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Why Gene Hackman and Wes Anderson will never work together again


Known for his whimsical eccentricity, Wes Anderson is able to attract some of the industry’s finest names to any of his upcoming projects. Having already screened at the Cannes Film Festival, The French Dispatch managed to magnetise Timothée Chalamet, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Saoirse Ronan and more in an extraordinary ensemble cast. 

Such a trend for the director being able to attract such talent came after the release of The Royal Tenenbaums in 2001, featuring a formidable ensemble cast, including Bill Murray, Gene Hackman, Danny Glover, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson and Gwyneth Paltrow. Only Anderson’s third film, The Royal Tenenbaums follows a dysfunctional family reluctantly gathering under their old home for various different reasons. Equally funny and genuinely heartfelt, Anderson’s film is one of the sweetest and most tender in his filmography, diving deep into the darkest parts of human nature, revealing both its existential horrors as well as its most innocent joys.

Though, whilst the on-screen antics may have looked like a joyous romp, behind the scenes, the situation was far more tumultuous, as Wes Anderson clashed with Gene Hackman over creative and professional differences. “It was written for him against his wishes,” Anderson told Matt Zoller Seitz, the author of The Wes Anderson Collection, as Hackman persisted to make his lack of interest known on set. 

Sinking Wes Anderson’s spirits on set by repeatedly insulting him, there have been multiple reports stating that Hackman called the director a ‘c*nt’ on the set of the film, with Bill Murray even coming in on his days off to help shield Wes Anderson from the bitter star. Though the director wasn’t the only one to be on the receiving end of the actor, co-star Anjelica Huston also having a tense relationship with Hackman. In discussion at a reunion for the film in 2011, the actor recalled that their first scene together involved her slapping Hackman round the face, recalling, “I hit him a really good one. I saw the imprint of my hand on his cheek and I thought, he’s going to kill me”.

Despite their difficult relationship, Anderson looks back fondly at his time working with Gene Hackman, noting, “He was one of the things that pulled everybody into this movie. Anytime we are together and talk about the movie we always talk about him”. 

Continuing to comment about his love for the Oscar-winning actor, he added, “He’s a huge force and I really enjoyed working with him. Even though he was very challenging with me, it was very exciting seeing him launch into these scenes”. 

Just like the subject of his films, it seems as though Wes Anderson is just as kind, emotional and humorous in real life. Gene Hackman would retire from acting just three years after the release of the film.