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The Royal Tenenbaums

Gene HackmanAnjelica Huston
Ben StillerOwen Wilson • Gwyneth Paltrow • Danny Glover • Luke Wilson
DIRECTOR: Wes Anderson
WRITERS: Wes Anderson & Owen Wilson
[the makers of 1999's Rushmore]

The Royal Tenenbaums: Owen Wilson, Paltrow, Hackman, Stiller and sons
December 14, 2001 (US)
March 15, 2002 (UK)

Royal Tenenbaum (Gene Hackman) and his ex-wife Etheline (Anjelica Huston) had three children, all of whom were considered child geniuses. Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) was a playwright by the ninth grade, Chas (Ben Stiller) started buying real estate in his early teens and Richie (Luke Wilson) was a junior tennis champion who won the U.S. Nationals three times.

But all memories of these accomplishments were erased during the next twenty years, when their lives were filled with betrayal, failure and disaster, most of which was considered to be their father's fault. Then one fateful day, Royal reenters their lives, claiming he's suffering from a terminal illness.

Don't miss coverage of The Royal Tenenbaums in:

Film Review

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Wes Anderson on location with Gene Hackman "When I was a child I was always impressed by the kid who skipped a couple of grades because he was so smart, but he couldn't get his lunch unwrapped. He couldn't deal with normal life at all. In the case of The Royal Tenenbaums, they all peaked early, and both Owen and I were very interested in what happens afterwards? Often having some special skill makes you different from everybody else, and makes you less able to cope with normal things."
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"Wes and I have similar sensibilities and similar backgrounds, and I think that's why it's easy for us to write together. Our weaknesses are the same, neither of us are good at plot and both of us like funny, odd characters."
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"We had a good idea of the characters and who they were long before there was any story. I've never had a movie where it started with a plot, but the characters gave us a plot and sort of took over. Royal was not the main character at the beginning, everybody had this malaise and were swirling around each other when that character came in and took over because he made things happen in the story."
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"I liked the idea that there was constant conflict between Royal and his family, and that nothing ever went smoothly for him. As an actor that's something that I recognize and I can play, and I think that kind of conflict is the basis of drama."
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"My father [director John Huston] has certainly been called a genius, and it's a challenge in any family to have to live up to parents who are considered geniuses. In the case of the Tenenbaums, I would hesitate to call Etheline a genius. She's certainly an intellect, but I think the children are the result of a genetic combination that made them into geniuses."
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"There is less room for improvisation in Wes' films because everybody respects his writing, and because the scenes are so specific in terms of the blocking and the way he sees the world. It's hard to figure out how to improvise for a character when the writing is so specific. And there was hardly any rehearsal - I'd venture to say no rehearsal. I had dinner with Wes a couple of times to talk about the approach to the part and what they were looking for, and then we got on the set and we just went into it."

"Let me tell you about Wes, and I use this word when I speak about my dad, he's precious. There's something precious about Wes in the climate that exists in this industry. Wes told this story in a way that appealed to my own sensibilities about dealing with issues of what kind of healing relationships I want to create among my family and communities. He created a character who is a healer. It's a story about healing."
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Text by Judy Sloane. More here: PAGE 2Back to top

Visit the official Royal Tenenbaums site
Images above © Touchstone Pictures.
Feature © Visual Imagination 2001. Not for reproduction

Film Review, April 2002 cover
April issue - with interviews (Hackman, Paltrow)
and review of The Royal Tenenbaums
Film Review Special, Lord of the Rings cover
Fantasy Special with 2002 Preview