THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS
About The Production
The screenplay for "The Royal Tenenbaums" evolved over the course of a year. "We had the idea of a family of geniuses, each member being exceptional and adept at a particular skill," Anderson says. "But family life was so awful that it left each of the children as they grew older particularly ill-suited to deal with any of the problems that most people are able to handle.
"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."
When Royal is evicted from the Lindbergh Palace Hotel and shows up on the Tenenbaum doorstep claiming a terminal illness and a desire to regain a relationship with his family, he sets the plot in motion.
"Ultimately, I think Royal does want his family back," Anderson says. "He's reached an age where he starts to realize that there's something he can't get anywhere else that his family provides for him."
Ben Stiller points out, "Royal's not honest with his family about why he's coming home - he says he's sick, when he's not - but I think that down on some gut level, one that he might not even acknowledge, he feels that he is sick, and that this is his last chance to try to make amends."
"What the story says is that even though everyone goes through hell with their family, still—as corny as it sounds—family members are still the ones you have to be close to, and really the only ones who will understand what you're going through. We don't balk at showing some of the rough stuff families endure, but we show in the end that it's worth it," Owen Wilson says.
Producer Barry Mendel, who also produced Anderson's "Rushmore," observes that although the screenplay says that it is often one's family that can do the most damage to people the family is finally also the most important and best place to return to heal.
"The film says that one can act stupidly, cruelly, and ineffectually in the world but that there's the possibility to take responsibility for one's actions; failures in life can destroy one or can give one the opportunity to reconnect," he says.
Anderson says that the idea he and Wilson first developed had to do with the figure of
Richie, the youngest Tenenbaum child, coming home after having been away for a long period
of time. Richie had been a champion tennis player and experienced a breakdown on the court during the U. S. nationals. As a result he isolated himself from everyone in his world, traveling the seas aboard an ocean liner.
But Richie's situation in the film has roots in the malaise that affects the way his brother and sister also lead their lives. "The characters had these terrific accomplishments and a kind of supreme confidence in themselves," Anderson says. "What is interesting to me is how they deal with the fact that it's all behind them, that they must find their self-esteem elsewhere, and that leads them back to their family, where ever ything beg ins."
Producer Scott Rudin points out that what "started out to be more about geniuses, ended up being more about failure.
"I think 'The Royal Tenenbaums' represents a big advance over Wes's earlier films, 'Rushmore' and 'Bottle Rocket,' in terms of complex, fully developed, sophisticated adult relationships," Rudin says.
Anderson says, "In our earlier films nothing could be that serious be
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