Anderson, Wes 1969-
ANDERSON, Wes 1969-
PERSONAL: Born May 1, 1969, in Houston, TX; son of Mel (an advertising executive) and Theresa (an archeologist and real estate agent) Anderson. Education: Attended University of Texas, Austin.
ADDRESSES: Agent—United Talent Agency, 9560 Wilshire Boulevard, 5th Floor, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
CAREER: Director, screenwriter, and producer.
AWARDS, HONORS: Los Angeles Film Association New Generation Award, 1996, 1998; Lone Star Film and Television Awards debut of the year, 1996; Independent Spirit Award for best director, 1998; Online Film Critics Award for best original screenplay, 2002; Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay, 2002.
(With Owen Wilson; and director) Bottle Rocket, Columbia, 1996.
(With Owen Wilson; and director) Rushmore, Buena Vista, 1998.
(With Owen Wilson; and director) The Royal Tenenbaums, Touchstone, 2001.
SIDELIGHTS: Known for his quirky, character-driven movies, Wes Anderson has established himself as a respected screenwriter and director, often working in collaboration with actor Owen Wilson. Anderson's movies include a crime story, a coming-of-age movie, and a family drama, each with a unique perspective that sets it apart and together creating a genre all their own. "The characters who inhabit Anderson's cinematic universe, a Middle West of the Imagination, embody both sides of William Carlos Williams's famous edict that the pure products of America go crazy, being, for the most part, both purely American and slightly crazy," wrote Mark Olsen in Film Comment.
Anderson actually created his first movie in college, where he met Wilson in a creative writing class. The two shared a similar outlook and sense of humor, and before long they began collaborating on scripts. They came up with a script that would become the prototype for Bottle Rocket. Although they had ambitions of producing a full-length movie, and the script had ballooned to over 300 pages, they only managed to film a thirteen-minute short before running out of money. Still, the result was good enough that a Wilson family friend got it a screening at the Sundance Film Festival. Eventually, the short and the full-length script made their way to producer James L. Brooks, who convinced Columbia Pictures to produce a full-length version.
Bottle Rocket tells the story of three young men, Dignan, Anthony, and Bob, who concoct absurdly elaborate robberies, primarily out of boredom. Eventually, they come up with the idea of a "practice robbery" of a bookstore, designed to capture the attention of a local crime boss. The heist turns out to be a set-up, a diversion to keep the trio busy while the crime boss carries out his own scheme. Critics were struck by the clever dialogue, which captures the sense of ennui of three youths on the verge of adulthood but striving to hang onto childhood dreams. "This smart, untainted caper . . . captures something honest about this generation in much the same way that Diner, Saturday Night Fever, and Easy Rider did for their devotees," wrote Josh Young in Esquire. People critic Leah Rozen hailed it as "a small movie of raffish charm." Never widely promoted, Bottle Rocket did have a modest success, particularly in video, and established Anderson as a rising young director. The Los Angeles Film Critics Association gave him its New Generation Award, and MTV touted him as the best new filmmaker.
Anderson's follow-up film became a cult classic for many fans. Rushmore tells the story of Max Fischer, a precocious prep-school student and obsessive joiner so involved in extracurricular activities that he is in danger of flunking out of school. When alcoholic tycoon Herman Blume—played by Bill Murray—visits the school to dedicate a new auditorium he has donated, Max enlists him as a patron and confident. But when they both fall in love with the same woman, a widowed teacher, the two are set on a collision course toward mutual destruction, thus revealing the sociopath beneath Max's eccentric charm. "With this, their second film, director Wes Anderson and writing partner Owen Wilson are already on their way to establishing a distinctive wedding of tone and style—what might be called 'playful melancholia,'" wrote Marco Alavita in Cineaste. Some critics were not quite sure what to make of the film, with its quirky elements and unique protagonist. "I'd hesitate to call Rushmore a great new American film: it doesn't stop you in your tracks. . . . But it is a great anomaly, a film that makes you look twice and scratch your head in puzzlement over where it's come from and where it's going," wrote New Statesman reviewer Jonathan Romney. For Nation contributor Stuart Klawans, it takes "two viewings to appreciate how intricately the parts fit . . . together. At first, Rushmore seemed to me an amiable but slight coming-of-age story, animated by two memorable performances. . . . Then came that second viewing, when curtains began to draw back in my mind, as they do on screen to introduce the passing months. . . . Awakening at last, I looked at all these characters dancing and chatting in a high school auditorium and realized Rushmore isn't slight at all." Newsweek critic Jeff Giles commended it as "a marvelous comedy from deep in left field—immaculately written, unexpectedly touching and pure of heart." Rushmore fared better at the box office than Anderson's first movie, earning a solid $17 million. And once again the Los Angeles Film Critics Association gave Anderson their New Generation Award.
In his third feature, The Royal Tenenbaums, Anderson enlisted an all-star cast, including Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelica Huston, and Ben Stiller. Once again, Wilson helped with the writing and appeared in the movie as well. "Director Wes Anderson's vision in his latest and (so far) greatest film, The Royal Tenenbaums, is so singular that it is difficult to isolate its individual elements," wrote Daniel Richardson in the Christian Century. Ostensibly, the film is the story of a father's reunion with his family of child prodigies who have all failed to live up to their early promise. But that doesn't begin to explain the surreal charm of the hopelessly neurotic children or their scheming, wise, and sensitive con-man father Royal—a part written specifically for Gene Hackman. "The picture's creative pulse is clearly, brightly, powerfully that of Anderson, a filmmaker whose storytelling style is so fresh, so happily idiosyncratic, and so allencompassing that it stirs up strong response from people who either love or don't love his stuff," wrote Lisa Schwarzbaum in Entertainment Weekly. For many critics the strong response was clearly positive, and Anderson and Wilson earned an Academy Award nomination for best original screenplay. "Anderson reveals himself as a highly original comic talent, impressive both for his strongly controlled deadpan style and for providing a sense of emotional heft lacking in most mainstream film comedies," concluded Frank Scheck in Hollywood Reporter.
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Christian Century, January 30, 2002, Daniel Richardson, review of The Royal Tenenbaums, p. 35.
Cineaste, fall, 2000, Marco Calavita, review of Rushmore, p. 50.
Entertainment Weekly, January 11, 2002, Lisa Schwartzbaum, "Family Circus," p. 46.
Esquire, February, 1996, Josh Young, review of BottleRocket, p. 33.
Hollywood Reporter, October 5, 2001, Frank Scheck, review of The Royal Tenenbaums, p. 15.
Nation, December 28, 1998, Stuart Klawans, review of Rushmore, p. 43.
New Statesman, August 23, 199, Jonathan Romney, review of "Party of One," p. 32.
Newsweek, December 7, 1998, Jeff Giles, review of Rushmore.
People, February 12, 1996, Leah Rozen, review of Bottle Rocket, p. 21.*