Ralph Fiennes relishes comedic role in 'Grand Budapest Hotel'

By KAREN BUTLER, United Press International  |  March 2, 2014 at 1:06 AM
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NEW YORK, March 1 (UPI) -- British actor Ralph Fiennes says he was thrilled to play Gustave, the ambitious and charming concierge in Wes Anderson's 1930s Europe-set comedy "The Grand Budapest Hotel," because he is such a fascinating character.

The film is about the chaos that ensues when a wealthy hotel guest played by Tilda Swinton dies, leaving Gustave a priceless painting in her will, much to the outrage of her son, played by Adrien Brody.

"It is a great part on the page. Gustave is a man of innate confidence, but he also has got little vanities and is overly fastidious, perhaps, about some things and has neuroses about smelling nice all the time. He needs to have someone loyal by his side," Fiennes recently told reporters in New York, referring to Tony Revolori's lobby boy character, Zero, who follows Gustave everywhere.

Fiennes went on to say he knew exactly how to play Gustave because Anderson's script and direction were so specific, but also because he was acquainted with the man on whom Anderson had loosely based the character.

"It's imagination, I suppose. There is a great wealth of information on the page of the screenplay, which immediately gives you a sense of someone. Actually, there is a guy Wes and I know ... A friend of Wes', someone I know, he was a little bit of a model for Gustave. Knowing him a bit was very helpful," the actor explained. "Often with these things, people ask about what research someone does, but often you say the dialogue enough times, you talk about what it means or why it's happening, and stuff develops through instinct and imagination."

Best known for his dramatic roles in "The English Patient," "Schindler's List," "The Reader," "Skyfall," "The Invisible Woman" and the Harry Potter film franchise, Fiennes said he loved all the old-fashioned film-making magic Anderson employed to make the Budapest Hotel look much more luxurious than it really was.

"Given the scale you imagine when you read the script ... This is not a studio budget, so there has to be an inventiveness about how it's realized," Fiennes said, revealing the film's production team re-made sections of an old shopping mall to look like a fancy hotel. "I was completely amazed about it. One corridor, you can shoot at different angles and it looks like lots of corridors. I love all that stuff and one of the great pleasures of this was there were a lot of old tricks of the trade to create the impression of an opulent time. ... Wes loves that stuff and takes a childish delight in how he can create an effect relatively cheaply."

Featuring F. Murray Abraham, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Jude Law, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, Saoirse Ronan, Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson, "The Grand Budapest Hotel" opens nationwide Friday. Anderson's films include "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums," "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou," "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," "Moonrise Kingdom" and "The Darjeeling Limited."

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