent years I've read in back date New Yorkers various profiles of people you never heard of-- intelligent, eccentric, unconventional personalities, the kind of profiles they don't write any more--and these profiles and personalities have also influenced me. " In fact, Anderson grew up reading the New Yorker, and has every issue of the magazine from the past 40 years in his office.
But the New Yorker and its world is not the only source of inspiration for the new film. "I also read a lot of Kaufman and Hart," Anderson says, referring to playwrights George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, "including their play, 'You Can't Take It With You. '"
Hart's autobiography Act One, as well as Hart and Kaufman themselves are also influences, as are stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, plays and journalism by S. N. Berhman, and Louis Malle's "The Fire Within. " As well as literary inspirations, there were a number of personal inspirations that Anderson drew on in creating the world of the Tenenbaums.
"Certainly the inspiration for the characters comes from real people that Owen and I have known, people who have influenced us in life, not only family members but also good friends. But it's not really based on my family," Anderson points out. "My father is nothing like the character of Royal. But the way Etheline, the mother in the family, encourages everyone comes from my life, and also the way each of the characters connects to someone else. But the characters themselves are not really based on any one family. They're based on many different kinds of people. "
In keeping with the inspirations of the world of New York literature, Anderson says, "I had this idea that rather than the movie being based on a book, the movie would be the book. " The novel would function as part of the narrative and the movie would be structured like a novel, divided into chapters with a narrator leading the audience through the story
Because of the idea of the movie as a novel, it was important that story would work as a kind of fable, in a magical, literary, cosmopolitan Manhattan. According to Anderson, a native of Texas, "the movie's about New York," but from the perspective of "someone who has come to the city with enthusiasm, not somebody who has known the city his whole life. It is much more of a dream idea" of New York.
Once the screenplay had been written and the setting established, Anderson set out to cast the film. According to Anderson, "The characters always had to be in the forefront when we were writing, and therefore we felt that what we were writing were eight roles for big stars. The roles are written to be somewhat iconic. And that was why the issue of casting was also so important. We wanted to cast the film with established actors, even in parts that may not have a lot of screen time, because the characters were written as larger-than-life people, people who can be seen as icons. I wanted to cast people who had the necessary presence and force, but who could also function as part of an ensemble. "
Central to Anderson's process of writing and his vision of the film was the casting of Gene Hackman in the role of the family patriarch, Royal Tenenbaum.
Once the character was created, "Gene Hackman seemed like the only choice for the part," Anderson says. "Usually in an ensemble piece, the central character is a kind of straight man surrounded by a group of eccentrics. In this case, however, he isn't the straight man. He's a wild character, a catalyst, a kind of primal force.
"With Gene Hackman in the role we felt it would be perfect casting. I don't know why--it wasn't as if there was a conscious reason we had our minds set on him. It just always seemed like a natural thing, that we would have him playing Royal. But then everyone else would have to be very strong, just to balance everything out. I don't know what we would have done if Gene turned us down, which he did. "
Anderson describes the process: "About two years before we starting filming my agent Jim Berkus set up a meeting with him. I enjoyed the meeting and he was very nice and encouraging. He said he'd be happy to read the script but said I shouldn't tailor a part specifically for him, that it was usually bad luck. "
"I told Wes not to write the part specifically for me," Hackman says. "Generally speaking, I don't like things written for me--or rather I don't like having to be restricted to somebody's idea of who I am. So we had this nice chat. I told him not to do it, and then he went off and did it anyway!"
"His agent wanted him to do the film but I think he was overwhelmed with a lot of other projects at the time. I think the one thing we did have going on our side was the fact that I wasn't sure I wanted to do the movie if he wasn't going to do it. I think that made him stop and rethink his decision. His agent told me that he read him my last letter over the phone, and Gene said, 'I guess maybe I should do it'. "
Hackman appreciated the character of Royal Tenenbaum. "There's a lot to this guy - he's complicated. He's coming to terms with his mortality and I think he really is coming to terms with the fact that he's been so selfish his whole life, and I think he's genuine when he says he wants to make amends and get back with the family and feel some love. "
The theme of family also appealed to the actor.
