To my surprise, I was fortunate enough to sit in the second row for The Royal Tenenbaum's Screening and Q&A. I was also surprised to see that Bill Murray, Angelica Huston, and Gwyneth Paltrow were present for the Q&A, along with Wes Anderson. This happens to be one of my favorite and most quoted film of all time. Going to the 10th Anniversary was a big deal to me. It's amazing to me how close John Torrani and I were sitting. I took several pictures while Torrani filmed the Q&A.
Everyone expressed how terrified they were to work with Gene Hackman. I couldn't believe everything that had been said about the actor. However, they did make it clear that he wasn't as bad as they were making him out to be. Angelica Houston laughs and recalls filming the scene in the park where Gene Hackman tells her he's dying, "That was my first scene with Gene Hackman and I was particularly terrified, because I could tell he wasn't in a very good mood that morning," Huston said. "It was a very cold morning, and I was wearing kid gloves, and in rehearsal, I slapped his lapel. When we went ahead and shot it, I hit him a really good. I saw the imprint of my hand on his cheek. It was pretty good; I really liked that scene."
Wes Anderson chimed in, "The take we use is when you whacked him. I remember I was trying to get him to say goddamn. He said he didn't want to say goddamn; he wanted to say damn because, 'They'll just change it later.' I said, 'Nobody is going to change it later.' He said, 'No, not saying it.' Then when you hit him he said, 'Goddamn.'" The whole crowd laughed. During the entire event the cast was almost in tears from laughing so hard. It was probably for the best that Hackman did not show up for the festival because of how much he intimidated Wes. "I was scared. They weren't," said Wes Anderson and Paltrow replied with, "I was very scared." Huston agreed, "I was a lot scared, but I was more concerned with protecting Wes."
"I loved working with him," said Paltrow. "I loved being in the same scenes as him. He was kind of a bear of a guy, but I also found something very sweet and sad in there. I liked him a lot. I think he's one of the greatest actors who ever lived. To be in his presence and watch him do his thing. It's like........ you know, you're Gene Hackman, you can be in a bad fucking mood."
Murray also had good things to say about Gene. "I'll stick up for Gene too. I'd hear these stories, like, 'Gene threatened to kill me today.' 'He can't kill you, you're in a union.' 'Gene threatened to take all of us and set fire to us.' 'It's a union shoot, it's New York, he can't set fire to you.' Gene does his thing and it takes about 50-60 seconds, and Luke blew his line 13 or 14 times. Luke Wilson. I thought Luke was good? He's not good. Because at the time, he was in love with this girl over here" (Murray points at Paltrow) "and he couldn't think straight. So that's the problem with Gene. He had to work with Luke who was dizzy in love and Kumar Pallana, every single day. He had, like, a complete spaced-out high school kid and Kumar every single day. How many of you have worked with Kumar? None of you! You wouldn't be here if you had. Kumar makes Luke Wilson look like Gielgud. If I had to work with Kumar and Luke Wilson, I would have set fire to this whole building."
When asked, Gwyneth went into detail about how she enjoyed working with Wes Anderson. "My word would be specific. I've never worked with any director who is so precise about not only what he wants, but it's far beyond that. I remember our first meeting in SoHo, and he was just explaining the role. 'She wears black eyeliner and her hair is kinda the color of your coat and it's about to here, and she wears Izod dresses.' It was like, 'OK, great.' I felt so comfortable because he knew exactly what he wanted. It was constructed in such precise way and I had this freedom underneath it. I didn't have to worry about what I was doing."
Angelica Huston agreed, "He's someone I like to be around. He's somebody who you're happy to be included within his circle." The actress has done three films with the director. Initially, she also was not interested in doing the film until additional scenes providing more character depth were written specifically for her and Hackman. Huston's character was loosely based on Wes Anderson's mother who became an archeologist after divorcing his father. She even wore her actual glasses, according to Wes. It's amazing, when I met Huston I told her that she looked a lot like my mother. She laughed but I hope by saying that, I didn't offend her because my love for the actress is pretty deep.
Bill Murray also enjoyed working with Wes, "I don't want to say he's weak; that puts him in a category with McCartney and Hackman. I don't know if there's a word that says he's someone I look forward to working with again. I don't want to say exciting. 'Exciting?' I'm animated. I think he gets things out of people that they don't get out ordinarily. He makes us all do something different." Speaking of weak, earlier Bill mentioned that Hackman was weak. Hackman almost didn't do the film but eventually caved and Murray responded with, "He's weak. Gene is weak. When you challenge someone like Gene, you find his weakness. He's a great actor and he was great in the movie and all of us here hate Gene Hackman."
Murray seemed to have a major hard on for Gwyneth, "To work with Gwyneth, I really loved working with Gwyneth. I don't want to say anything that you'll misinterpret, but I loved working with Gwyneth. She believes what I believe." Okay, maybe not a 'hard on' but he expressed a lot of feelings about working with her. It's funny, Bill showed up a day early for the film festival but laughed it off and stayed to watch a screening of Pedro Almodovar's new film The Skin I Live In. He comes off as a cool guy that likes to laugh, despite his anger over the whole Ghostbusters III issue.
The version of 'The Royal Tenebaums' that you've seen actually isn't the version that premiered at the New York Film Festival ten years ago. That cut used many Beatles songs, for which Anderson wasn't able to secure the rights. Paltrow says, "I tried to bribe Paul McCartney. Sex and everything. I ended up taking him bowling, weirdly enough, with Heather Mills, his ex-wife, and Luke Wilson. Wes put me on a mission. 'You gotta get the rights!' He loved the movie, then we went bowling and he said he has nothing to do with the rights." How unfortunate.
For those of you who haven't seen The Royal Tenebaums, I suggest that you do yourself a favor and find a copy. It's a remarkable and artistic film that will have you gasping for air from laughing so hard. That is….if you understand all the references and jokes. I would like to spend more time on this and tell you more about the film but I am running out of time. I will say that I wish I could do a photo shoot in a Gypsy Cab but I doubt I will ever come across one. Someone in the crowd asked what they felt about Gypsy Cabs. Murray replied with, "I think that's a question for the ladies." Everyone laughed but no one wanted to answer.
Also, I am sad that Kumar didn't show. Apparently, he shows up for everything but not this time. "He has the cancer."
Below are pictures of me with Angelica Huston and Bill Murray........dream come true.