Oui oui, Wes Anderson is back! After his slightly controversial 2018 movie Isle of Dogs sparked conversations about cultural appropriation, the filmmaker is doubling down on his signature brand of whimsy with The French Dispatch, a Tati-esque anthology film that is filled with more cinematic symmetry and pastels (and a significantly larger ensemble) than ever. Inspired by The New Yorker (probably the film’s most Anderson-y quality), Dispatch follows a group of journalists who run a magazine in the fictional French town of Ennui-Sur-Blasé (wait, never mind what I said in the prior parenthetical, this is). The writers, lead by editor-in-chief Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray), are compiling their best archival stories for the publication’s final issue, and the film intercuts the creation of the magazine with black-and-white depictions of three of those stories: an artist in prison, student riots, and a kidnapping.
The French Dispatch is a welcome return to Anderson sticking to what he knows. (And hey, it’s not just white people in the cast this time!) Unsurprisingly, the film looks lush and captivating, even at first glance, and pretty much every actor you’ve ever heard of is in this one (Henry! Winkler!). With an expansive cast comes many of the stock characters we’ve grown familiar with throughout the filmmaker’s illustrious career, including but not limited to: writers, artists, renegades, and revolutionaries. We broke down the ultra-stacked cast by how Wes Anderson-y each character is, paying special attention to which members are taking the director’s filmography in new directions.
Roebuck Wright (Jeffrey Wright)
One of the many newcomers to the Anderson fold, Wright plays a food journalist inspired by James Baldwin and A.J. Liebling. Anderson’s casts tend to skew white, so here’s hoping Wright becomes a regular player from here on out.
It looks like Anderson has negotiated part-time custody of Ronan from Greta Gerwig, and for their second collaboration after The Grand Budapest Hotel, the actress detours to a very different type of character from the ones we’ve come to expect from her. She appears in the trailer very briefly, so it’s tough to discern who she is playing, but when every character looks like a Parisian lobby boy, Ronan’s disheveled backtalker is a step in a new direction from Anderson’s cadre of pseudo-intellectuals, quirky teens, and small town folk.
Lucinda Keremetz (Frances McDormand)
Since McDormand’s appearance in Moonrise Kingdom, Anderson has kept the Oscar-winning actress in a more reserved mode that operates as a great foil to the louder characters she interacts with. The French Dispatch sees much of the same—her journalist is one of the more low-key figures in a world populated by oddball eccentrics.
J.K.L. Berensen (Tilda Swinton)
Swinton has become a more frequent Anderson collaborator since her first appearance in his cinematic universe as a child services worker in Moonrise Kingdom. Though the small glimpse we catch of her here finds her giving a lecture, it’s her most eccentric part in Anderson world yet. Considering her reputation as a bombastic, shape-shifting character actor, it’s surprising that she’s been reigned in until now—but Swinton’s weirder past roles are somewhat at odds with Anderson’s controlled quirkiness.
Moses Rosenthal (Benicio del Toro)
Berensen describes del Toro’s tortured artist as “certainly the loudest artistic voice of his rowdy generation,” though Moses appears to be content with the simple life sitting in a jail cell and making paintings. Maybe his closest comparison is Moonrise Kingdom’s Sam Shakusky, both isolated creatives who find love on the other side of the law.
Simone (Lea Seydoux)
Authority figures in Anderson’s world tend towards the virtuous side instead of aggressive regulators of the law. Think Edward Norten’s nostalgic train inspector in Grand Budapest or Bruce Willis’s kindhearted police officer in Moonrise Kingdom. In The French Dispatch, Seydoux portrays a timid prison guard who secretly poses for portraits for Moses. Oui.
Julien Cadazio (Adrien Brody)
Anderson weirdly seems to be the only major director casting Brody these days, which is disconcerting because the actor has that twiddly-mustache villain role locked all the way down. In Dispatch, Brody appears to be playing the exact same character from his last Anderson collaboration,The Grand Budapest Hotel. Here, he’s playing a shady art dealer (sans facial hair) who wants to buy a nude painting from Moses. If there’s one lesser-acknowledged staple of Anderson’s filmography: it’s nude portraits.
Zeffirelli (Timothée Chalamet)
I think it was inscribed in sacred text that Chalamet was destined to be in a Wes Anderson movie. That hair! His somehow tolerable mustache! In The French Dispatch, he’s an older Tracy Walker with an even sharper political edge, playing a student activist who disrupts the French political system. As teased by the stunning poster, you can see him do his best Margot Tenenbaum impression as he smokes a cigarette in a bathtub—it’s the most French he’s ever looked.
Herbsaint Sazerac (Owen Wilson)
Just beating out Zeffirelli for the Most Ridiculous Name Prize, Herbsaint is a bicycle-riding journalist at the magazine who brings Wilson’s classic drawl to the streets of Ennui-Sur-Blasé. Wilson looks like he raided Anderson’s closet for his costume—all he needs is a yellow scarf and he’s ready for this year’s Halloween party.
That shade of yellow
Arthur Howitzer Jr. (Bill Murray)
As arguably Anderson’s most trusted collaborator, Murray has appeared in all of the director’s films except his first, Bottle Rocket, and the actor continues the reliable trend of gentle characters in admired positions: a neurologist (The Royal Tenenbaums), an oceanographer (The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou) or even a concierge (The Grand Budapest Hotel). Murray’s editor-in-chief in The French Dispatch is on the tougher side, much like his stern father figure role in Moonrise Kingdom, but it’s emblematic of the extra touches Anderson is adding to his signature style. Plus, it’s just not a Wes Anderson movie without Bill Murray.
Nothing looks quite like Wes Anderson movies. Even if they are often hilariously parodied, they’re never successfully imitated. Because the secret to Anderson’s work isn't in its meticulous set design or soundtrack: It’s the humor, warmth, and strangeness he brings out in his actors, even if it’s just in their voices. That’s why we gathered Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Jeff Goldblum, and more—of the new Anderson animated opus Isle of Dogs—for a stylish homage to the director himself.
Originally Appeared on GQ