Luke Wilson was in town for an MTV related New York Comic Con panel a day or two afterwards. Ben Stiller had just completed hosting Saturday Night Live the prior weekend. And Owen Wilson may have possibly been still lounging about following a New Yorker Festival appearance a few weeks back. So I presumed offhand that they would be amongst the “other members of the cast” reuniting with director Wes Anderson following the 10th anniversary screening of his most successful film The Royal Tenenbaums held at Lincoln Center as part of the NY Film Festival. As it turns out none of them were present. The actors participating in a Q&A alongside director Wes Anderson and his brother, Eric Chase Anderson, were Gwyneth Paltrow, Anjelica Huston and the show-stealer, Bill Murray. The moderators were Noah Baumbach and Antonia Monda, both collaborators with Anderson at one point or another.
Eric Anderson, Gwyneth Paltrow, Wes Anderson, Anjelica Huston, Bill Murray. Photo Credit: Godlis
Aside from the aforementioned actors, the film also includes Danny Glover and Gene Hackman, who received the bulk of the attention in the discussion even though he wasn’t present. Countless laughs were shared over stories about Hackman’s powerful acting and serious, sometimes scary, demeanor. As Murray started a train of thought, “You know the word ‘cocksucker’ gets thrown around a lot”, he let the audience laugh before continuing, “But I will take that word and throw it out of this room because it doesn’t belong here. I’d hear these stories like ‘Gene tried to kill me today’. And I’d say, ‘Kill you? You’re in the union. He can’t kill you.’” Paltrow took Hackman’s side as well indicating that she “found something very sweet and sad in there.” Murray also took some shots at Luke Wilson and Kumar Pallana (Pagoda) suggesting that he preferred acting alongside Pallana since Wilson had a fascination with Paltrow.
Murray, Huston, Paltrow, Anderson. Photo Credit: Godlis
Caught up in Murray’s jokes, I could have sat for an hour laughing in hysteria. But some of the conversation proved to be informative and topical as well. One of Anderson’s regular talents, Jason Schwartzman, was not in Tenenbaums but it was not for lack of trying. Schwartzman was originally considered for the role of Mordecai (not Richie’s hawk) a boy living in an attic over an embassy. And ten years ago, Anderson originally screened a version of Tenenbaums at the NYFF whose score consisted entirely of Beatles tunes. Yet the songs were removed since he had been unable to secure the rights. Paltrow backed him up as she admitted she had been recruited by Anderson to ply Paul McCartney with bowling and a screening of the film to see if it could happen. Yet afterwards, McCartney admitted he had nothing to do with the rights.
In the end the Beatles score seems less important as Mark Mothersbaugh composed a fitting score. The Royal Tenenbaums works because of Anderson’s direction and it’s stellar ensemble. The film continues to be celebrated for the same.
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Arriving at the venue for The New Yorker Festival’s event with Owen Wilson and moderator Michael Specter, the first thing I noticed was the three chairs on stage, a signifier of a potential guest. My guess was either a Wilson brother or Wes Anderson, the director and co-writer with Wilson on some films including their first, Bottle Rocket, and their most recent, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. When Specter came out with both Wilson and Anderson in tow he joked he wasn’t even going to introduce the director but many in the audience played along. He later said Anderson was there to assist in the conversation with Wilson — which would have been great.
Specter acknowledged that he was not prepared for Anderson’s presence when he was finding clips of Wilson for viewing. Yet, Specter’s posture and questioning for the next hour distinctly leaned towards Anderson. The clips, some from Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited and Fox all included Wilson, but the attention was given to Anderson more. Did we really need to know that there are people on the internet who are recreating the “whack-bat” game?
At the conclusion of the event, I had stood up to ask a question and ended up being last. I prefaced by asking if there would be a sequel in his Shanghai [Noon] movie series, and then I thought I asked Wilson if he would like to revisit any of his characters in a sequel. I was glad the Shanghai reference got a laugh from the audience and a response from Wilson. But then Specter asked Anderson if he wanted to continue some movie and I took it as a cue to go ahead and return to my seat.
Owen Wilson & Wes Anderson. Photo Credit: Amy Sussman / Getty Images
Essentially, Specter failed the audience who came to see Wilson; he turned the event into a Wes Anderson love-fest. I appreciated Anderson and was happy to have seen him, but he should not have been the focus of the discussion. Very little was said about Wilson’s latest on-screen role, Midnight in Paris. Wilson’s brief discussion of working with Woody Allen was hilarious. On set of the film, Wilson realized that Allen’s critiques of his character’s wardrobe resulted in his wardrobe conforming the director’s own. Only occasionally was Wilson able to take the baton from Anderson to respond to questions that should have gone to him to begin with.
The painful failure of this event made me angry — as well as the woman sitting behind me, audibly cursing, and the couple I spoke to outside. Had I asked around more, I probably would have found even more people with the same thoughts.
Owen Wilson. Photo Credit: Amy Sussman / Getty Images