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Wes Anderson Biography


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Birth Name: Wes Anderson
Born: 05/01/1969
Birth Place: Harris County, Texas, USA


Born on May 1, 1969 in Harris County, TX, Anderson was raised in Houston by his father, Melver, an advertising executive, and his mother, Texas Anne Burroughs, an archeologist. In 1977, when Anderson was in fourth grade, his parents went through a divorce, leading the 10-year-old to act up at school while trying to hide his embarrassment. He also began writing plays, putting on productions of the Headless Horseman and the Battle of the Alamo. By the time he attended St. John's High School, a prep school that later served as the inspiration for "Rushmore," Anderson had been directing Super 8mm movies with his brothers, Eric and Mel. After graduating, he attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he majored in philosophy and met future star Owen Wilson in a playwriting class. The two became fast friends and eventual roommates. Through their mutual love of movies, classic literature and the Sunday comics, Anderson and Wilson began making short films with equipment from a local cable access station, which also aired the final results.

Joining forces with Owen's younger brother, Luke Wilson, Anderson wrote and directed "Bottle Rocket" (1992), a 14-minute short about two young burglars (Owen and Luke) with too much time on their hands, inspired in part by a real-life break-in staged by the filmmaker to retaliate against a irresponsive landlord. "Bottle Rocket" screened as part of the shorts program at the 1993 Sundance Film Festival, where the sparse black-and-white film garnered considerable industry attention. Championed by writer-director L.M. "Kit" Carson, the film gained the attention of producers Polly Platt and James L. Brooks, who persuaded Columbia Pictures to back Anderson to the tune of $6 million for a full-length version. With Anderson at the helm, Owen and Luke reprised their roles as two Texans who try their hand at a life of crime in search of some sense of belonging. Though the 1996 feature bombed at test screenings, "Bottle Rocket" opened to mostly positive critical notices, but disappointed again with dismal box office numbers. Weird, warm and at times riotously funny, the quirky, atmospheric piece failed to connect with most moviegoers. It did, however, find a devout cult audience and, more importantly, raised Anderson's stature among Hollywood's elite, including Martin Scorsese, who considered it one of the best films of the 1990s.

Anderson's second feature effort, "Rushmore" (1998), was afforded about twice the budget of "Bottle Rocket" despite its predecessor's relative failure. With this film, Anderson and Owen collaborated on the script to tell the tale of a misguided, but well-meaning and slightly sociopathic prep school student, Max Fischer (Jason Schwartzman), who has an overwhelming slate of extracurricular activities and failing grades. He meets and quickly falls for the school's first grade teacher, Miss Cross (Olivia Williams), whom he loves almost as much as the titular campus itself. Max also strikes up a friendship with Mr. Herman Blume, a bemused businessman and former Rushmore student who crosses his new friend when he also takes a romantic interest in Miss Cross, leading to an instantly classic sequence where both exact revenge on each other while The Who's "A Quick One While He's Away" blares on the soundtrack. Full of the kind of singularly evocative and empathetic moments - most tied inextricably to the seminal soundtrack - that set Anderson apart from his contemporaries, "Rushmore" reached a much wider audience than "Bottle Rocket," bringing in over $17 million in box office grosses while becoming a favorite of critics and fans alike.

Moving on to his next project, Anderson directed "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001), which was set in the filmmaker's adopted home of New York City. A story about a family of child prodigies who never reached their potential, the film boasted Anderson's most impressive cast: Gene Hackman as the eponymous patriarch; Anjelica Huston as the graceful mother (based on Anderson's own mom); Danny Glover as her gentlemanly suitor; Ben Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow and regular Luke Wilson as the three siblings in a state of arrested genius; and rounded out by Owen Wilson and Bill Murray. Mixing the colorful characters with hyper-realistic surroundings, Anderson succeeded in setting the scene and bringing his script about the dysfunctional family to life. Despite a mixed reception from critics, "The Royal Tenenbaums" became his biggest financial success to date. Anderson continued to explore large ensembles of extremely quirky characters, if less successfully, in his next outing, the offbeat comedy "The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou" (2004). Half-serious, half-cartoonish, the film explored a famed oceanographer-cum-filmmaker (Bill Murray), whose fading fortunes and increasing ennui are reversed when he adds his possible son (Owen Wilson) to his crew and embarks on a quest to kill the "jaguar shark" who ate his best friend. Reuniting past regulars Murray, Wilson and Huston, "The Life Aquatic" also brought Jeff Goldblum, Cate Blanchett and Willem Defoe into the Anderson fold. Still, the film was underwhelming compared to "Rushmore" and "The Royal Tenenbaums."

Around the time "The Life Aquatic" was released, Anderson directed and starred in an American Express commercial, which featured the director on the set of a mock action movie while he talked to the camera as if being interviewed. Titled "My Life, My Card," the ad was notable for a long continuous take where Anderson moved about the set dealing with one absurd issue after another while talking about what it is like making movies. For his next feature, he reunited with Schwartzman and Luke Wilson and added Adrien Brody to form a trio of American brothers who embark on a spiritual trek through India following the death of their father. Also featuring Anjelica Huston, Natalie Portman and Bill Murray in a cameo role, the droll existential comedy featured many of Anderson's recurrent themes, including sibling rivalry, forbidden love and parental abandonment. Despite the generally positive reviews, "The Darjeeling Limited" suffered weak box office returns, taking in even less than "Rushmore" did on its release. Some of this might have been in part to a public's unease with seeing Owen Wilson in a comedic role so soon after he had shockingly attempted suicide in August 2007, and the fact that the actor ended up doing little-to-no press for the film. In an effort to spread his creative wings, Anderson directed "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009), a stop-motion comedy adventure about a crafty fox (voiced by George Clooney) who finds himself and his family targeted for death by three dumb farmers tired of losing their chickens to him. Anderson's near-universally acclaimed film earned nominations for Best Animated Feature Film at both the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.

As well received as "Mr. Fox" had been, Anderson's return to live-action filmmaking delivered a bounty of accolades the likes of which the idiosynchratic writer-director had not enjoyed since "Tenenbaums." A charmingly eccentric and loving look at the fleeting moments of childhood in the summertime, "Moonrise Kingdom" (2012) starred Edward Norton, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis and Frances McDormand in the tale of two young runaways (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) who find love and adventure on a small New England island in 1965. His work brought him Indie Spirit nods for Best Screenplay, Feature and Director, as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay that he shared with co-writer Roman Coppola.