What comes to mind when you think of a Wes Anderson film? If you said pastels, a twinkly musical score and one hell of a cast, then you’re absolutely correct in your beliefs. Should anyone question your Anderson acumen, then you have plenty of evidence to provide to back up your valid hypothesis, especially when the trailer for The French Dispatch features such stars as Timothee Chalamet and Bill Murray in its full cast list.
As luck would have it, we have that cast list provided below, which shows off the pretty extensive lineup that Anderson has assembled for The French Dispatch.
Before we dive into a deeper breakdown of the cast, it’s particularly notable that we have a classic Wes Anderson narrator at large in The French Dispatch. Anjelica Huston, a long time Anderson player, is the omniscient voice that will bring the entire package to live. And here are the players she’ll be commentating on throughout the film:
The Staff Of The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun
One of the many veterans of the Wes Anderson Repertory Company is none other than comedy legend Bill Murray! In their latest collaboration, Murray will be playing the role of Arthur Howitzer Jr, the editor of The French Dispatch that ties the universe together. So basically, Murray is almost playing the exact same role he provides to the world at large.
Also rejoining the ranks of Wes Anderson’s frequent flyer club is Owen Wilson, someone who’s been in almost all of the director’s films. Herbsaint Sazerac is Wilson’s new character, a writer on staff at The French Dispatch who can be counted on for witty conversation and bicycle repair prowess, as well as sterling copy.
How could a Wes Anderson movie not have Jason Schwartzman attached, even in the slightest capacity? Another longtime friend and employee in the Anderson orbit, Schwartzman’s Hermes Jones looks to be the cover artist for The French Dispatch. Here’s hoping his quips are as crazy as his hair.
Rounding out the staff members of The French Dispatch who are displayed outside of individual vignettes is Elisabeth Moss, a newcomer to the wild and crazy world of Wes Anderson’s work. We don’t know her character's name yet, but it looks like Moss’ dry and wry sensibilities from Mad Men will make this follow-up to her work on The Invisible Man a nice change of comedic pace.
We’ll now move onto the three stories that The French Dispatch tells at the heart of its very last issue in print. With each story is a journalist from the staff at its heart, recalling events from various time periods and moments of turmoil in this film’s thematic structure.
Story 1: The Concrete Masterpiece, By J.K.L. Bernesen
Providing the lecture that details the story within “The Concrete Masterpiece” is The French Dispatch’s journalist J.K.L. Bernesen. Artistically inclined, and ever fashionable, Berensen is brought to life by the impeccable Tilda Swinton. Her track record in the Wes Anderson Repertory Company stretches back to 2012’s Moonrise Kingdom, and has endured ever since.
Benicio Del Toro
Another first timer comes to the fold in The French Dispatch, as Moses Rosenthaler, the artist at the heart of “The Concrete Masterpiece” is played by Benicio Del Toro. Just watching his banter with co-star Adrian Brody is enough to convince even the most casual observer that Del Toro clearly belongs in this motley crew of acting talent.
The muse for Rosenthaler’s work, and subject of a painting that’s of particular importance to The French Dispatch, is the alluring and mysterious Simone. Seen as both muse and prison guard, this part is played by Spectre’s Léa Seydoux. No stranger to Wes Anderson’s work, Seydoux previously worked with the director on 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Seeking to purchase Moses Rosenthaler’s un-buyable “Simone, Naked, Cell Block J, Hobby Room (oil on sackcloth)” is the persistent art dealer, Julien Cadazio. As previously mentioned, this bickersome character is played by Adrien Brody, best known for his roles in Anderson’s previous films The Darjeeling Limited and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Bob Balaban and Henry Winkler
In order to aid his art savvy empire, Julien Cadazio has the help of two ‘business-partner uncles’ at his disposal in The French Dispatch. Playing one of those two uncles is comedic stalwart Bob Balaban, who, much like Tilda Swinton, has been an Anderson disciple since Moonrise Kingdom. The other Cadazio uncle is the big surprise though, as the legendary Henry Winkler is playing him, making his debut in the Wes Anderson three ring circus!
