US film director Wes Anderson, 52, is to shoot his next film in Chinchón in southeast Madrid during July, August and September. Although scarcely a single detail of the all-American production has been leaked, the sets simulating a Western-style desert are clearly visible on the edge of the town despite the fact that the movie does not reportedly belong to this genre.
For a major US production to be here for several months means an injection of life, prestige and publicityFrancisco Javier Martínez, mayor of Chinchón
Over 20 people are busy getting everything ready to shoot by mid-July, by which time Anderson will have premiered his last movie The French Dispatch at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival. Anderson has reportedly chosen Spain as the backdrop for his latest endeavor on account of its landscape and also the quality of its service companies and local production companies that take care of the paperwork, set construction, accommodation, transport and other related matters. Production, meanwhile, has been put in the hands of Indian Paintbrush, a company Anderson regularly works with.
Born in Houston, Anderson is famous for his distinctive visual and narrative style. Possessing a fascinating sense of aesthetics, he homes in on the minute detail of all the components that appear on camera, conjuring up extraordinary worlds using wardrobe and sets. His passion for visual symmetry and nostalgic humor is an integral part of his scripts and has turned him into a genre in his own right.
Having settled in France, the director has spent the last 10 years making films in Europe. Since shooting Moonrise Kingdom in 2012 in Rhode Island, he has not returned to his home country to film a movie. The Italian village for his Prada-produced shot film Castello Cavalcanti (2013) was built at Cinecittà Studios in Rome; he created his universe full of references to Austrian novelist Stefan Zweig and Europe’s interwar years in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) at the German Babelsberg Studios outside Berlin; and Isle of Dogs (2018), a stop-motion animated comedy, was shot in British studios. Meanwhile, the yet-to-be-released The French Dispatch about life in a French city during the 20th century according to reports published in a fictitious local English-language newspaper, was made in an immense industrial warehouse on the outskirts of Angoulême in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region of southwestern France. This is the film that would have opened the 2020 Cannes Film Festival last year if the event hadn’t been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
A mocked-up desert
Last week, several dozen workers were busy erecting immense classic Western sets in Chinchón. Beyond the scaffolding for the mocked-up desert that can be seen by the casual observer, a train station and train track are being recreated within a vast private estate. Anderson has not yet visited the location: before Cannes, he will be at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York where the 20th anniversary of the premiere of The Royal Tenenbaums will be celebrated in mid-June with a screening and a live-streamed conversation between Anderson and his artistic team.
In Chinchón, a town of 5,000 that lies 46 kilometers outside the Spanish capital, there is still no news of who will be in Anderson’s latest project, but the town’s mayor, Francisco Javier Martínez, is brimming with excitement nevertheless. “It is very important for the city,” he says. “It is true that we have been a regular location for numerous shoots, but that a major US production should be here for several months means an injection of life, prestige and publicity.”
From Chinchón’s famous Plaza Mayor square, Martínez adds that they have collaborated in the search for facilities for the film crew. “We have mediated in the negotiations with the Parador,” he says, referring to the former Augustinian monastery turned luxury hotel. “And also with other hotels and rural lodges. They [the film crew] are going to take over everything. The theater will be their center of operations and they will even be able to shoot there.”
There’s not much more Martínez can reveal: anything related to the film is strictly confidential. On the bulletin board inside city hall, a public notice signed by the local authorities and Film Madrid, the organization in charge of promoting the region as a film destination, states the project has “the support of City Hall” and requests the collaboration of the city’s inhabitants. According to Profilm, the Spanish association for international audiovisual production companies, 73% fewer foreign projects were developed in Spain in 2020. Direct investment went from €132 million in 2019 to €36 million last year.
Director of movies such as Rushmore Academy and The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Anderson is known for his meticulous attention to detail, his passion for diorama sets, his love of pastel colors and his penchant for coordinating tones according to the project. He is also famous for working with a recurring group of actors. With a budget of €35 million, the Chinchón movie will undoubtedly star some of his favorites – a cohort that includes Tilda Swinton, Owen Wilson, Saoirse Ronan, Bill Murray, Willem Dafoe, Jason Schwartzman, who regularly collaborates with him on his scripts, and Bob Balaban. “I call them, but I never tell them the size of the role, which would be rude,” Anderson told EL PAÍS in 2014 at the premiere of The Grand Budapest Hotel. “I ask them for help to make the film, and they sign up.”
One of his actors described him as “Saint-Exupéry’s Little Prince all grown up.” Anderson responded to the description, saying, “I don’t know what that means, really. Maybe he had a lot of fun on set.” Speaking about his childhood, he added, “I spent a lot of time drawing houses and elements of architecture, because that’s what I wanted to work in as an adult.” This helped creates his unique aesthetic, one that has greatly influenced contemporary interior design and Instagram. Regarding the off-set dynamics in Chinchón, he offered an insight when premiering The Isle of Dogs in Madrid. “The way I like to make films has a family feel,” he said at the time. “If I can, I try to have the whole crew live in the same hotel. I like to have lunch and dinner all together; so no one goes home.”
English version by Heather Galloway.