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The Citizens of Zubrowka
M. Gustave H.

Anderson wrote the part of Monsieur Gustave H, the fastidious concierge at the heart of the film, with one actor in mind: Ralph Fiennes, a two-time Oscar nominee for SCHINDLER'S LIST and THE ENGLISH PATIENT. "The idea that Ralph was going to play this character enriched it completely," says Dawson. "He just disappears into that persona until you simply say, 'that's Monsieur Gustave.'"

Fiennes immersed himself fully into the character's many contradictions. "Gustave is insecure, vain and needy, as it says in the script, but he's also a very fastidious man who has a strong sense of principle rooted in this idea of how you look after people," the actor observes.

He especially enjoyed Gustave's paternal relationship with young Zero, whom he selects as a potential protege in the never-ending battle against the coarseness of the world. "To Gustave, Zero is an innocent, inexperienced in the ways of the world and in need of instruction. But they ultimately become equal brothers-in-arms," notes Fiennes.

Fiennes was inspired by his first collaboration with Anderson, who, he notes, has a way of seeing the world that is one-of-a-kind. "With THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, Wes has created a true caper comedy with disguises and chases and escapes, yet there's always that bittersweet undertone that is so distinctive," he says. "His films always have this idiosyncratic lightness of touch inside which lie strong themes and emotions. It's an unusual blend that no one else can repeat because it comes from inside Wes, from his personal sense of humor and perception of the world."

He continues: "Wes is exacting with his actors in a very positive way. He's always refining a moment until it has just the right feel, the right lightness. Speed of delivery is something he really values because this kind of material needs that kind of liveliness. Ultimately, he created his own made-up time and world where people are braver, more principled and have more fun."

Underneath all of Gustave's superficial fastidiousness is a kind of basic emotional core, a devotedness, sentimentality and affection that provide much of the story's emotional center. Observes co-star Edward Norton, whose character is in pursuit of Gustave: "Gustave is up there with the greatest characters Wes has created and nobody could have played it more perfectly than Ralph. Gustave is contradictory - he has this incredibly haughty self-righteous view of proper values and at the same time he is ferociously loyal. He's like a glimpse into an old world right before it disappears."

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