28 Things You Might Not Have Known About The Royal Tenenbaums
Like Eli Cash, you probably always wanted to be a Tenenbaum. Here are some facts that will help you fit right into this family of geniuses, on the 15th anniversary of its release.
1. THE PRIMARY STORY CAME OUT OF THE DIVORCE OF WES ANDERSON'S PARENTS.
Though it was partly inspired by real life, writer-director Wes Anderson admits on the film’s DVD commentary that the film itself ended up being very different from his own personal experience. Still, some small details remain, such as the fact that Ethel Tenenbaum is an archeologist, and so was Anderson’s mother.
2. THE NAME "TENENBAUM" CAME FROM ANDERSON'S COLLEGE FRIEND.
Anderson's longtime friend, Brian Tenenbaum, appears as a paramedic in one of the film’s final scenes. Tenenbaum also appeared in Anderson’s previous films Bottle Rocket and Rushmore in similar background roles.
3. WES ANDERSON MAKES A CAMEO.
It's the filmmaker's hand that stamps the library card of the book at the beginning of the movie.
4. THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS IS THE THIRD MOVIE TO BE CO-WRITTEN BY ANDERSON AND OWEN WILSON.
5. THE MOVIE'S TITLE CARD SCENE WAS INSPIRED BY ANOTHER FILM.
Anderson was inspired to include a title card scene featuring the actors and the characters they play after a similar scene in the 1934 film Death Takes a Holiday. It was the first image for the movie Anderson had in his head.
6. THE MICE WEREN'T ACTUALLY SPOTTED.
The spots on Chas Tenenbaum’s fictitious dalmatian mice were created by drawing dots with a sharpie on regular mice.
7. ANDERSON INTENDED MARGOT'S WOODEN FINGER FOR A CHARACTER IN ANOTHER ONE OF HIS FILMS.
Rushmore's Margaret Yang would have had the digit blown off in a science experiment, but it was scrapped and later included in this movie.
8. THE ROLE OF ROYAL TENENBAUM WAS WRITTEN WITH GENE HACKMAN IN MIND.
But when Anderson approached Hackman to be in the movie, the actor declined because he’d have to work for scale and didn’t like the idea of having a part written exclusively for him. His agent eventually convinced him to take the part. It was well worth it; Hackman would go on to win a Golden Globe for Best Actor for his performance.
9. HACKMAN WASN'T THE ONLY ACTOR TO HAVE A ROLE WRITTEN SPECIFICALLY FOR HIM.
Anderson and co-screenwriter Wilson specifically wrote the role of Etheline for actress Anjelica Huston. She would go on to work with Anderson again in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.
10. THE GO-KART SCENE WITH ROYAL, ARI, AND UZI WAS A NOD TO ANOTHER FILM.
The 1971 film The French Connection featured Hackman (who won the Academy Award for Best Actor for the role) and a legendary car chase sequence.
11. BEN STILLER WAS CAST AS CHAS TENENBAUM BECAUSE HE WAS AN EARLY FAN OF BOTTLE ROCKET.
Stiller liked Anderson's debut movie so much that he cast actor Owen Wilson, who played Dignan in Bottle Rocket, in The Cable Guy, which Stiller directed.
12. MARGOT AND RICHIE HIDING IN A MUSEUM OVERNIGHT WAS INSPIRED BY A CHILDREN'S BOOK.
In E.L. Konigsburg’s 1967 book From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, two kids run away from home and stay at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The book was a favorite of Anderson’s as a child.
13. THE ACTOR WHO PLAYS YOUNG RICHIE HAS A FAMOUS DAD.
14. ANDERSON'S BROTHER CHIPPED IN TO HELP ON THE FILM.
Eric Chase Anderson is an illustrator; he created all of Young Richie’s drawings.
15. THE BB LODGED IN CHAS'S HAND IS BASED ON A REAL-LIFE INCIDENT.
Owen Wilson shot his older brother Andrew in the hand with a BB gun when they were younger, and the hand with the BB in it shown in the movie is actually Andrew Wilson's. This isn’t his only appearance in the movie; he can also be seen as Margot’s biological Amish father and as the voice of one of the sports commentators who covers Richie’s tennis match meltdown (the other commentator’s voice is actually Wes Anderson). Wilson also played Future Man in Bottle Rocket and Coach Beck in Rushmore.
16. RICHIE'S FALCON, MORDECAI, WAS PLAYED BY THREE FALCONS AND A HAWK.
The falcons were used for close-up shots and the hawk was used for the longer flying scenes, like at the end of the film’s prologue.
