A reunion of the cast of The Royal Tenenbaums might be the only family gathering worth attending.
Wes Anderson’s 2001 film follows the lives of three gifted siblings — Chas (Ben Stiller), Richie (Luke Wilson) and Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) — who are reunited with their eccentric estranged father, Royal (Gene Hackman).
While the story may sound sweet, it’s later revealed that Royal’s homecoming is built on a lie. He tells his kids, now all grown up and each stuck in their own funks, that he’s dying of a terminal illness, hoping he can gain sympathy from them and their mother, his ex-wife Ethel Tenenbaum (Anjelica Huston). Despite Royal’s deceitful reason for his return, the family manages to find a way to reconcile their pasts and move toward a brighter future.
The stylish dramedy, which also starred Owen Wilson, Danny Glover and Bill Murray, was inspired by J.D. Salinger’s short stories and Orson Welles’ 1942 film, The Magnificent Ambersons — but the vision is all Anderson’s.
From the millennial pink accents to the Halloween-worthy costumes, the charm of The Royal Tenenbaums is in the details — and in its casting.
Anderson wrote the role of the once absent Tenenbaum patriarch specifically for Hackman — but the acting legend was hesitant to take the part. “It was written for him against his wishes,” the Grand Budapest Hotel director joked in a 2013 interview with Vulture. “He was difficult to get.”
The two-time Oscar winner was used to making more money than what was allotted for his role in the ensemble indie, Anderson confessed during a 20th anniversary panel at the Tribeca Film Festival in October 2021. However, Hackman was eventually swayed.
“I think maybe when he finally settled on the fact that he was really going to have to do the movie, he had to make it worth his while somehow,” the French Dispatch director continued. “[Hackman] gave us a lot. For that small amount of money, I feel like he gave us everything he had.”
Looking back on the film 20 years later, Luke agreed with Anderson. The Legally Blonde star found Hackman, who retired from acting seven years after appearing in The Royal Tenenbaums, to be a formidable scene partner — but he was even more terrifying off screen.
“He had a great thing that he did [when] he was on set all day,” the Old School actor recalled in October 2021 of the novelist’s acting process. “He just sat in his chair between shots. So even if another scene was going on, or if he wasn’t in it, he was always right there, which was also intimidating.”
The biggest compliment for Anderson’s follow-up to 1998’s Rushmore came courtesy of Paltrow, who admitted that there’s one scene in the film that always gets to her: the moment when Margot, in her fur coat and kohl-rimmed eyes, steps off the bus to meet Richie and Nico’s “These Days” begins to play.
The day she filmed that scene, her father, producer Bruce Paltrow, was on set, which only added to her admiration of the onscreen moment. (Bruce died in 2002 due to complications of oral cancer and pneumonia.)
“My dad was there, and it was this very special day,” the Iron Man actress said during the Tribeca Film Festival panel. “I really hate, hate seeing myself in a movie ever. That’s kind of, like, the only scene that I can watch of myself, like, of my whole career.”
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