That was not so much. That one was like 11 or something – 11 or 12 takes. It was, you know – which is not a lot of takes for us. (Laughs.)


But he also would run up the stairs, he comes all the way down, all the way up the thing and goes all the way back up but he also ran by – I mean there’s stuff that’s not in the movie where he’s continuing to run. But he didn’t do that in every take.

Oh, that’s good. For the production design and art direction on this film you worked with Adam Stockhausen who just got nominated for "12 Years a Slave" and...

Who lost.

Well, hey, he got nominated. It’s only the second time he’s worked with you and the art director, this guy Stephen Gessler, it was only the first time. When you bring new people into your world are you...

Who is that? Stephen Gessler?

I don’t know. He was listed as your first art director. Stephen O. Gessler. Did I write it wrong?

Well, you know, because what used to be art director – so, you know, now they say production designer. In the old days the art director was the production designer.


Now the art director is somebody who’s in charge of like construction and things like that. Adam was the art director on "The Darjeeling Limited," the movie I made a few years ago. Then we did "Fantastic Mr. Fox." I had a different group because of people who do animation.


On "Moonrise Kingdom" Adam was the production designer because Mark Friedberg, who I’d worked with before, he wasn’t available and whatever happened. And so we made Adam the production designer and he’d done a few things. And this one is also Adam again.

Well, I guess my actual question is how early do you start with him on a process for a film like "Moonrise" or this? And do you give him doodles? Do you give him references?  

We start as early as we can. I start sending him something, he starts sending me stuff. But whoever it is, in this case Adam, he’s working on something else. So he’s in the middle of another movie but he’s going and he’s doing research and he’ll have somebody else who he’s got gathering us some stuff on the side.


And whenever there’s time we’re talking and I’m pulling lots and lots of images and things from the Internet and finding my own things. And I have my own people helping me. And so then we start combining it all and then when I finally get him – when he finishes his thing and he’s on to our thing, then it really goes full blast and the group begins to grow and we start the process of figuring out "where are we gonna do this," "how are we gonna do this" and "what is it gonna take." What I’ve envisioned versus what we discover in our wanderings. For "Moonrise Kingdom" I found a house on this placed called Jamestown Island just on the Internet, this lighthouse. A great image of this place. And we started researching what’s around there. And so the movie grew from finding that house.

We went to see that house and then we started looking all around there. With "Budapest," we found this department store that [could stand in for the hotel] and it grew around that. In both of these movies I found that to be a really good [solution]. I like to have a production that sort of stays close to a base and we adapt to things. But at least as big a part of it is just wandering around and seeing what you see and say, “Ah, here’s a way that we could do this part of the story.” When we were doing "Moonrise Kingdom" we were driving around and we saw this weird old kind of colonial looking compound on the side of the road. And it was all these old white clapboard buildings and it turned out to be a retreat for some kind of Christian retreat place. But very, very old like from the 20s or 30s. And it’s still going, but a religious thing. We made this into our kind of foster home, orphanage place.

Oh, right.

It had things like rocks that said "The End Is Near and God Is Watching" on like giant boulders and things. And it just brought its own, you know, personality into this part of our story. And we adapted to it and I like that. I like when that sort of thing happens.


"The Grand Budapest Hotel" is still playing in theaters and is now available on digital download. It arrives on DVD on June 17.

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With over a decade of experience in the movie industry, Ellwood survived working for two major studios and has written for Variety, MSN and the LA Times. A co-founder of HitFix, Ellwood spends his time relaxing hitting 3’s on the basketball court and following his beloved Clippers.