"Good families always keep trying," Hackman says. "No, things aren't always going to work out smoothly, but the best families keep going no matter what somebody does to you. The families that fall apart are the ones that don't care enough. "
"Anderson wrote several other roles with specific actors in mind. One was for Luke Wilson who plays Richie, the tennis star and youngest Tenenbaum. Wilson appeared in Anderson's two previous films and is the brother of Owen Wilson.
"I wanted us to write Luke a fuller, more complex role than we had previously," Anderson says. "I felt there was this potential for Luke. There's a gentleness about him that comes across clearly. He's someone who can be soft-spoken, good natured, really sweet-tempered--"
That aspect of Wilson's personality is reflected in the film in the romantic longings Richie has long harbored for his adopted sister Margot, and in the fact that the character pursues a solitary hobby--he raises falcons he keeps in a coop on the roof of the family's house.
"But there's a dangerous side to Luke," the director adds. "I've seen some things. You can tap into something real there and I wanted to make that quality part of the character, too. "
"Richie is the one who gets along best with Royal," Luke Wilson says. "Chas is uptight, and Royal can't relate to Margot because he sees himself as more of a man's man. And Richie finally figures out how his being the favorite has adversely affected his brother and sister. It's something he tries to deal with.
"He's caught in this loop where he sees how everything in his life could be perfect, where everyone in his family is really smart and he's in love, but it's all wrong, because everyone in his family is an overachiever and the woman he loves is his adopted sister. Everything's thrown off for him. "
Another role written with a particular actor in mind was the part of the Tenenbaum family matriarch Etheline. Anderson saw Anjelica Huston as Etheline from the start.
"Along with being a great actor, she also has a warmth and sophistication and a very interesting background that seemed like something to draw on," Anderson says. "Also, I think she's had experience with people who are like the characters in the film, so she just seemed to fit in. But, mostly, I just wanted to write something specifically for her. "
"I was already a fan of Wes's work because I had seen 'Bottle Rocket (1996)," Huston says. "After we had lunch together I watched 'Rushmore' and really enjoyed it. And then I read the new script. I agreed to do it with very little deliberation. I like the interaction among the people, the fantasy quality and the dark humor.
"Etheline is very loving toward her children but she is bound to Royal. They're devoted to each other in a way. I think for Etheline, Royal is a necessary heartbreak. So although he drives her mad and she tries to protect the rest of her family from him, she realizes that there is a need in the household for a father.
"As soon as I accepted the role I started to receive drawings that pertained to my character," Huston continues. "Mostly, she appeared in very small suits with strange hairdos in the drawings. Wes also sent me photographs of his mother, who is called Texas Anderson, an archaeologist, like my character. He even produced his mother's old eyeglasses for the early scenes. I asked him, 'Wes, am I playing your mother?' I think he was astonished by that idea," she laughs.
Anderson has long wanted to work with Ms. Paltrow, and offered her the role of Margot Tenenbaum.
"There's something good-natured and always appealing about Gwyneth Paltrow, or the roles she has played. This is sort of a departure from that, because Margot does many things specifically not to be appealing. "
The fact that Paltrow came from a sophisticated New York background would also add to her portrayal of the very precocious Margot, as well, says producer Mendel. "Margot at age twelve is twelve going on eighteen. And you get a sense from Gwyneth Paltrow that is exactly how she was. "
Paltrow was eager to play Margot Tenenbaum.
Wes' movies have such a specific tone and sense of humor that really appeals to me," she says. "When he told me he was sending over the script I knew immediately I would be doing the film. When I read it I saw what a great part it was, and that was just icing on the cake. I'm such a fan of both 'Bottle Rocket' and 'Rushmore' that whatever he asked me to do, I would do. "
The complex issues the film raises also intrigued Paltrow.
"I think what the film illustrates clearly is that family is so crucial and so important to children, giving them a sense of identity and perspective. If children don't feel validated by the family or by either parent or by their parents' relationship, it can cause problems in life that are not easy to surmount.
"I definitely identify with the character of Margot as a younger incarnation of myself. I think Margot was never able really to grow up, to grow past a stage where she felt acute isolation. And I think she kind of gave up trying to figure people out a long time ago and her power becomes other people trying to figure her out. And I think that stems from her relationship with Royal and always feeling unwanted and completely on the outside.
