Rushmore: 15 Behind-The-Scenes Gems
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Co-written by Owen Wilson, Rushmore showcased a completely unknown Jason Schwartzman and was the catalyst of the next two decades of classic Wes Anderson films like The Royal Tenenbaums.
On December 11, 1998, the film introduced us to Wes Anderson’s unique brand of comedy, and a whole new side of Bill Murray who, as you’ll see from a few of these 15 behind-the-scenes facts, really wanted to be in this movie.
The beginning of Wes Anderson’s signature style.
Gotta start somewhere.
In terms of how it’s shot, Anderson’s first film Bottle Rocket looks quite different from his works that would follow. Rushmore (his second film) established Anderson's storybook directing style, as he began playing with the complicated tracking shots that he'd come to use so often.
The conversation between Max and Rosemary in her classroom is followed by a camera dollying along the fish tanks. Max later attempts to build a school aquarium he hasn't gotten approved, and the shot looks very familiar.
“Rushmore Academy” was shot at Wes Anderson’s Alma Mater.
When looking through the ol' yearbook isn't so painful.
Location scouts were sent across Canada and the United States to find the perfect high school. He was having a tough time trying to find the school, until his mother sent him a picture of his old high school, St. John's School in Houston, Texas, and he thought it looked perfect.
Bill Murray wanted to make Rushmore for free.
Once Bill Murray read the screenplay, he wanted to be in the movie so badly that he requested to appear in it for free. Because of the Screen Actors Guild’s union rules, Murray legally had to be paid scale.
He worked for the day rate minimum for smaller indie film projects. Wes Anderson estimated that Murray made about $9,000, so not usual Murray-money.
When the film was behind schedule, he helped lug sandbags and carried dolly tracks. Anderson said, “It made everyone feel that if he was that involved, everyone was involved. He’d ask me how the morale was on the set and if I said, ‘I don’t know,’ he’d go off and take a poll. He wanted things to go right.”
It was Jason Schwartzman’s first film role.
Get in there, rookie.
Throughout the United States, Canada, and England, casting directors searched for a young actor to play the lead role of Max Fischer.
Australian actor Noah Taylor was the frontrunner for the part when, on the last day of casting in Los Angeles, Jason Schwartzman auditioned, and they took a shot on the first-timer.
Alexis Bledel (Rory Gilmore) was an extra.
A first movie role for her too.
Just two years before landing the role of Rory Gilmore on Gilmore Girls, actress Alexis Bledel was an uncredited extra in Rushmore. She played a Grover Cleveland High School student.
You can see her in the background of various scenes, most notably dancing with Magnus Buchan at the end of the movie.
Producers made an interesting deal for a Bentley.
Daddy, let them use your Bentley. I want a role!
Since the production budget was only $20 million, they couldn’t afford to rent a Bentley for Bill Murray's character, Herman Blume.
A local Houston resident offered to lend them his Bentley if they gave his daughter a role in the film. They agreed and the man's daughter played an usher who seats Rosemary Cross at Max’s play.
Wes Anderson’s brother did Rushmore’s Criterion Collection artwork.
Keep it in the family.
Wes’ brother Eric Chase Anderson did the artwork for the Criterion Collection DVD cover. It’s of the Yankee Racer shot from a montage of Max’s extracurricular activities at the beginning of the movie.
The movie’s Yankee Racer shot is a recreation of French photographer Jacques Henri Lartigue’s photo, taken in 1909 when he was only 15.
Mason Gamble almost wasn’t cast because of Dennis the Menace.
Originally, Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson didn’t want to cast young actor Mason Gamble in the part because of his very recognizable role as Dennis in 1993’s Dennis the Menace.
Gamble instantly impressed Anderson by “making adjustments instantly and perfectly." Anderson called him an "acting computer.”
Owen Wilson was expelled in real life.
The inspiration for Max’s expulsion from Rushmore Academy was taken from Owen’s Wilson’s real life. As a sophomore at St. Mark High School in Dallas, Texas, Rushmore co-writer Owen Wilson was expelled for stealing his geometry teacher's textbook with all the answers, and had to attend Thomas Jefferson High School to complete 10th grade.
Wilson said, “My parents were very embarrassed. My mother had to come pick me up. My poor father was on the Board of Trustees, and his son gets expelled from the school.”
Bill and the bees.
Rushmore meets Jackass.
In the Blu-ray commentary, they discuss the scene scene where Max pours bees into Herman’s hotel room.
The on-set beekeeper brought drones and worker bees, and while the drones don’t sting, they also wouldn’t fly around, so they had to use the stingy workers.
Everyone wore protective gear except for Murray, who was unafraid. The script supervisor was the only one to be stung. Of course.
Jason Schwartzman went all out for his audition.
Schwartzman is Talia Shire's son, and a member of the Francis Ford Coppola family, but he earned the lead role of Max Fischer after an extensive search of over 1,000 candidates.
He actually wore a prep school blazer with a Rushmore school patch he made himself to the audition.
Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson originally imagined Max as a skinny and awkward “Wes surrogate.” After his understanding of the humor won them over, they began to see the character as more of a Dustin Hoffman-type.
Charlie Brown was a big influence.
Wes Anderson has cited Bill Melendez, director and animator for many Peanuts films, as one of his main inspirations. In Rushmore, Anderson said that he and Owen Wilson perceived Max Fischer as Charlie Brown plus Snoopy.
He also cited that Rosemary Cross is a combination of Charlie Brown’s teacher and the little red-haired girl. Max is also a working-class barber’s son like Peanuts creator Charles Schulz.
Bill Murray offered to fund a helicopter rental.
I’ll go in the hole for this one.
When Disney didn’t want to pay for a helicopter shot for Rushmore’s “A Quick One While He’s Away” montage, Murray wrote a check for $25,000 ($16,000 more than he made for his acting role) to cover the costs of chopper rental.
The helicopter shot ended up being cut from the film anyway, and Anderson never cashed the check.
Bill Murray fell off that fence for real.
The bees, the chopper, the fence… Bill Murray gave himself to this movie.
In the Blu-ray commentary, Wes Anderson says, “When Bill falls off of that fence it was improvised, but that’s because he actually fell.”
Wes Anderson made Jason Schwartzman wax his chest.
All that for (almost) nothing.
Even though he was only 17 years old during filming, Jason Schwartzman could already grow a beard, and was too hairy for his 15 year old character, so Wes Anderson made him wax his hands and chest.
He said, “I had to get my chest and hands waxed regularly to pass as a high school student." Then in the Blu-ray commentary, he said he was not pleased that his chest is only barely glimpsed in the wrestling scene.
Top Image: Touchstone pictures/Walt Disney Studios