Back in 1992, an unknown filmmaker going by the name of Wes Anderson met an obscure actor named Owen Wilson at the University of Texas in Austin and, at that moment, the pair instantly hit it off.
The duo, who met during a playwriting class at the University, decided to work together and began writing what was to become their 13-minute black-and-white short film Bottle Rocket.
The film, which was shot entirely in Texas across Dallas, Fort Worth, and Hillsboro, tells the story of three hapless criminals who are played by Wilson, his brother Luke and their friend Robert Musgrave. Shot on 16mm monochrome, the film details the influence of Woody Allen on Anderson who was yet to determine his now-iconic aesthetically pleasing style.
After completion of the movie, Anderson and Wilson were handed a premiere of their short film at the 1994 Sundance Film Festival, two years after their initial plans. The film would be met by positive critical reviews and, more importantly, it would catch the attention of Hollywood producer James Brooks who had bigger goals in mind.
So impressed by the short, Brooks committed to both Anderson and Wilson by financing a feature-length adaptation of the initial idea and, just two years later, Anderson had completed the transition of Bottle Rocket into a full-length feature. However, the plan didn’t map out how everybody had hoped as the film bombed at the box office and didn’t come close to recouping the $5million budget Anderson had used up.
However, as time has passed, Bottle Rocket has been credited as launching the careers of both Anderson and Wilson who have since gone on to create an impenetrable creative partnership. Furthermore, on reflection, Bottle Rocket has earned somewhat of a cult following and, a few years after its release, the great Martin Scorsese would call it one of his favourite films of the 1990s.
Below, enjoy the short film that started it all.