Story 2: Revisions To A Manifesto, By Lucinda Krementz
Story 2 of The French Dispatch, Lucinda Krementz’s “Revisions To A Manifesto,” focuses on two crazy kids who happen to be in love during a tumultuous student revolution. The journalist telling this story is played by Frances McDormand, last heard bringing the news to the Wes Anderson created world of Isle of Dogs.
It was only a matter of time before Timothee Chalamet and Wes Anderson crossed paths. Nature basically dictated it, and it’s only fair that Chalamet be the one to play Zeffirelli, a revolutionary student in The French Dispatch. Looking like a prodigious chess player to boot, this young man could put that knowledge to political usage as well.
Making her major motion picture debut with The French Dispatch is actor Lyna Khoudri. Playing Juliette, the girlfriend to Timothee Chalamet’s Zeffirelli, their pairing was destined based on their character names. With a motor scooter and a bad attitude, her fire matches that of her fellow activist and boyfriend.
Story 3: The Private Dining Room Of The Police Commissioner, By Roebuck Wright
Our final story in The French Dispatch's catalog of whimsy is entitled "The Private Dining Room Of The Police Commissioner, By Roebuck Wright." Wright, played by Westworld and No Time To Die actor Jeffrey Wright, is the resident food journalist at the film's titular magazine. Reporting on something called "Police Cuisine," he becomes embroiled in a story that looks like it leads to a hostage standoff, and a lot of symmetrical gunfire.
Part of Roebuck Wright's story looks to be told through his appearance on a TV show of some sort. Cast as the presenter of that show is Isle Of Dogs voice actor Liev Schreiber, making this his second Wes Anderson film. We don't know his character's name yet, but The French Dispatch looks like it's going to make the most of pairing Schreiber with Jeffrey Wright.
While not all of the star studded cast members of The French Dispatch may play larger than life characters, it's nice to see Wes Anderson continue to reward previous collaborators with spots in the lineup. Willem Dafoe is one such fixture in this cast, as his prisoner character doesn't have a name yet, and is only seen briefly in the film's trailer. A sporadic presence in Anderson's universe, Dafoe was most notably present in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zizzou, but also in the casts for Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Grand Budapest Hotel.
Cast as "a policeman with a kidnapped son,” Mathieu Amalric won't just be enjoying food alongside Jeffrey Wright's Roebuck Wright. As this third story centers around said kidnapping, Amalric's policeman will undoubtedly be excusing himself from dinner a little earlier than expected. This marks the actor's second Wes Anderson film, as The Grand Budapest Hotel was Mathiew Amalric's appearance in an Anderson picture.
The voice on the other end of that phone Mathieu Amalric is holding was quite recognizable upon the first viewing of The French Dispatch's trailer. Edward Norton has one of those distinct vocal ranges that automatically pegs him in any film he shows up in, and as the kidnapper behind the insidious plot of "The Private Dining Room Of The Police Commissioner, By Roebuck Wright," he's even easy to spot in a group of dissidents firing at will upon authorities. And before you ask, yes, Norton is another cast member that's been a part of the Wes Anderson Repertory Company since Moonrise Kingdom.
Rounding out the cast of characters partaking in the kidnapping of a policeman's son is a rather mysterious woman. So mysterious, we don't know her character's name. However, we do know that she's played by Academy Award nominee Saoirse Ronan, who was previously spotted in Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel. With The French Dispatch, Ronan looks to be playing against type, as a figure on the side of evil.
Last, but not least is Stephen Park's Lieutenant Nescafier, the chef behind the gorgeous meal that "The Private Dining Room Of The Police Commissioner, By Roebuck Wright" looks to be serving. But Park's character also happens to be listed as solving a kidnapping in The French Dispatch. Which is pretty handy, considering how fast things shift from a table of smiling guests gushing over cuisine to exchanging bullets and phone calls.
The French Dispatch has a huge cast, three stories and a boatload of ambition to potentially become the next, best Wes Anderson film. We'll see if it pays off when the film opens in theaters on July 25. Though should that release date be delayed, due to the ever shifting release calendar affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, we'll report such an update as it occurs.