Wes Anderson’s 2001 dramedy The Royal Tenenbaums is and isn’t a New York City movie, making it a perfect subject for this year’s edition of the Tribeca Festival, which is and isn’t a New York City film festival. (“Film” has been officially dropped from its name in order to broaden its already-growing coverage of television, VR, podcasts, and more.)
Mounting a delayed and pandemic-minded version of the festival, mixing online and in-person events, has changed the look of some of its signature events; a Royal Tenenbaums 20th anniversary screening was held outdoors on June 14th, and its cast reunion happened live via Zoom afterward.
Tenenbaums narrator Alec Baldwin served as host, insisting that director/co-writer Anderson told him he would never actually use the narration track Baldwin recorded — tossed off, in his telling — and was including it only to appease concerned producers. Anderson disagrees with this account (“I never said that!” he said, laughing), and indeed it’s difficult to picture Anderson working on a detail-packed narration track that he never intended to use.
Baldwin and Anderson were joined by co-writer and co-star Owen Wilson (Eli Cash), his brother Luke (burnt-out tennis star Richie Tenenbaum), Gwyneth Paltrow (adopted Tenenbaum sister Margot), and Anjelica Huston (Tenenbaum matriarch Etheline), who was mostly silent.
But the opening round of discussion focused on the star who wasn’t there, and who no one expected to show up: Gene Hackman, whose hilarious and perfectly judged performance as Royal did not immediately precede his subsequent retirement, but might as well have. (The year Tenenbaums came out, it was one of five Gene Hackman movies; he made two additional and undistinguished films before shifting his focus to writing novels.)