THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS
About The Locations & Costumes
As early as a year before the start of production, Anderson and his crew scouted locations for filming in and around New York City.
"Though we never call it New York in the film, I was looking for a certain feeling of living in New York, not the real New York, more a New York of the imagination," Anderson says.
The sense of the stylized, fairy tale city is reflected in the screenplay by the faux-New York neighborhoods, ubiquitous gypsy cabs and various landmarks: Archer Avenue, Mockingbird Heights, Public Archives, the 375th Street Y as well as public transport like the Irving Island Ferry, 22nd Avenue Express, and Green line Bus.
"Since the people in the story are to some degree made up from literary associations and characters from other films, they all sort of live in an alternate reality, and that led us to creating an entire world in which the sense of reality is intensified and embellished. The house the family lives in, the clothes they wear, and the New York that they inhabit—everything in their world has a heightened quality and is highly stylized.
"At one point I considered shooting the entire movie on a soundstage—building all the interior and exteriors on sets—to get the exaggerated, almost surreal feel I was looking for. I was thinking that it would be snowing through the entire movie," Anderson says.
"But somewhere along the line I decided that we had too much fantasy and that we should go in the opposite direction to ground the story in the fact that the house really existed, that the streets really existed. So ultimately we decided to shoot entirely on location in New York. You might not necessarily recognize it as New York but you'd know that the place is real and the characters existing in it are real."
The first location the filmmakers found was the all-important Tenenbaum house.
"It was apparent that the house was one of the characters in the movie," notes production designer David Wasco. Finding the right one was essential. The building the filmmakers decided on, a dilapidated limestone mini- mansion in a historic neighborhood of Harlem called Hamilton Heights, stood on the corner of 144th Street and Convent Avenue, a tree-lined byway, surrounded by many other landmark buildings.
David Wasco understood at once that the house featured many of the details the filmmakers needed. There was a parlor floor with a dining room, living room an a
foyer where Etheline's telephone room under the stairs could be added. The geography of the three Tenenbaum children's bedrooms also existed in the house as they were described in the script, stacked one on top of another, which would enable an opening crane shot outside of the house to show the three children, each in their own window.
The house also had a rooftop where Richie's falcon coop could be set up and Margot could sneak away to smoke, and a beautiful turret from which to fly the signature family flag. In addition, the entire block had a good look for the exteriors and the house had a faded mansion quality while maintaining the intimate feel of a family home.
Yet there were drawbacks. The building proposed many challenges for the filmmakers: it was small and unstable, and the floors were connected by one rickety staircase, which didn't even go to the roof; the roof was accessible only by ladder.
There was talk of returning to the plan of shooting in a studio.
"Wherever this guy goes, he finds horrible places to work," Murray jokingly notes. "On 'Rushmore,' we were in some of the most horrible locations outside Houston. And now, we were in New York City, the biggest and best city in the country, and he found some of the most awful places to shoot<
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