It would be a cool milestone in an actor’s career if they got their big break in a Wes Anderson film. That’s exactly what happened to Tony Revolori, who plays one of the leads in Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel. Revolori stars as Zero, a lobby boy who follows the smooth talking concierge Gustave (Ralph Fiennes). Revolori is very charming and a bright spot amongst the stellar cast. We recently spoke with the actor about working with Anderson, kissing Saoirse Ronan and his most memorable, yet slightly painful scene.
How did you adapt, or change your style to fit Wes Anderson’s world?
Tony Revolori: I had seen his films before; The Darjeeling Limited, The Royal Tennebaums and The Fantastic Mr. Fox, so I know his work. I didn’t concern myself to watch any other of his films because I wanted to focus on this project. I didn’t need to see his other body of works. This is a movie I needed to pay attention to, and he has a very specific style of acting and everything, so he worked with me for months before. I would tape myself reading the script, I would send it to him and he would say,’Well, why don’t we try saying the line this way?’ So subconsciously, after these months of practice, I was there. So when all was said, it just came naturally and I knew what I needed to do. Once I was with Ralph in costume and on set, everything just clicked even further. And so I didn’t come in with a way to approach it, because he’s very particular. He knows what he wants and there’s nothing I need to do, I just need to follow his directions and go forward. Of course, it’s not limiting with him because he’s allowing these suggestions to be made, and allowing you to go forward. It’s beautiful to have someone who knows what he wants, so that way you can go forward and truly do what the director intends for this movie to look like.
What type of atmosphere did Anderson create for the cast on set?
Tony Revolori: We would have dinners together every night, where you would have an extended, long table of stars, if you will. You would have Edward Norton to your right, Jeff Goldblum to your left, across from you Ralph, and to his side you would have Saoirse and Bill Murray. To the head of the table you would have Owen Wilson and Wes Anderson. It’s great to be able to talk with these guys and just hang out. You’re not even doing anything … You’re usually talking about the scenes you did today and how we did them, how they looked, and then you would talk about movies, music and just regular things really, which is quite nice to see people talking about things that are just quite normal and natural. It kind of takes the whole, ‘Oh my God there’s Bill Murray,’ out of the equation which is quite nice … Even on sets they would have one green room which is where all the stars would stay. If you’re not being called or anything, you would stay and wait there. You would talk, again more about past experiences or whatever the conversation was started. It’s amazing to be able to feel comfortable with these people, especially for me who was someone much less experienced than these veteran actors. They helped me feel comfortable and they helped me build my confidence, which was quite nice, especially for this character. It’s very similar to that experience. He was very shy and insecure then grows into his confidence.
You have a lot of screen time with Ralph Fiennes. Was it a parental relationship or more of a mentorship between you two?
Tony Revolori: Working with Ralph was amazing. The mentoring thing, that’s what it was. He kind of gave off the impression to say look very closely and you’ll pay attention and learn a lot. I’m not going to tell you anything, just look and pay attention, and that’s the feeling I kind of got from him and that’s what I did. I picked up a lot from him who’s absolutely a genius in what he does, and I did pick up a lot from a lot of the actors and subconsciously probably in two years, in the next project I work on, I’ll be doing something and say, ‘Oh, that’s what I took from The Grand Budapest Hotel.’ It was great. I remember I did ask him for one piece of advice, because I was nervous about doing the kissing scene with Saoirse. As you can imagine, I went up to him and I asked him so what do you think? What should I do? I’m kind of nervous. He looks at me, stares at me for a bit, smiles and says ‘Well you tell her… I’m sorry if I get aroused, and I’m sorry if I don’t.’ I didn’t tell her that but it made me laugh. The way he said it was amazing and that’s what I needed. I needed someone to make a joke of it and I felt comfortable from that point on. He knew exactly what I needed to have done.
So how did that kissing scene work out?
Tony Revolori: Really good. We broke all our costumes like four times. You can imagine we went wild. Wes was like go for it. So it was a lot of throwing the hat, and as you saw my uniform, maybe you can’t see, but it has a lot of buttons. She would grab it and rip it, and the buttons ripped, which Milena [Canonero], our head of costume was absolutely furious about. It was great, and I had a lot of fun. We were laughing after every take. It was beautiful.
We’ve heard about the many takes you all had to do. Wasn’t there one that took 40?
Tony Revolori: Well there is one story, and you almost got the number right too, which is quite fantastic. I’ll go into full details. It’s somewhere around mid-shoot, they’re shooting all the prison scenes, which I’m in only one. I go in the first day, shoot for half a day, then go back to Görlitz where we were shooting, which is the next town over, where we were all based from. They shot the prison in this other very cold place. And so Ralph, Harvey [Keitel] and Wes were all there shooting. They were talking about the scene when they’re escaping, and they come out of the man-hole, and how they’re going to hug each other and leave. It can’t be too friendly, whatever. Harvey said ‘Well, you know what? Why don’t I, when I say bye to the kid, I give him a nice little slap?’ Right? I was not there. I did not know. The day arrives on set. Oh, by the way, just a little thing that probably nobody’s ever told you is that Harvey slept in that prison every day that he was there. That prison was cold. It was like -7 degrees, which was freezing. I don’t know how he did it, I guess they warmed it up for him.
Tony Revolori: I don’t know man. He’s Harvey, but he did. So then back to the other one … I arrive on set, it’s this beautiful little farm. They built this man-hole, blah blah blah. Take one, we’re going and they pick him out, he’s there. He did a couple of push-ups before, which I thought he was just getting pumped for the scene, but I know what it is for now. So push ups, stands up, see you latter Mr. Gustave. [Slap] good luck kid! And my face was so surprised. I saw the first reaction on tape, because I wanted to see it, and my face was so genuinely surprised. I didn’t know what to do. My mouth was gaping. I just looked forward like what the? Then about 42 takes later we stopped.
Did your cheek get a little numb?
Tony Revolori: Yeah, but first off, he slaps really hard. He’s an ex-marine. He doesn’t play around. There’s no kiddy slap for you. He’s an ex-marine. If you can’t take it, you’re gone. And it was cold, it was really cold, so it was like having ice on my face after he slapped me. So it was horrible, but we did it. Now it’s at 44. I saw him in New York and he slapped me two more times.
The Grand Budapest Hotel is out now in limited theaters now.