Part of what makes Wes Anderson’s films so terrific is the array of unforgettable characters. While we watch the trailer for Moonrise Kingdom on repeat, here are the 10 most memorable major characters and 10 most memorable minor characters of the writer/director’s first six films.
By Adam Vitcavage
Margot’s adoptive father is the first to point out that she’s not a true Tenenbaum. Despite this she becomes a famous playwright who depicts the isolated aspect of a fallen talent. Her husband, Raleigh St. Clair, nearly made this list, but was edged out by how vital Margot is to the overall story of the Tenenbaum family.
Francis is secretive, controlling and an internal mess. He planned the trip for his brothers to take and is the catalyst for all of the events that occur aboard the train. He’s unintentionally toxic as he’s controlled by his emotions instead of common sense.
Eli’s desire to be in a family who’s perfect in his eyes is one of the more poignant storylines in a very moving film about the trials of adulthood. His transformation is one of the largest, but it’s heartbreaking that he never realizes he’s just as successful as the family he holds in such high regard.
Mr. Fox may not be an original Wes Anderson character, but the auteur took Roald Dahl’s classic character and gave it his own special twist. The stop-motion character’s stubbornness is revealed to actually be loyalty. Fox uses his superior intelligence to provide a safe haven for the weaker animals.
Steve is a leader, but unlike Fox, he isn’t necessarily fit to be one. He’s perhaps one of the most eccentric Anderson characters, which helps him to be more likable than he probably deserves. In some ways he is the best example of a tragic hero.
Like many Anderson characters, Blume is disillusioned. His ability to befriend a young boy and become equals on an intellectual level provides insight to a personality many cannot grasp.
Richie’s life is tragic, even by Anderson’s standards. He’s lonely and in love with his adoptive sister. His downfall and journey back to society shows a terrific metamorphosis. He also provided one of the most earth-shattering scenes in Anderson’s filmography—his suicide attempt in the bathroom as Elliot Smith’s “Needle in the Hay” played.
Royal is a shameless failure. Unlike all of the other Tenenbaums, he realizes his mistakes early on and though he tries to admit he wants to right the wrongs, he continues to lie and be an insensitive father and husband. Royal is the patriarch of one of the greatest families on film, and his entire life’s actions helped mold so many more great characters.
Dignan is the character who started it all. Dignan’s off-kilter, reckless approach to life and his unflappable persistence walk that fine line between genius and insanity.
All Max wants to do is find something he loves and do it for the rest of his life—a motto we could all learn to live by. He’s the best and worst student at Rushmore and the most relatable teen anti-hero since Holden strolled through the streets of New York City.
By Will Hinton
Boggis, Bunce and Bean are bad men, but Bean’s guard Rat is deliciously psychotic and evil. Armed with a switchblade and fancy moves, Rat cares less about doing his job than thwarting Fox at every turn.
Brazilian singer/songwriter Seu Jorge plays the memorable Pele dos Santos, Zissou crewmate and resident crooner. Wes Anderson is known for brilliant soundtracks; Seu Jorge’s covers of David Bowie tunes (with made-up Portuguese lyrics) make this soundtrack a must have.
Magnus Buchan is the Scottish bully at Rushmore Academy, always a thorn in Max Fischer’s side. Buchan’s malevolent grin and hulking physicality make him a schoolboy’s worst nightmare. Yet Max eventually wins him over:
Max: “I gotta hand it to you Magnus. You have a way with words. You wanna be in a play?”
Buchan: “I always wanted to be in one of your fucking plays.”
Mr. Henry. Criminal mastermind. Karate expert. Father figure to Dignan. Caan plays the rakish con man, Mr. Henry, to perfection and steals the show with his beat down of Future Man.
Mr. Henry: “The world needs dreamers.”
Future Man: “Excuse me?”
Mr. Henry: “I don’t think so. You know one day you’re going to wake up and realize that you no longer have a brother. And you no longer have any friends. And on that day, I’m gonna be front and center laughing my fucking ass off.”
Alistair Hennessey is Steve Zissou’s foppish and more successful nemesis. Hennessey has endless resources, a sweet espresso machine in his research vessel, derides Zissou’s quest for the Jaguar shark, and was previously married to Zissou’s wife Eleanor. Jeff Goldblum’s Hennessey lives to tweak Zissou at every step.
Kumar Pallana is a long-time member of Wes Anderson’s inner circle of actors. In The Royal Tenenbaums, Pallana has his biggest role as Pagoda, the Tenenbaum’s butler and doesn’t disappoint. The loyal servant always manages to insert himself into family matters and stir the pot. Royal describing Pagoda: “He saved my life, you know. Thirty years ago. I was knifed at a bazaar in Calcutta, and he carried me to the hospital on his back.” When asked who stabbed him, Royal pointed to Pagoda, replying, “He did!”
Max Fischer’s best friend is Dirk Calloway, possibly because Max wants a hand job from Dirk’s mom. Dirk eventually confronts the back-stabbing Herman Blume in an Old West show down. With a cold stare, Dirk accuses Blume, “With friends like you, who needs friends”, and spits on Blume’s Bentley. What a badass!
Who can forget the neurotic Bob Mapplethorpe? Bob is growing a crop of marijuana plants in his parents’ back yard, is constantly terrorized by his brother Future Man, almost breaks up the team because he can’t keep his hand off the gun, and eventually has his house emptied in a robbery by Mr. Henry. Bob vacillates between a sad sack who can’t sell himself to a raging adolescent always on the verge of losing it. Bob Mapplethorpe, potential get-away driver: Go!
Klaus Daimler. Calm. Collected. German. Wes Anderson’s films are full of sidekicks and Klaus Daimler is one of the best. Dafoe’s Daimler is the hard-charging second-in-command who’s threatened by the arrival of Steve Zissou’s son Ned Plimpton. We finally see the soft side of Klausey when he complains of not being picked by Zissou. “I’m sick of always being on the B squad.” Zissou: “You may be on B squad but you are the B squad leader.”
Bob Mapplethorpe’s über-jock brother Future Man is the closest thing there is to an antagonist in Bottle Rocket. Played by Andrew Wilson (Owen and Luke Wilson’s brother), Future Man figures into some of the best scenes. He beats up Bob for not cleaning the pool, makes fun of a yellow jump-suited Dignan for looking like a “little banana” and embarrasses Bob at the country club. Somewhere there is a town full of jocks led by Future Man, just waiting for their comeuppance.