Source citations:
(press kit): The Royal Tenenbaums press kit - (c) 2001 Touchstone Pictures.
(commentary): The Royal Tenenbaums Criterion Collection DVD commentary track by director Wes Anderson - (c) 2001-2001 Criterion Collection and Touchstone Home Video.


The entire film is steeped in some kind of New York literary history,” Anderson explains, noting that many of the characters in the movie, their personalities, temperaments, habits, and emotional exploits, could have easily come off the pages of the New Yorker magazine as it existed in a bygone era (press kit).

Authors like Joseph Mitchell, A. J. Liebling, Lillian Ross, J. D. Salinger, John O’ Hara, E. B. White, James Thurber, all of them provided inspiration for the film in ways I’m not completely conscious of. In recent years, I’ve read in backdated New Yorkers various profiles of people you never heard of -- intelligent, eccentric, unconventional personalities, the kind of profiles they don’t write anymore -- and these profiles and personalities have also influenced me." In fact, Anderson grew up reading the New Yorker, and has every issue of the magazine from the past 40 years in his office (press kit).

But the New Yorker and its world is not the only source of inspiration for the new film. "I also read a lot of Kaufman and Hart," Anderson says, referring to playwrights George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart, "including their play, ‘You Can’t Take It With You’" (press kit). 

Hart’s autobiography Act One, as well as Hart and Kaufman themselves are also influences, as are stories by F. Scott Fitzgerald, plays and journalism by S.N. Berhman, and Louis Malle’s "The Fire Within." As well as literary inspirations, there were a number of personal inspirations that Anderson drew on in creating the world of the Tenenbaums (press kit).

The idea of living in a museum (Margot and Richie camped out in the African wing of the Public Archives, surviving on crackers and root beer) is from The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E Frankweiler (commentary).

While Eli Cash is specifically referred to as the "James Joyce of the West" in the film, he is inspired, in many ways, by Cormac McCarthy and Jay MacInerney  (commentary). “Eli is this Cormac McCarthy knockoff,” he says, “A guy who grows up in the city and writes novels about the west - what if Custer hadn’t died at Little Big Horn, that kind of thing. And for him, just like for the Tenenbaums, success doesn’t necessarily translate into happiness. Having a hit novel doesn’t make him a Tenenbaum” (press kit).

Raleigh St. Clair is partially inspired by Oliver W. Sacks, who wrote the book Awakenings (commentary).

Wes has commented that the New York of The Royal Tenenbaums is one where profiles of ordinary people are published in the New Yorker (commentary). 


Story Influences

Richie and Margot's love story is largely based on Jean-Pierre Melville's film Les Enfants Terrible. The idea for the yellow tent inside the Tenenbaum house is also inspired partially by this film.

Style Influences

Wes Anderson asserts that the "blood and guts" realism of Richie's suicide (attempted, anyway) was influenced by Robert Altman's extraordinarily film M*A*S*H, in which the director refused to "sugar coat" the gore of the Korean War (cough, cough, Vietnam) despite the nature of the film (comedy, satire) (commentary).

Richie Tenenbaum's "uniform" is based on that of Bjorn Borg. The "look" of the tennis match between Richie and Gandhi is based on the 1977 U.S. Open finals, in which Guillermo Vilas defeated Jimmy Connors (commentary). They filmed the scene at Forest Hills Stadium, where the U.S. Open was held.

The picture of Eli on the cover of the Sunday Magazine Section was inspired by Richard Avedon's "In the American West."

Tone Influences

Parodied in The Royal Tenenbaums

As Eli exits the Tenenbaum home by means of Margot's window, Royal shouts, "I know you, asshole!" This line is "borrowed" from the film Witness, as Harrison Ford confronts Danny Glover (Henry Sherman in The Royal Tenenbaums) after being shot (commentary).

The scene in which Henry walks up the stairs to confront Pagoda is modeled on a similar scene from Suspicion, in which Cary Grant marches up a staircase (Wes Anderson notes that the Tenenbaum staircase was too short) (commentary).

In the epilogue, Owen Wilson (Eli Cash) improvised: "The wind's blowin' up a gale today." Wes Anderson notes that he "improvised" the same line in Behind Enemy Lines (in which he, incidentally, co-stars with Gene Hackman) (commentary). 


Wes Anderson has cited the work of Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, particularly in The Red Shoes, in inspiring the title sequence (commentary).

The Royal Tenenbaums was greatly influenced by The Magnificent Ambersons, Orson Welles' second film. As the opening sequence of the Anderson film (featuring the muzak cover of "Hey Jude") features a narrator telling the history of the Tenenbaum family, a narrator relays the history of a town and then of the Amberson clan in Welles' film (commentary).

While Wes Anderson has cited "old movies" as his inspiration for displaying the Tenenbaum players names on the screen, he has specifically cited Death Takes a Holiday as his primary inspiration (commentary).

As Rachael Tenenbaum only appears briefly (and early) in the film, director Wes Anderson has indicted the necessity of her image remaining strong in the viewer's mind. He has cited the film Paris, Texas and the appearance of Nastassja Kinski in a similar manner (commentary).

The scene where Royal informs Ethyl "I'm dying" is partially inspired by an episode of The Rockford Files (according to Wes Anderson) (commentary).

Henry Sherman is the name of Wes Anderson's landlord (c. 2002) (commentary).

"I'm going to kill myself tomorrow" is a line from Louis Malle's Le Feu Follet.


"Lindbergh Palace Suite," the original score song by Mark Mothersbaugh that plays as each of the adult children are introduced, is based on a piece by George Enescu (commentary).

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