"And Royal makes it clear that his love is unattainable, I think that we always try to act out what we haven't come to terms with about our parents, so of course the situation exists with Margot and her brother that they are in love with each other--and that too is unattainable," she says. "Everything resonates beautifully. "
Ben Stiller seemed like the natural choice for Chas Tenenbaum.
"Ben was one of the first people we heard from when we made 'Bottle Rocket'," Anderson says. "He loved Owen in it, and he and Owen became good friends. He was really encouraging. "
The anger in this character seemed like something Ben could really run with," he says.
Mendel agrees that Stiller excels at the "angst-ridden" element of the part. "Ben knows how to play that very well, where his character takes everything that is happening to him very seriously, but we can laugh at what the character is going through. I think that he is a very under-appreciated dramatic actor and that he gets a chance to show his stuff here. "
"I thought the script was incredibly emotional. I had never read anything like it, and I really connected to the father/son theme," Stiller says. "I like those kinds of stories. But I thought this story was unique, a weird and original amalgam of New York. Having grown up in New York, I understood that this wasn't the real New York. But Wes had created this special world, and I felt really connected to it."
"Chas is really angry, so my challenge was, how do I make it clear that he's angry - so angry that he has no problem telling Royal what he thinks of him - but still make it so that the audience can connect with him on some level. If he's just angry, angry, angry all the time, I think, people will just start to tune him out, because who wants to be around somebody that angry. So I've been concerned with trying to show where the anger is coming from. "
Also prominently cast are Danny Glover and Bill Murray.
Anderson had admired Glover in many films, particularly his performance in "To Sleep with Anger. " When he met him at a function at the United Nations, where Glover is active as a cultural ambassador, Anderson was even more impressed.
"As soon as I met him, I was hooked on him. He has a real leadership quality. He seemed perfect for the role of Henry Sherman, the family accountant who's also Etheline's suitor, and I was excited at the prospect of working with him. "
The story's themes of responsibility and accountability attracted Glover to the role of Henry.
"Those are attributes I associate with family," the actor says. "Certainly most families are to some degree or other dysfunctional. But the capacity to forgive can help us to heal and overcome our dysfunctional-ism."
Without a doubt the sincerity and charm of Henry Sherman seemed to fit Danny Glover. However, adds Mendel, "Henry is kind of meek and bumbling, which Danny is definitely not. So it is exciting to see him play a character so opposite from who he is. "
"Henry is dependable," says Danny Glover. "In many ways, he's the antithesis of Royal. He offers comfort and stability. He is not a man into self-promotion. So when he finally asks Etheline to marry him, even though it's something he's thought about a thousand times, it's something that just slips out, and he's immediately in over his head. And he sees all these reasons why she shouldn't marry him: they make great bridge partners, it would be better for tax purposes to be single he can't even say why it would be better to be married to him. "
For his part, Bill Murray had a very positive experience working with Wes Anderson on "Rushmore," and received some of the best reviews of his career for his performance. Both he and Anderson were very enthusiastic about working together again, and Murray was aware of the film in its earliest incarnations. And, as in "Rushmore (1998)," the role of Raleigh St. Clair, an eminent neurologist married to Margot, was an opportunity for Murray to be humorous as well as further reveal his ability as a dramatic actor.
Says Murray, "The sad thing I like to say is, I'm in a movie about a family of geniuses, but I'm an in-law. "
Speaking more seriously, Murray comments on some of the film's dramatic themes. "It's about a family which has everything going for it but still ends up being deeply troubled. I think most families have everything going for them, so it's not much of a reach to say it's every family. A child's love is a very powerful thing. Parents have a responsibility to deal with it carefully. "
Rounding out the cast is Owen Wilson, who has been prominent in Anderson's filmmaking career from the beginning.
"Wes and I went to similar schools, developed a similar sense of humor, went to college together at the University of Texas, and became friends there," says Wilson, "and through everything that's happened since then, the best part is that Wes and I are still really good friends. "
"I think I identify with the humor more than the sadness," he says, "but then, the humor I like is humor that comes from people's insecurities and vulnerabilities, and not so much from slapstick, broad comedy, so maybe it is both that I identify with.
