Throughout his career, Wes Anderson has set each of his films in an idiosyncratic and highly stylized world. Yet, only one of his eight films is set in NYC: The Royal Tenebaums, widely considered his masterpiece. In celebration of Wes Anderson’s latest film The Grand Budapest Hotel, we present eight NYC film locations featured in The Royal Tenenbaums.
The house that Royal Tenenbaum bought “on Archer Avenue in the winter of his 35th year” is on 144th Street and Covenant Avenue in Harlem, just north of City College. Anderson and his location scout found this house before he began working on the script. After a few unsuccessful trips in Brooklyn, the director—who at first wanted to shoot his fictional take on NYC—on a soundstage, begin to conjure up the concept of the film as soon as he walked in. The house was unoccupied at the time of production, so Anderson rented it for six months and shot multiple exterior and interior shots there, transforming it into what we see in the film. The house is now a private residence.
Tenenbaum Summer House in City Island (Photo via The Standard Edition)
During the film’s beginning, our narrator (Alec Baldwin) informs us of the three Tenenbaum children. Chas Tenenbaum, a math genius, gets into purchasing real estate in his early teenage years. He is so good at it that he makes a deal with his own father to purchase the Tenenbaum Summer home on Eagle’s Island. The island does not exist in NYC, however, the house does—on City Island, a small island that’s part of the Bronx. The exact address is at 21 Tier Street, as reported by Gothamist.
Anderson shows us an exterior shot of the Alexander Hamilton Customs House, located on 1 Bowling Green. In the film, the place is known just as “The Public Archives” and is where adopted daughter Margot Tenenbaum camps out when she runs away from home with her brother Richie Tenenbaum. The “African wing” where the two survive on nothing but crackers and root beer does not exist, however, the building, originally the Fort of Amsterdam, is now home to the New York branch of The Museum of The American Indian.
Image via Wikimedia by JGHowes
Royal Tenenbaum and his wife separate during the children’s early years. He leaves them the house and continues to live in an apartment at The Lindbergh Palace Hotel for twenty-two years before he is kicked out. No such hotel exists in NYC, but Andersen filmed the exterior shot of Royal leaving the hotel at The Waldorf-Astoria. The world famous hotel, which started as two separate hotels (The Waldorf and The Astoria) that merged into one was the first to actually feature room service, which changed the hotel industry forever. Famous guests at the hotel include: Marilyn Monroe, Charles “Lucky” Luciano, Nikola Telsa, and Paris Hilton.
Did you know there is a Secret Train Platform Underneath The Waldorf-Astoria?
Even without setting foot in the house, Royal Tenebaum has a man on the inside. The informant Pagoda tells Royal that his wife plans to re-marry. This does not sit well with Royal, especially when he learns that the man who proposed to her is none other than her accountant Henry Sherman (played by Danny Glover). The meeting takes place at the southern tip of Battery Park. If you watch the scene, you will notice that Pagoda blocks the Statue of Liberty from view, this confused Hackman who asked Anderson why he decided to block out the statue. Anderson did not want to make it too obvious they were in NYC, so he had the actor block the statue from view.
Royal, his children, and his two grandchildren go to this cemetery to visit the grave of Royal’s mother. The cemetery used in the film is an extension of the original cemetery by Wall Street. The location used here is on 155th Street in Upper Manhattan. Notable people buried there include the son of Charles Dickens, actor Jerry Orbach, and two former mayors: Fernando Wood and Ed Koch.
Film Still from The Royal Tenenbaums (Photo via Wax Wane)
Earlier in the film we learn that Richie use to play professional tennis, but retired at 26 for reasons unknown. Not until the cemetery scene where Royal speaks to his son does Anderson reveal what happened. In flashback, we see Richie losing a match in embarrassing fashion, during which he removes one sock and both of his shoes, and appears to be crying.
The location used here is the West Side Tennis Club on 1 Tennis Club in Forest Hills, Queens. The club moved multiple times from 1892 to 1912. In the 100 years of the club’s tenure in Forest Hills, it has hosted the U.S. Open for sixty of them, until it moved to Arthur Ashe Stadium. The club also served as a location for concerts performed by The Beatles, Frank Sinatra, Jimi Hendrix, Bod Dylan, The Who and many more.
Do you want to get a butterscotch sundae from this beautiful looking place in Park Slope? Well you can’t. The only way that would be possible is if you plan your wedding there. The Grand Prospect Hall in Park Slope is used these days for weddings and other major gatherings. The four story building was built in 1892 by NYC entrepreneur John Kolle and served as one of NYC’s first movie palaces until it was forced to close, turning it into a Victorian banquet hall. The location is perfect for Anderson’s vision thanks to its classic architecture and vibrant colors.
To know where he gets burgers before he heads to the cemetery, contact the author @TatteredFedora