Oscar Directors: Anderson, Wes–Background, Career, Awards, Filmography

Research in Progress (October 1, 2020)

Wes Anderson Career Summary:

Occupational Inheritance: No

Social Class: Upper-middle; mother realtor and archaeologist; father advertising and public relations.

Family: parents divorced when he was 8.

Nationality: U.S.; lives in France

Formal Education: University of Texas, Austin, philosophy 1990; aged 21

Training: part-time as cinema projectionist

First Film: Bottle Rocket, 1996; aged 27 (based on short like P.T. Anderson)

First Oscar Nomination:

Gap between First Film and Nomination: 5 years

Other Nominations: Royal Tenenbaums, 2001, as writer; 5 noms

Genre (specialties): worlds of wonder; studied eccentricity

Collaborators: Owen Wilson; Bill Murray actor; Roman Coppola

Popular: Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014; $175 million; Oscar winner

Last Film:


Career Output: about 10 features

Career Span: 1996-present; 24 years

Marriage: Lebanese writer, costume designer and voice actress Juman Malouf


Retirement: NA

Death: NA


Wesley Wales Anderson (born May 1, 1969), the eccentric American filmmaker, is known for his distinctive visual and narrative styles.

Anderson was nominated for the Best Original Screenplay Oscar for The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Moonrise Kingdom (2012) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), as well as the for Best Animated Feature for the stop-motion films Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) and Isle of Dogs (2018).

With The Grand Budapest Hotel, he received his first Best Director and Best Picture nominations, and won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture–Comedy and the BAFTA Award for Best Original Screenplay.

He currently runs the company American Empirical Pictures, which he founded in 1998.

Anderson won the Silver Bear for Best Director for Isle of Dogs in 2018.

Wesley Wales Anderson was born on May 1, 1969, in Houston, Texas. He is the son of Texas Ann Anderson (née Burroughs), a realtor and archaeologist, and Melver Leonard Anderson, who worked in advertising and public relations.

He is the second of three boys; his parents divorced when he was 8.

His older brother, Mel, is a physician, and his younger brother, Eric Chase Anderson, is writer and artist whose paintings and designs have appeared in several of Anderson’s films, The Royal Tenenbaums. Anderson is of English, Swedish and Norwegian ancestry.

He graduated from St. John’s School in Houston in 1987, which he later used as a prominent location in Rushmore.

As a child, Anderson made silent films on his father’s Super 8 camera and starred his brothers and friends, although his first ambition was to be a writer.

Anderson worked part-time as a cinema projectionist while attending the University of Texas at Austin, where he met future collaborator Owen Wilson. He graduated in 1990 with a degree in philosophy.

Anderson’s first film was Bottle Rocket (1996), based on a short of the same name that he made with Luke and Owen Wilson. It was a crime caper about young Texans aspiring to major heists. It was well reviewed but performed poorly at the box office.

His next film was Rushmore (1998), a quirky comedy about high school student’s crush on elementary school teacher, starred Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. It was a critical success. Murray has since appeared in every Anderson film to date.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) was a comedy-drama about a successful artistic New York City family and its ostracized patriarch. It represented his greatest success until Moonrise Kingdom in 2012, earning more than $50 million in domestic box office. The Royal Tenenbaums was nominated for Oscar Award.

Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) about a Jacques Cousteau-esque documentarian played by Bill Murray, was a failure, critically and commercially.

The Darjeeling Limited (2007) concerned three emotionally distant brothers traveling together on a train in India. It faced criticisms similar to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. Anderson went to India to film the movie as a tribute to Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray, whose “films have inspired all my other movies in different ways” (the film is dedicated to him).

The film starred Anderson staples Jason Schwartzman and Owen Wilson in addition to Adrien Brody, and the script was co-written by Anderson, Schwartzman, and Roman Coppola.

In 2008, Anderson was hired to write the screenplay of the American adaptation of My Best Friend, a French film, for producer Brian Grazer; Anderson’s first draft was titled “The Rosenthaler Suite.”

Anderson’s stop motion animation adaptation of the Roald Dahl book Fantastic Mr Fox was released in 2009. The film was praised and nominated for Best Animated Feature Oscar, though not earning much more than its production budget.

After the critical success of Fantastic Mr. Fox, Anderson made Moonrise Kingdom which opened the 2012 Cannes Film Fest. The film, emblematic of Anderson’s style, was a financial success, and earned Anderson another Oscar nomination for his screenplay.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), considered by some critics to be his most fully realized feature, starred Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, and Saoirse Ronan, along with several of his regular collaborators including Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Jason Schwartzman.

It is set in the 1930s and follows the adventures of M. Gustave, the hotel’s concierge, making a marvelous mockery of history, turning its horrors into a series of graceful jokes and mischievous gestures. The film represented one of Anderson’s greatest critical and commercial successes, grossing nearly $175 million worldwide and earning nine Oscar nominations with four wins.

