Here are the men (and foxes, and narrators) who have seamlessly captured the essence of Wes Anderson’s unique world, all while delivering solid performances. There are certainly several more to choose from, so don’t hesitate to share your favorites!
10. George Clooney in Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009)
as Foxy Fox
Fantastic Mr. Fox is full of splendid voice performances, none more so than its star, George Clooney. You can really tell that Clooney was eager to inhabit the Wes Anderson universe in any way that he could. Funny, touching, silly and real – all around perfect voice acting.
9. Bruce Willis in Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
as Captain Duffy Sharp
That scene where Captain Duffy Sharp lets the newly-orphaned Sam stay at his trailer overnight… by far my favorite moment of Moonrise Kingdom. Willis brought a quiet melancholy to Sharp that we hadn’t seen from the actor in a long, long time.
8. Alec Baldwin in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
as The narrator
Alec Baldwin’s exacting, sardonic, New Yorker narration for The Royal Tenenbaums is one of my all-time favorite film narrations. Baldwin’s voice has life, and it is indeed as important to the film as any of the principal players.
7. Adrien Brody in The Darjeeling Limited (2007)
as Peter Whitman
I love Brody’s work as Peter for several reasons, perhaps the most obvious was that it was Brody’s first attempt at real comedy, and he nailed it. But the hallmark of this performance is the moment Peter realizes he failed to rescue a small boy. The rushed passivity in which he announces the child’s death is truly heartbreaking.
6. Ralph Fiennes in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
as M. Gustave H.
Much of the success or failure of The Grand Budapest Hotel relied solely on Ralph Fiennes. As the eager-to-please, M. Gustave H., Fiennes had to sell the absurd antics of the film, and convince us that he’s having a damn fun time while doing it. If Fiennes’ performance wasn’t as pitch perfect as it is, then the film would’ve suffered badly. Thankfully, Fiennes proved yet again that he is a master performer, able to tackle any tone in any genre.
5. Luke Wilson in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
as Richie Tenenbaum
“I’m going to kill myself tomorrow.” Probably all that needs to be said here.
4. Jason Schwartzman in Rushmore (1998)
as Max Fischer
Nearly 2,000 boys were seen for the role of Max Fischer, but damn if Anderson and his casting director didn’t make the right choice by going with Schwartzman. One might argue that Schwartzman’s considerable gene pool (son of Talia Shire, nephew of Francis Ford Coppola, cousin of Nicolas Cage and Sofia Coppola) helped him craft an early understanding of the subtitles of acting. But either way, his Max Fischer is one of the finest screen debuts I’ve ever seen. He is the personification of a Wes Anderson character.
3. Owen Wilson in Bottle Rocket (1996)
Owen Wilson has a knack for playing poor bastards in Anderson’s films, and my favorite among them will always be Dignan. From his fool-proof method of springing his friend from a mental hospital, to his hilariously ill planned library heist, to that insanely detailed 75-year plan, Wilson’s portrayal of Dignan is an actor going all in, knowing he has nothing to lose. The choices in Wilson’s humor could’ve seriously misfired, but he committed to them and delivered a star making performance.
2. Bill Murray in Rushmore (1998)
as Herman Blume
Rather famously, Bill Murray only received $9,000 for his contribution to Rushmore, proving that an actor’s gross earnings have nothing to do with the quality of performance. With some obvious exceptions throughout the years, Murray is an actor who typically takes on roles based on strength of story. And because he enjoyed Bottle Rocket so much, he decided to give this Herman Blume fella a go, resulting in one of the finest performances of his career. It is utterly impossible to envision anyone else inhabiting the loathsome, pitiful world of Herman Blume.
1. Gene Hackman in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
as Royal Tenenbaum
Gene Hackman hinted at retiring a few times throughout the late stages of his career, but near the release of The Royal Tenenbaums, he made it clear that he wasn’t going to be in the acting game for much longer. And although he did appear in two other films (the decent courtroom thriller, Runaway Jury, and the forgettable comedy, Welcome to Mooseport), for all intents and purposes, Hackman’s work as Royal Tenenbaum will be forever remembered as his impeccable swan song. There simply isn’t a false step to be found in his performance. He presents Royal as a sad, reprehensible asshole, often with sheer glee. Few men could attempt (and achieve) the delicate tonal balance of this performance the way Hackman managed to. What do we have to do to convince this guy to start taking on roles again?
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