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The Desgoffes and Taxis
The main action of the story kicks off with the sudden and mysterious death of 84-year-old dowager countess Madame CĂ©line Villeneuve Desgoffe und Taxis, a.k.a. Madame D.

In the role of Madame D. is Tilda Swinton, who won an Oscar for her work in MICHAEL CLAYTON. For this part, Swinton had to spend almost five hours each morning in hair and makeup in preparation to play the 84-year-old widow. Anderson notes, "With Tilda, we had this chance to age her, and I think she really enjoyed doing that, and helped make it something special. I feel like she really latched on to how to play this person at that age."

Swinton found the world of THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL irresistible. "I think we all love the idea of living in the grandest hotel in the world and being waited on by someone like Monsieur Gustave, or even being someone like Gustave," she says. "You have a fictional country, which is always a good start, and then it's a helter-skelter murder mystery with a mish-mash of glorious details unlike anything you could ever have imagined."

Madame D.'s death sets in motion a scramble to lay claim to her vast fortune. Leading the charge is her son, Dmitri, the film's ruthless and darkly comic main villain, played by Adrien Brody, who previously starred in THE DARJEELING LIMITED. "He's the bad seed, he's the one who causes the trouble - and he was really wonderful in this role of Dmitri," says Anderson.

Brody says of the character: "Dmitri is powerful and greedy, a man used to getting what he wants. M. Gustave is a threat to this. It is revealed that he was the much younger lover of his mother, who she ultimately bequeathed her fortune to, so wouldn't you have it in for him? Everything about Dmitri is dark: his clothes, hair, thoughts and attitude. The beauty of comedy is that you can heighten all of these qualities to the point where they become amusing. The objective was to find a balance between being legitimately ominous and also hilarious - Dmitri had to be both."

Dmitri also has an accessory: a henchman named Jopling, a thug in a leather coat, brass-knuckles and high-heeled boots, who is portrayed by Willem Dafoe. Dafoe says that despite his previous work with Anderson, the script for THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL was surprising. "I thought it was really interesting, almost a throwback to Lubitsch and Wilder comedies, with a caper quality and all these characters coming in and out," he says. "Wes captures a spirit that is so appealing."

It didn't surprise Dafoe that the script attracted such a strong and award-winning cast. "It's unusual in today's cinema for a director to have the heavy personal stamp Wes does so a lot of people want to work with him," he explains. "It makes for an extremely creative atmosphere."

Playing Deputy Vilmos Kovacs, the attorney representing Madame D's estate, is Jeff Goldblum, who previously worked with Anderson on THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU. Goldblum highlights some of the cultural and political elements at work in the film: "Monsieur Gustave is a rare and spectacular light of hope and inspiration - courteous, generous and refined - in this world in which fascists are coming to power," he says. Indeed, Dmitri and his cohort are headed down a path toward fascism, and this is one of the elements that flesh out the antagonism between him and Monsieur Gustave. "This is a world where one needs to start taking sides, so when Madame D is killed, and dissension breaks out over the will and the atmosphere is thick with greed, my character Kovacs must get closer to taking a stand."

Goldblum was also taken with certain details of the look of his character, including a beard based on Sigmund Freud's. "Wes is so specific in his visual ideas, and costume designer Milena Canonero creates costumes that give you insight into your character," he says.

It was a thrill for Goldblum to work with Anderson again. "He is a uniquely artistic, focused and witty person not unlike Monsieur Gustave," the actor comments. "He's always full of fun and enchantment. And he attracts spectacular people in every capacity who are here for the love of it."

Rounding out the Desgoffe und Taxis household is Madame D's trusted butler, Serge X, played by another newcomer to Anderson's films: the award-winning French actor Mathieu Amalric, best known in the U.S. for his lead role in Julian Schnabel's THE DIVING BELL AND THE BUTTERFLY.

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