Love trivia? Love six degrees of Kevin Bacon? Then you’ve come to the right place. Our new feature Ten Degrees of Trivia will combine the two to take you on a journey through the world of loosely connected facts, beginning and ending with the same film. This week, I’m beginning with The Grand Budapest Hotel and serving up trivia from terrorism to porn stars to Star Wars, and finally to infinity and beyond.
1. Wes Anderson is renowned for his directorial precision and attention to detail, but did you know that he created a fully animated version of The Grand Budapest Hotel before production even began? According to Jeff Goldblum, “It was a beautifully animated version of the whole movie, with all the cuts as they pretty much I think wound up to be. And he voiced all the characters.” However, Anderson isn’t the only director to go to such lengths in search of perfection…
2. Quentin Tarantino may have a less precise directing style, but he too did a prep shoot for his first film, Reservoir Dogs. It features him, Steve Buscemi, a stand-in for Lawrence Tierney and the most hilarious improvised copy of The Bell Jar you’re ever likely to see.
3. Reservoir Dogs was Buscemi’s biggest role at the time, but before he found acting success he was a fireman with Engine Company #55 in New York. Even more impressively he turned up at his old station the day after the 9/11 attacks and worked twelve-hour shifts for the following week, searching for missing firefighters. And he did all this anonymously. We salute you Steve Buscemi.
4. Not only is Engine Company #55 the old workplace of Mr. Pink, but it’s a stone’s throw away from the most iconic fire station there is. Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! That’s right, it’s Hook and Ladder 8, the exterior location for Ghostbusters HQ.
5. Ghostbusters may be one of the greatest family films of all time, but few people know that it also stars someone with a much more adult film career. Porn star Ron Jeremy, famous for his 10-inch member, is an extra in Ghostbusters, appearing behind a barricade when Ecto-1 drives up after the containment unit explodes. He later starred in the less family-friendly This Ain’t Ghostbusters XXX.
6. As well as his countless adult video appearances and small roles in films such as The Boondock Saints and Ronin, Ron Jeremy also worked as a consultant on Paul Thomas Anderson’s classic film about the porn industry, Boogie Nights. Heading back towards family-friendly trivia, in the scene where Buck Swope is trying to sell a stereo he mentions the “TK-421 special modification”. This code refers to the Stormtrooper in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope who is knocked out and robbed of his uniform by Luke after the Millenium Falcon is captured.
7. This Stormtrooper was originally named THX 1138, a code that may already be familiar to George Lucas fans. It is the name of his first film, a dystopian sci-fi epic released in 1971 starring Robert Duvall and Donald Pleasence and was subsequently referenced in many of his other films as well. For example, cars in both American Graffiti and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull feature the number-plate THX 138 and in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, the roman numerals MCXXXVIII are found in Dr Jones’s notebook, translating as the number 1138.
8. The code is also used as an homage to Lucas by other filmmakers, for example in animated classic Monsters, Inc. where a CDA agent has the number on his uniform. Billy Crystal provides the voice of Mike Wazowski in Monsters, Inc. but did you know that he was previously offered the role of Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story? He declined, saying “do what’s best for your movie and don’t forget me when something good comes around.” They didn’t forget, and 6 years later, it became a case of when Mike met Sulley. Still, if Crystal had taken the job he would’ve been starring opposite…
9. … Tom Hanks as Woody. On his more recent and less acclaimed film Angels and Demons, the production team got very creative with their pre-production. They knew they were unlikely to be allowed to film in the Vatican, so crew members visited the city and posed as tourists, taking photos which were used to recreate the location as a scale replica. The film is about a power struggle after the death of the Pope, whose coat of arms contains…
10. … Those of you who have already seen The Grand Budapest Hotel may have guessed where this is going. Just as Angels and Demons features the papal crest with its two crossed keys, Wes Anderson’s latest masterpiece features the mysterious Society of the Crossed Keys. They are a collection of concierges from hotels across Europe who band together to help our heroes, and with their immaculately colour-coordinated outfits they’re the sharpest-dressed secret society around. In fact, they appear so fantastical they must be one of Anderson’s many invented quirks, right? Wrong. There is a real life group of 14 elite concierges called The Society of the Golden Keys and it exists so concierges can pool their knowledge and provide the best possible service for their customers.