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The bizarre story behind the hawk in Wes Anderson film 'The Royal Tenenbaums'

“Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t.” – Mark Twain

Known for his twee, quirky tales of criminal mischief, the films of Wes Anderson present life in its most colourful form, expressed in fruitful language and gorgeous punchy hue. From 2009s animated homemade tale Fantastic Mr.Fox to the upcoming pastel-coloured French Dispatch celebrating the freedom of journalism, Anderson is quite simply one of cinema’s greatest working directors. 

Operating in a liminal space halfway between reality and fantasy, Anderson’s worlds are full of possibilities making each of his projects a toy box of ideas, concepts and vibrant characters. As his own films meld the line between real-life and fiction, it seems so does the production behind each one, with one particular story from the set of his 2001 film, The Royal Tenenbaums, ripe for an Anderson reimagining in and of itself. 

Calling it something along the lines of ‘The Kidnapping of Mordecai’, the film would follow the bizarre case of petty crime that would occur behind the scenes of one of Anderson’s greatest films, starring Owen Wilson, Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller and Bill Murray. In the film, following the eccentric members of a dysfunctional family who each independently return to their parents home, Ritchie (Luke Wilson) rediscovers his pet hawk, Mordecai who he set free as a child. 

During the filming of The Royal Tenenbaums however, the original hawk used to play Mordecai was kidnapped and held to ransom. Though, instead of tracking down the culprits in true farcical Wes Anderson style, the production team instead, sensibly chose to use a second hawk to depict the beloved childhood pet. 

The bird that was brought in to replace the one held hostage had more white feathers than the previous hawk, giving good reason behind Richie’s questioning as to the legitimacy of Mordecai. “See, now he has more white feathers on his neck,” Wilson remarks, before Gwyneth Paltrow’s Margot replies: “I wonder what happened to him”.

“I don’t know,” Richie replies. “Sometimes if a person has a traumatic experience their hair turns white”. 

We like to think that in a crazy, Anderson-esque plot, the original Mordecai escaped from his captors and was able to fly back to set, turning white due to the stress of the situation. Though, perhaps this is a little too far-fetched even for Wes Anderson. But with the captor still at large let’s hope the director doesn’t rule out ‘The Kidnapping of Mordecai’ sometime in the future. 

See the scene in full, below.

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