17. BILL MURRAY'S CHARACTER, RALEIGH ST. CLAIR, IS BASED ON NOTED NEUROLOGIST AND WRITER OLIVER SACKS.
Anderson was a big fan of Sacks’s four-part documentary from 1998 called The Mind Traveler.
18. RALEIGH'S RESEARCH SUBJECT, DUDLEY, WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO BE PLAYED BY ANDERSON'S FRIEND AND ACTOR, WALLY WOLODARSKY.
But Wolodarsky dropped out in order to direct his own movie, Sorority Boys. Wolodarsky had previously appeared in Anderson’s movies as a wrestling referee in Rushmore, and would go on to appear as Brendan in The Darjeeling Limited, as the voice of Kylie in Fantastic Mr. Fox, and as M. Georges in The Grand Budapest Hotel.
To replace Wolodarsky, Anderson cast actor Stephen Lea Sheppard, who was recommended to him by Anderson’s friend and fellow director Judd Apatow. Sheppard was previously in Apatow’s TV show Freaks and Geeks.
19. ANDERSON WAS A BIG DANNY GLOVER FAN.
The director cast the actor because he liked his performances in To Sleep with Anger, Beloved, and Witness. The name of Glover’s character, Henry Sherman, is the name of Wes Anderson’s old New York landlord, who wore blue suits similar to the ones Glover’s character wears in the movie.
20. GLOVER ISN'T THE ONLY LINK THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS HAS TO THE MOVIE WITNESS.
The line “I know you, a**hole!” that Royal screams at Eli Cash as he escapes from the house is the same exact line that Harrison Ford’s character says to Glover’s character in Witness.
21. 111 ARCHER AVENUE ISN'T REAL, BUT THE TENENBAUMS' HOUSE IS.
It’s located at 144th Street and Convent Avenue in New York City. The production used both the exterior and the interior of the house for the movie (the only interior of the house in the movie that isn’t from the real-life location is the kitchen scene between Royal and Henry Sherman, which was shot in the house next door because it had windows). The production convinced the owner of the house, who had recently bought it in foreclosure, to delay moving in so they could renovate it as they needed. It's believed that the production paid the owner roughly the same amount the owner had paid to buy it, so the owner effectively got the house for free.
22. THE LINDBERG PALACE HOTEL, WHERE ROYAL STAYS, ISN'T REAL EITHER.
The location for the hotel was the actual exterior and lobby of the Waldorf Astoria in New York. The hotel only gave Anderson and the production two hours to get all of the shots they needed.
23. THOUGH THE MOVIE WAS SHOT IN NEW YORK, ANDERSON DIDN'T WANT TO INCLUDE ANY NYC LANDMARKS IN THE FILM.
During the scene where Pagoda meets Royal near the water, Anderson intentionally positioned the actor playing Pagoda (Kumar Pallana, who also appeared in Rushmore and The Darjeeling Limited) to stand directly in front of the Statue of Liberty.
24. ONE OF RICHIE'S LINES CAME FROM ANOTHER FILM.
Richie’s seemingly bizarre line “I’m going to kill myself tomorrow,” immediately before trying to take his own life, is actually a line Anderson took verbatim from director Louis Malle’s 1963 film Le feu follet (a.k.a. The Fire Within). Spoiler: In that film, the main character actually does kill himself the day after uttering the line.
25. RICHIE AND MARGOT'S ROMANCE IS A REFERENCE TO A FRENCH FILM.
The semi-incestuous subplot is Anderson’s nod to director Jean-Pierre Melville’s 1950 film Les enfants terribles about a similar relationship between an actual brother and sister. In Tenenbaums, of course, Margot is adopted.
26. THE MOVIE PARODIES AUTHOR CORMAC MCCARTHY.
The excerpt that Eli Cash reads from his book, Old Custer, is Anderson’s parody of the style and subject matter of writer Cormac McCarthy, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of books like No Country for Old Men, The Road, and Blood Meridian.
27. CHAS WAS ORIGINALLY SUPPOSED TO WEAR A BLACK ADIDAS TRACK SUIT EACH TIME HE WENT TO THE CEMETERY.
But Ben Stiller thought it would be a funnier reveal if he only wore it at Royal’s funeral.
28. ONE OF THE FINAL SHOTS IN THE MOVIE WAS DONE IN A SINGLE TAKE.
The technically complex shot moves from person to person after Eli crashes his car at the wedding. The production did 20 takes of the shot; take 18 is the take included in the final movie.
Additional Sources: Blu-ray special features; The Wes Anderson Collection.