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THE LIFE AQUATIC WITH STEVE ZISSOU

About The Screenplay
With just three films—"Bottle Rocket,” "Rushmore” and "The Royal Tenenbaums”—Wes Anderson has established a comically charged yet deeply human view of modern life and relationships. Each of his broadly appealing comedies has tackled recurring themes of aspiration, misfits, family, love and the fall from grace. His fourth film takes these same themes into wholly new territory as Anderson simultaneously tackles an ocean-going adventure rife with chases, shoot-outs, preying sharks and underwater wonders.

In a sense, THE LIFE AQUATIC became Anderson's own expedition into the unknown. Barry Mendel explains: "Wes took some wild risks in making this movie. He essentially threw out the ‘Wes Anderson book' and reinvented himself. Far from the very precise chamber pieces of ‘Rushmore' or ‘The Royal Tenenbaums,' he's thrown himself into a chaotic, exterior, fantastical genre film.”

Anderson's novel-like screenplays always emerge from intimate personal experience and at the center of THE LIFE AQUATIC is another character close to Anderson's heart: Steve Zissou, a world-famous oceanographer who is both comically familiar and entirely unique. Long fascinated by aquatic films and undersea life in general, Anderson had always wanted to make a movie set on a boat in the world of adventure filmmaking. "This is a movie I've been thinking about for fourteen years,” he comments. "I've always been fascinated by this strange and amazing character who creates a kind of eccentric family at sea.”

As early as his college years, Anderson penned a short story about an oceanographer that introduced Steve Zissou, his boat The Belafonte and the wife who turns out to be the real brains behind his operation. From there, the character continued to evolve over the years, as Anderson continued to ponder the personality and plight of Steve Zissou and at last began to collaborate on a screenplay with his long-time friend Noah Baumbach, a writer and director ("Kicking and Screaming”) who also writes comic pieces for The New Yorker. Meeting at the same New York restaurant day after day, Anderson and Baumbach fleshed out the story not only of Zissou, but also of his crew of fellow dreamers who set out to sea with him. As they wrote the action-packed story of Team Zissou, their explorations of the characters brought the story's undercurrents to the surface.

"Steve Zissou is someone whose entire modus operandi in life is to create a team, to always be surrounded by a group of people who will go with him on his adventures,” explains Anderson. "But now he's reached a point in his life where he's already done a lot of his work, where he's been married a couple of times, and suddenly, it all seems to be slipping away.”

"So the story is about Steve Zissou, this band of adventurers that he brings together and the mission that they go on in search of a creature that may or may not exist. And, at the same time, it's about a guy who is at a low point in his career and is trying to reach for something greater than he's ever done before—to reaffirm himself. And when he meets somebody who might be his son, that suddenly brings him back in touch with some things he's lost contact with, as well as questions he hasn't asked himself in a long time, and changes the whole journey.”

The screenplay went beyond anything Anderson had previously done in terms of inventing an entire world that follows its own slightly off-kilter rules of reality. When producer Barry Mendel read an early draft of THE LIFE AQUATIC, he was quickly drawn into the totally enveloping fictional world Anderson and Baumbach had created.

"The level of detail and the amount of emotional layers and the sophistication of the dialogue in that first draft was terrific,” says Mendel. "Wes's verbal dexterity and ability to shift cadences and ideas in a heartbeat is something t

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