"Eli is this Cormac McCarthy knockoff," he says, "A guy who grows up in the city and writes novels about the west - what if Custer hadn't died at Little Big Horn, that kind of thing. And for him, just like for the Tenenbaums, success doesn't necessarily translate into happiness. Having a hit novel doesn't make him a Tenenbaum. "
Once casting was completed, Anderson and the producers then assembled the crew for the film, using most of the same people who had worked with the filmmaker in the past. Working with his usual crew on "The Royal Tenenbaums" was a source of satisfaction for the director.
"We all know how to talk to each other," Anderson explains. "We can also start talking about the film and figuring things out way before we would have been if we didn't know each other so well. "
As early as a year before the start of production, Anderson and his crew scouted locations for filming in and around New York City.
"Though we never call it New York in the film, I was looking for a certain feeling of living in New York, not the real New York, more a New York of the imagination," Anderson says.
The sense of the stylized, fairy tale city is reflected in the screenplay by the faux-New York neighborhoods, ubiquitous gypsy cabs and various landmarks: Archer Avenue, Mockingbird Heights, Public Archives, the 375th Street Y as well as public transport like the Irving Island Ferry, 22nd Avenue Express, and Greenline Bus.
"Since the people in the story are to some degree made up from literary associations and characters from other films, they all sort of live in an alternate reality, and that led us to creating an entire world in which the sense of reality is intensified and embellished. The house the family lives in, the clothes they wear, and the New York that they inhabit--everything in their world has a heightened quality and is highly stylized.
"At one point I considered shooting the entire movie on a soundstage--building all the interior and exteriors on sets--to get the exaggerated, almost surreal feel I was looking for. I was thinking that it would be snowing through the entire movie," Anderson says.
"But somewhere along the line I decided that we had too much fantasy and that we should go in the opposite direction to ground the story in the fact that the house really existed, that the streets really existed. So ultimately we decided to shoot entirely on location in New York. You might not necessarily recognize it as New York but you'd know that the place is real and the characters existing in it are real. "
The first location the filmmakers found was the all-important Tenenbaum house.
"It was apparent that the house was one of the characters in the movie," notes production designer David Wasco. Finding the right one was essential. The building the filmmakers decided on, a dilapidated limestone mini-mansion in a historic neighborhood of Harlem called Hamilton Heights, stood on the corner of 144th Street and Convent Avenue, a tree-lined byway, surrounded by many other landmark buildings.
David Wasco understood at once that the house featured many of the details the filmmakers needed. There was a parlor floor with a dining room, living room and a foyer where Etheline's telephone room under the stairs could be added. The geography of the three Tenenbaum children's bedrooms also existed in the house as they were described in the script, stacked one on top of another, which would enable an opening crane shot outside of the house to show the three children, each in their own window.
The house also had a rooftop where Richie's falcon coop could be set up and Margot could sneak away to smoke, and a beautiful turret from which to fly the signature family flag. In addition, the entire block had a good look for the exteriors and the house had a faded mansion quality while maintaining the intimate feel of a family home.
Yet there were drawbacks. The building proposed many challenges for the filmmakers: it was small and unstable, and the floors were connected by one rickety staircase, which didn't even go to the roof; the roof was accessible only by ladder.
There was talk of returning to the plan of shooting in a studio.
"Wherever this guy goes, he finds horrible places to work," Murray jokingly notes. "On 'Rushmore,' we were in some of the most horrible locations outside Houston. And now, we were in New York City, the biggest and best city in the country, and he found some of the most awful places to shoot in. So nothing's that much different. Except that now he gets carried to the set in a chair. "
But Anderson remained adamant that they film in a real house: "The house contains the whole family history, and I wanted it to be as real and present as it could be. We didn't have any time to rehearse this movie, so to help the actors with their parts, I wanted them to see the house their characters grew up in, and be able to walk through it. They wouldn't have that sense of history if we had filmed on a soundstage. "
In the end, the Hamilton Heights house and each of its floors, all of its rooms, its rooftop garden and its exterior became the film's primary location. The few missing elements, a kitchen, Etheline's study, and the ballroom, were found in nearby homes or buildings.
