The top ten wes anderson characters
In honour of the imminent release of Wes Anderson’s newie, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Jade Bate has chucked together a list of the best characters out of all the auteur’s films. Prepare for an education!
10. Dignan (Owen Wilson) – Bottle Rocket
In Wes Anderson’s 1996 feature debut, Bottle Rocket, three friends attempt to pull off an ‘elaborate scheme’. Anderson wrote the film with long time friend Owen Wilson who also stars as Dignan, an immature and hyperactive man-child. Dignan is one of Anderson’s most optimistic characters, and he takes the term ‘lovable idiot’ to the next level. Bottle Rocket holds the credit of being the world’s first taste of Anderson.
9. Ash (Voiced by Jason Schwartzman) – Fantastic Mr. Fox
With deadpan sarcasm and angsty neuroses, Ash – the son of Mr. and Mrs. Fox – is one of Anderson’s most relatable characters. He’s a typical teenage boy full of mood swings and cynical observations. His failure to live up to his parent’s expectations and the jealousy he feels of his perfect cousin Kristofferson result in the declaration that he is just ‘different’ from everyone else in his family. Throughout the film, Ash becomes a figure for the underdog.
8. Scout Master Ward (Edward Norton) – Moonrise Kingdom
Perhaps Anderson took a risk when he cast Edward Norton – one of the greatest dramatic actors of his generation – as the dopey and comically pathetic Scoutmaster Ward. He treats his scouts like miniature soldiers, uses a tape recorder to document the day’s events and takes his job very, very seriously. But the tragic thing is that he’s not very good at it. In fact, he manages to loose his entire Khaki Scout troop and gets demoted by the Head Scout leader (a Harvey Keitel in shorts). Scoutmaster Ward represents the adults in Moonrise Kingdom who don’t have their shit together like the kids do.
7. Jane Winslett-Richardson (Cate Blanchett) – The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
In my opinion, one of the coolest characters Anderson has ever created is Cate Blanchett’s pregnant English journalist, Jane Winslett-Richardson, from The Life Aquatic. She’s covering a story on the great oceanic adventurer, Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) whom she has admired for years. Except of course, he’s an arrogant old man who’s recently discovered he has an adult son called Ned (Owen Wilson). Blanchett is beyond perfect for the role; Jane is witty, smart, strong-minded and really an all round kick-ass woman. Coincidently, she was also pregnant herself at the time of filming.
6. Francis, Peter and Jack Whitman (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) – The Darjeeling Limited
In 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited, three brothers set off on a spiritual journey through India after their father’s sudden death. It may seem unbalanced to include all three Whitman brothers on this list, but each brother brings something different to the film: Francis is the disheartened eldest whose depressive state has prompted him to plan this spiritual journey to re-unite with his brothers; Peter is facing an existential crisis because he is about to become a father; and Jack is a struggling writer going through an extreme break-up.
5. Herrman Blume (Bill Murray) – Rushmore
Without a doubt, Herman Blume holds the title of the most tragic character in any of Wes Anderson’s films. The character is also credited as the first instance Bill Murray took on a role not purely for comical reasons. Rather, it enabled us to see a more dramatic and nuanced performance from the legendary actor. The scene in Rushmore where he’s throwing golf balls into the pool and wanting to drown himself is incredible. Blume is a fragile man who has alienated himself from the world he has created.
4. Margot Tenenbaum (Gwyneth Paltrow) – The Royal Tenenbaums
The false assumption that Margot Tenenbaum is the ultimate example of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl has followed the character ever since The Royal Tenenbaums was released in 2001. She is by no means a flimsy plot ploy; Margot has her own problems to deal with. Her writer’s block has caused a state of unrelenting depression, where she locks herself in the bathroom for seven hours a day. Furthermore, her loveless marriage is preventing her from pursuing the real love of her life, her adoptive brother Richie.
3. Suzy Bishop (Kara Hayward) – Moonrise Kingdom
12-year-old Suzy Bishop is Anderson’s greatest female lead; she’s smart, complicated and has a wardrobe to die for. Misunderstood by two lawyer parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand), three little brothers and almost everyone her age, she finds comfort in a pen-pal relationship with the equally alienated Sam. He’s an orphan and a Khaki scout who convinces Suzy to run away with him.
2. Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman) – Rushmore
Almost any highschool has a Max Fischer: that kid who’s always got the answer. But Max is a false overachiever at his posh private school. He’s actually flunking out because of his overzealous school spirit. His attempts to keep up with appearances, claiming his father is a doctor not a barber, show a tragic mindset that he doesn’t feel good enough. As Wes Anderson’s most personal character, Max Fischer will be forever immortalised as that preppy kid who wrote a hit play and saved Latin.
1. Richie Tenenbaum (Luke Wilson) – The Royal Tenenbaums
Our introduction to Richie Tenenbaum begins with him on board an ocean liner sending a telegraph to his best friend: ‘Dear Eli, I’m in the middle of the ocean. I haven’t left my room in four days. I’ve never been more lonely in my life, and I think I’m in love with Margot.’ A former tennis prodigy who lost everything in a nervous breakdown during a match, Richie hasn’t seen his family in years when he returns to find his father claiming to be dying of cancer. Richie is a tragic figure, even by Anderson’s standards. The scene where he shaves off his beard and attempts to kill himself to Elliott Smith’s ‘Needle in the Hay’ is the most heartbreaking moment I’ve ever seen.
This article was first published at Reel Good.