Fox Searchlight checks into Wes Anderson's 'Grand Budapest Hotel'

Posted by · 5:59 pm · March 27th, 2013

I kept having to correct myself when writing about “Moonrise Kingdom” last year, as my brain repeatedly leapt to the assumption that it was a Fox Searchlight property — instead of Focus Features, for which the whimsical youth romance was their biggest prestige triumph of 2012. There was a reason for the error: Searchlight had handled both Anderson’s previous features, “The Darjeeling Limited” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox,” and “Moonrise” played very much like something in their wheelhouse.

Anyway, I needn’t make the same error with Anderson’s next film, “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” It was announced today that Searchlight have renewed their relationship with the writer-director, and have picked up “Hotel” with an eye to releasing it either in 2014 or late this year.

The date, I’m guessing, will depend on how the studio’s awards slate shapes up — they’ve been known to make some fairly late switches on that basis. Remember that last year’s “Hitchcock” was originally slated for a release this year before being tossed out last November in a failed Oscar bid for its stars. (Okay, so it got a Best Makeup nod for its trouble.)

At this stage, Searchlight’s 2013 slate is looking a little lean. For all their A-list credentials, spring releases “Stoker” and “Trance” are divisive genre efforts that would be lucky to get awards attention even for their stunning technical attributes, while this year’s big Sundance pickup, “The Way, Way Back,” should appeal to audiences, but is no “Beasts of the Southern Wild.” There’s plenty of room yet, then, for the company to shake things up with this year’s answer to, say, “The Descendants.”

Whether that could be Anderson’s latest, of course, is hard to say: the three-time Oscar nominee’s sensibility is usually a little too precious for the Academy’s liking — though “Moonrise Kingdom,” which is as fey as they come, got closer than any of his films to date to a Best Picture nomination.

The new film — not a sequel to “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” I’m happy to report — sounds typically episodic, though somewhat more expansive, centering as it does on the friendship between a European hotel concierge and his young protégé between the First and Second World Wars. Subplots include the theft and recovery of a priceless painting and a family inheritance dispute. Shooting began on location in Germany last month.

The cast, as we’ve come to expect from the director, is a starry one, crammed with Anderson regulars as well as some new alumni: Ralph Fiennes takes the lead, with Tilda Swinton, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Saoirse Ronan, Mathieu Amalric, Jason Schwartzman, Tom Wilkinson, Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Jeff Goldblum and F. Murray Abraham.

The crew, including composer Alexandre Desplat and cinematographer Robert Yeoman, is largely unchanged from “Moonrise Kingdom,” though three-time Oscar-winning costume designer Milena Canonero, who worked with Anderson on “The Life Aquatic” and “The Darjeeling Limited,” has returned to the fold. Most interesting, however, is that this is the first film Anderson has ever made without a co-writer: what can we expect from his untempered imagination? 

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