Anderson returned to stop motion animation with Isle of Dogs. Production on the film started in the UK in October 2016, and it was released in select theaters on March 23, 2018, and wide on April 6, 2018. The film received Oscar nominations for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score.

The French Dispatch stars Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Owen Wilson, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, and Timothée Chalamet. It was scheduled to be released in July 2020, before being delayed, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, first to October 2020, and then pulled altogether from the schedule.

Anderson has also created short films. In addition to Bottle Rocket, he made the Paris-set Hotel Chevalier (2007), which was created as a prologue to The Darjeeling Limited and starred Jason Schwartzman alongside Natalie Portman, and the Italy-set Castello Cavalcanti (2013), which was produced by Prada and starred Jason Schwartzman as an unsuccessful race-car driver.

He has directed GiTV commercials for Stella Artois and Prada, including elaborate American Express ad, in which he starred as himself.

Anderson’s influences include François Truffaut, Louis Malle, Pedro Almodóvar, Satyajit Ray, John Huston, Mike Nichols, Hal Ashby, Stanley Kubrick, Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Orson Welles, and Roman Polanski.

Anderson’s unique directorial style that led several critics to consider him an auteur.

Themes and stories

His comedies are marked by serious or melancholic elements, dealing with grief, loss of innocence, dysfunctional families, parental abandonment, adultery, sibling rivalry and unlikely friendships.

His movies, which are character-driven, have been both derided and praised with terms like “literary geek chic.”

The plots often feature thefts, mistaken identities, unexpected disappearances, borrowing liberally from the caper genre.

Visual style

His extensive use of flat space camera moves, obsessively symmetrical compositions, knolling, snap-zooms, slow-motion walking shots, a deliberately limited color palette, and hand-made art direction often utilizing miniatures.

These stylistic choices give his movies distinctive quality, which has provoked discussion, critical study, supercuts, mash-ups, and even parody. His movies represent “self-contained worlds,” or a “scale model household.”

Jesse Fox Mayshark: his films have “a baroque pop bent that is not realist, surrealist or magic realist,” but might be described as “fabulist.” In 2019, the company Murals Wallpaper from the UK launched a line of wallpapers inspired by the visual design of Anderson’s films.

From The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou on, Anderson has relied heavily on stop motion animation and miniatures, even making entire features with stop motion animation in Fantastic Mr. Fox and Isle of Dogs.

Anderson frequently uses pop music from the 1960s and ’70s on the soundtracks of his films, and one band or musician tends to dominate each soundtrack. In Rushmore, Cat Stevens and British Invasion groups featured prominently, The Royal Tenenbaums included songs recorded by Nico, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou was replete with David Bowie including both originals and covers performed by Seu Jorge, The Kinks appeared on the soundtrack for The Darjeeling Limited and Rushmore, The Beach Boys in Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Hank Williams for Moonrise Kingdom.

Much of Moonrise Kingdom is filled with the music of Benjamin Britten, which is connected to some plot points for that film.

The Darjeeling Limited also borrowed music styles from Satyajit Ray’s films.

The Grand Budapest Hotel, set in the 1930s, is notable for being the first Anderson film to eschew using any pop music, and instead used original music composed by Alexandre Desplat. Its soundtrack won Desplat the Best Original Score Oscar, the BAFTA Award for Best Film Music and World Soundtrack Award for Best Original Score of the Year.

The soundtracks have often brought renewed attention to the artists featured, “These Days”, which was used in The Royal Tenenbaums.

Anderson is involved with Lebanese writer, costume designer and voice actress Juman Malouf. Malouf gave birth to the couple’s daughter in 2016. She is named Freya, after the character in the movie “The Mortal Storm.”

Anderson lives in Paris, after spending most of his life in New York.

His brother, artist Eric Chase Anderson, has illustrated the Criterion Collection releases of Anderson’s films (Rushmore, Royal Tenenbaums, Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and  Darjeeling Limited) and provided the voice of Kristofferson Silverfox in Fantastic Mr. Fox.

Filmography: 10 Features

1996 Bottle Rocket, Co-written with Owen Wilson

1998 Rushmore

2001 The Royal Tenenbaums

2004 The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Co-written with Noah Baumbach

2005 The Squid and the Whale, co-wrote but didn’t direct

2007 The Darjeeling Limited, Co-written Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman

2009 Fantastic Mr. Fox, Co-written with Noah Baumbach

2012 Moonrise Kingdom, Co-written with Roman Coppola

2014 The Grand Budapest Hotel, Story co-written with Hugo Guinness

2018 Isle of Dogs, co-written with Roman Coppola, Jason Schwartzman, Kunichi Nomura

2021: The French Dispatch, co-written with Roman Coppola, Hugo Guinness, Jason Schwartzman