"On many projects, we get the initial talk and then we kind of just all go off on our own," says Wasco. "But Wes has a strong visual sense and a strong color sense that helps the camera, costume, and art department work together. He's the one who is able to hold everything together. "
Each room was painstakingly decorated to give a sense of character. For Etheline's study (as well as the archeological dig), the heads of the Society of Archeology in New York were consulted, along with Anderson's mother.
The Tenenbaum children's bedrooms, stacked above one another on the second, third and fourth floor of the house, were dressed so that remained virtually unchanged from the siblings' childhood until the time the adult Richie, Margot and Chas return home.
Says Luke Wilson, "I think collecting things always tells a lot about a person, what they keep and what they get rid of. In the case of the Tenenbaums, you wonder if it would be better if the rooms were changed and the artifacts of their childhood did get put away. Maybe it would enable them to move on and grow up. "
Eric Anderson, the director's brother and a gifted artist and illustrator, was another important contributor to the film. He painted all of Richie's artwork, including seventeen portraits of Margot, which hang in the family ballroom. "He probably never even thought about the fact that he was obsessed with painting Margot," observes Luke Wilson. "I think artists do that, and it gives them away. " Eric Anderson also painted the murals that cover Richie's bedroom walls and relate the history of the Tenenbaum family. "Richie's paintings are his diaries, and that's how he records the things that have happened in the family," says Luke Wilson.
Both Anderson brothers also made the childhood artwork hung by Etheline in the foyer.
Another key contributor to "The Royal Tenenbaums" who has been with Anderson since "Bottle Rocket" is costume designer Karen Patch. Since they first began working together, says Patch, Anderson has had a great interest and appreciation for clothing, and over the years has become increasingly sophisticated and knowledgeable about what makes great costumes: "He is so creative and fascinating to be around. He's full of wonderful ideas. It's a huge pleasure to work with a director who understands the importance of wardrobe in buildin character. "
Patch and Anderson began speaking about costumes for "The Royal Tenenbaums" in April 2000, before the script was completed. They kept up a running correspondence of sketches and nightly emails for nearly five months before she actually saw the script.
In the film, each charactear has a "uniform," an idea that Anderson likes to include in each of his films.
In "The Royal Tenenbaums," the "uniform" also helps to reinforce the idea that the Tenenbaum children peaked in childhood. "We see these people at age 10, and then suddenly at age 30. And part of the story is how they're connected to the way they were then," says Anderson. "So much of who they are is formed at that young age - they have the same clothes and the same hairstyle. "
Paltrow says, "As soon as I knew I was wearing the little Lacoste dresses and loafers and a fur coat, I said to myself, okay, I get it. It became pretty clear to me who Margot was. "
Filming on "The Royal Tenenbaums" began in March 2001 at the Hamilton Heights location. Mendel points out that "it's a film with 240 scenes in it and we have 60 days to shoot it so mathematically that means we are shooting four scenes a day. It was a breathless pace. "
In addition to the central location of the Tenenbaum house, scenes were also staged at the Centre Court of the West Side Tennis Club, the roof of Boy's Harbor School overlooking Central Park, the Waldorf Astoria (which stood in for Royal's residence, the Lindbergh Palace Hotel), and out at sea on a ship, the Kingspointer.
For Anderson, shooting on location in New York City constituted a complete change of pace.
"There's a certain tension on that exists on a set shooting in New York. New York can definitely bring that out," Anderson says. "But sometimes that's the right thing. The movie's about New York after all, and we couldn't really film it any other place. "
In addition to the principal urban setting, the script also contained vignettes of Tenenbaum family history that circled the globe. Remarkably, Anderson and his team managed to create very real versions of Jamaica, Antarctica, the Amazon, New Guinea, Indiana, North Dakota, Paris and the Himalayas in places like Yonkers, Westchester and New Jersey.
The experience of directing a cast of movie stars was also new for the director.
"One of the differences is that established film stars have their own method of working that's already developed, whereas on 'Rushmore,' for example, the leading role was played by Jason Schwartzman, who had never acted before," Anderson says. "Jason and I figured out how he works as an actor, what he needs and what he wants.
"On 'The Royal Tenenbaums' there were days when I had to adjust and figure out a new way to do my own thing. Usually what that meant was that I would simply step back and allow myself to be surprised by someone's brilliant take, someone's spontaneity. "
Slowly during production the sense of ensemble took shape among the cast.
