Known for their unique visual style, Wes Anderson’s films have been captivating audiences for years. His latest, The Grand Budapest Hotel, tells the story of a hotel’s devoted concierge (played by Ralph Fiennes), a womanizer with a taste for elderly women, who finds himself framed for murder and thrown in jail, with only his lobby boy to help him escape. If you’ve ever wondered where Anderson comes up with such multi-dimensional characters, you might want to ask the story’s co-writer: Hugo Guinness. We chatted with Guinness about working with Anderson, his minimalist black-and-white prints of everyday objects, and what role an Austrian novelist played in the story behind The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Hugo Guinness: Well, I’ve never written with him before, and I enjoyed it very much. He did all the work and I just came up with the occasional witty, I hope, remark.
Bookish: It must’ve been interesting seeing your writing as dialogue in the film.
HG: Ralph Fiennes does a remarkable job with it. Couldn’t have done it better, in my view.
Bookish: The film was also inspired by a real person you and Wes know. What’s he like?
HG: He’s a very stylish, self-invented character. Well-read, amusing, knows lots of poetry off by heart… someone who has studied the mannerisms and savoir-faire of his elders and has kept the flame of Oscar Wildeand Proust alive. Someone whose art is in how to live life, knows all about Noel Coward, Somerset Maugham, that sort of person.
Bookish: That’s a lot to capture.
HG: I think the real character of our friend is there throughout the film.
Bookish: Did any else help inspire the concept and development of The Grand Budapest Hotel?
HG: Books by Stefan Zweig, to whom the film is dedicated, must have helped Wes at least with the period of the film. He was probably the best-known writer of the 1930s—one of the biggest sellers, too… not read much now, I think. He wrote Chess Story, while in exile, and Journey into the Past—novels that deal with war, which is the backdrop for the film.
Bookish: Are you an avid reader?
HG: Oh yes, I love books. I have endless monographs on artists, and then I have quite a lot of artists’ books. I have quite a big collection of how-to draw and how-to paint books… quite a lot of thrillers, garden books, quite a lot of books in general. That’s why I’d be unlikely to change to ebooks: What would I do with empty bookshelves? I’d miss my books very much indeed.
Bookish: Do these books influence your own artwork at all?
HG: Not much has sunk in, but I enjoy having them. It is important to see what other people have done in the past and what they are doing now. I don’t know… How else would you find this stuff out without books?
Bookish: You’re an artist, writer, and illustrator. What do you think are the best and worst things about being creatively inspired to work in so many different areas?
HG: I think they are just different mediums for the same thing which is trying to express ideas. Ideas are the interesting thing, and then you work out the best way to express them… or sometimes it’s not even an idea, just a feeling.
Bookish: Much of your artwork is dedicated to everyday objects: glasses, dogs, matchboxes. Why do you think you’re inspired by these items that other people walk past every day and never think twice about?
HG: Well, I do want to see what something will look like as a print, and quite often it happens to be an everyday thing like a car or a cowboy or a piece of furniture. Everything is equally important, isn’t it?
Hugo Guinness, is a London-born New York-based artist, illustrator, and writer. He is known for his illustrations in the New York Times and his bold, graphic black-and-white block prints, many of which have appeared in films and publications.