“Road to Andersonville” {archive}


Welcome to Andersonville I’m a confirmed Wes Anderson fan, but then you knew that. Rushmore and Bottle Rocket (directed by Anderson, co-written by Anderson and Owen Wilson) are among my favorite films of the ’90s. I can’t wait for the next one, something about a family of geniuses living in New York.

But my admiration for Anderson’s sly brand of filmmaking pales next to Jon Doyle and Mark Devitt’s. These guys are serious. How serious? Last February they went on a Wes Anderson pilgrimage, traveling by car from their native Canada to visit various locations Anderson used for Rushmore and Bottle Rocket in Texas. A little strange, I suppose, but also charming in an oddball, Wes Anderson sort of way.

Doyle says he’s a 21-year-old Ontario college student, and Devitt’s a 24-year-old candy-store owner from Montreal. What sold me was Doyle’s remark that Devitt “financed his portion of the trip by selling PEZ dispensers on eBay, for upwards of $100 a piece.” That’s pure Wes Anderson or should I say pure Max Fischer? Doyle’s definitely got the attitude.

Anyway, here’s his story:

“First, let me preface this by saying no, we’re not crazy, and yes, we know that everyone reading this will probably think we are. That’s okay. Mark and I are friends from high school; we went to boarding school together in Toronto, and we both like quoting Bottle Rocket and Rushmore in our spare time.

“Getting from Montreal to Texas required driving through a blizzard in Pennsylvania. Our car spun out of control and we were almost killed by an oncoming truck. Mark’s car was damaged, but we kept going.

“Our first stop was room 212 at the Ramada Inn in Hilsboro, Texas. This was the room that Dignan, Anthony and Bob rented and hid out in during Bottle Rocket. We couldn’t wait to go swimming and meet the real Inez. Unfortunately, the pool was closed and the maids weren’t very friendly, although they did pose for photos.

“When it came time to leave, we found that our tire had been stolen. Evidently there’s a tire-theft problem in Hilsboro, as a car at the nearby 7-11 had suffered the same fate. After several troubling incidents with roadkill, mechanics, and a restaurant where soup was spelled ‘supe,’ we found a new tire and set out for Houston to explore Rushmore locations.

“Don, owner of the barbershop from Rushmore, is a great guy. He welcomed our photography, cut Mark’s hair, and showed us his small barbershop tribute to Rushmore (articles, production photos). He wasn’t a Bill Murray fan, but Don said he really liked Anderson and Seymour Cassel. (Don: “He looks more like a barber than I do.”). He was most fond of Jason Schwartzman, particularly when he saw him sweep the barbershop, which Don says he does ’20 times a day.’

“Don wasn’t a film buff, but when discussing Seymour Cassel he suddenly acquired a comprehensive knowledge of John Cassavetes’ filmography. He also had a strange ability to quote specific scenes and dialogue from Rushmore, in spite of his insistence that he hadn’t seen the film. Oddly enough, these references included scenes that had nothing to do with the barbershop.

Ruth Castillo lives beside Max’s Rushmore house. She was another highlight of our trip, although her stories weren’t entirely clear. She told us the production wanted to use her house for the film but couldn’t because it didn’t meet the next-to-a-graveyard requirement.

“Ruth was a newcomer to the world of filmmaking and had trouble understanding the process. She thought it was hilarious how Schwartzman (Ruth: ‘ that boy whose mother died in the graveyard’) kept walking in front of her house. We told her they were probably doing multiple takes of a scene. She replied, ‘Yes, the thin guy who told everyone what to do (Anderson, I assume) loved my cooking.’ Apparently, Wes smelled her cooking and requested a ‘plate,’ as she called it. Ruth obliged but was disappointed that she didn’t have enough ‘plates’ to serve the whole crew.

“Of course, like Don, she hasn’t seen the movie yet.

“Along the way we also stopped at the various schools used in the two films, the gas station from Bottle Rocket (‘ain’t no trip to Cleveland’), Hinckley Cold Storage (which Dignan and friends rob in Bottle Rocket, although it now has a different name), the graveyard from Rushmore, and so on. We thought we may have found Bob’s elusive golf club from Bottle Rocket, but it was a private club and we were chased away before getting a closer look.

“In total, we clocked 4600 km on the trip (we’re Canadian, so you’ll have to translate that into miles), which also included stops at the Grand Ole Opry and Graceland, although Mark and I are not really fans of either country music or Elvis. We found most of the movie locations using street signs from the films, local telephone books, and information generously provided by other Wes Anderson fans.

“We highly recommend that any fans of Wes’ films take a similar trip. Even though our lives were repeatedly placed in danger along the way, it was well worth the adventure.”

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