"For most of the film, scenes were shot that contain only two or three characters in a scene. Only every once in a while was there a scene with most of the cast being shot, so the feeling of ensemble grew up more off the set than during actual filming," Anderson points out. "There was a room in the house that functioned as a kind of green room. And whenever people weren't working they'd gather in that room. People weren't off by themselves in their trailers, so dynamics began to develop. Things happened that affected people's 'take' on one another, and different relationships developed, almost contributed to the ensemble atmosphere. "
"I enjoyed working with this ensemble cast," Hackman says. "Any time you're supported by really good people, you're going to be better. You can stretch, you can take chances, you have something to pick up and give back. Plus you have more time off," he laughs.
"Sometimes, when I get a bad script, I know that if I do the movie, we'll end up improvising a lot," says Bill Murray. "That doesn't happen with Wes - the whole movie is so well-written that it doesn't require the actors to do improvisation. He doesn't need us to fix it. That's a good thing. He has a very strong vision, and knows what he wants to do, down to the clothes the characters are wearing and just how odd the colors should be. "
"Wes is a wonderful director, who knows exactly what he wants and how to get it, and he's also a wonderful human being," says Danny Glover. "Those qualities don't necessarily go hand-in-hand. But Wes is really a gentleman. "
Owen Wilson felt a family atmosphere on the set. "It's been great having my brothers and Wes around. It gives you a good feeling to be around people like Wes, who you trust implicitly and has your best interests at heart and supports you, especially on a movie about family. That feeling seeps in and finds its way into the movie. It's nice that I've been able to work with Wes so closely - he's like a brother to me. "
"On this movie, the only word to describe Wes is 'controlling. ' He's really putting me through the paces on this one," laughs longtime friend Luke Wilson.
But Paltrow says, "Wes is so specific, things are so well set up, all the foundations laid, that I find it frees me in a way because I don't have to worry about all that. "
For his part, Luke Wilson was excited to be working so closely with Gene Hackman.
"Just watching him on set couldn't be more exciting. I always love watching him in movies but when you get up close to him in a scene you find yourself thinking, they're not even getting on film how really great he is. It's like watching basketball close up seeing how big and fast the guys are in a way you can't see on TV. "
Anjelica Huston adds, "I just love working as part of an ensemble because you get so much from everyone else and from the way all the relationships that evolve. And you meet all the people you've admired for so long. I'm ravished to be in a movie with Bill Murray, and extremely proud to be in one with Gene Hackman. And everyone got on. There were no bummers in the group. That's sort of unusual. "
Another Wes Anderson passion is music. Anderson uses music in every step of the filmmaking process, as early as the writing stage. According to Mendel, "Wes is very inspired in terms of how he uses music and he makes choices that are constantly surprising. It's very fun to have him very early in the first draft of the script play you a song and explain each moment of what's happening and then a year and a half later you see exactly what he described. "
During production, Anderson has the advantage of knowing a great deal of the music that he would like to use in the film and plays the music on the set. Gwyneth Paltrow finds it an enormously helpful tool.
"Every time he put on a record, it was like everything is being fleshed out. All of the sudden you know exactly the tone of that bit of the film. It just facilitates having every aspect of yourself there. It makes it very sensual. I wish other directors did that, because it really works. "
Anjelica Huston agrees, "It's really great to have an idea of the kind of music that Wes is going to use for the film. He played Ravel for us, a particular piece that is very lyric and upbeat, but it's also a little dark. There's a lot that you can take from that to influence what you're doing. "
The score by Mark Mothersbaugh also adds an important element in the texture of the film.
When we first started working I felt that we needed the music to feel magical in order to support a character like Royal, to keep everything in the right tone, the magical tone" Anderson says. But their collaboration led them in unexpected directions. "As we were working on it, on a cue by cue basis, the goal changed. Mark can quickly bring a magical feeling to it, but his desire for it, and mine, became more and more about deepening the movie. His music was more ambitious than the music we had done for the two previous films. "
"The Royal Tenenbaums" will be released exclusively in New York and Los Angeles on December 14th, almost 3 years to the day from the release of Anderson's previous film, "Rushmore. "