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How a U.S. ambassador helped inspire ‘Grand Budapest Hotel’

Director Wes Anderson (left) and former U.S. ambassador Norm Eisen. (U.S. Embassy Prague)
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There’s a local connection behind one of the films that snagged a Golden Globe on Sunday. Norm Eisen, the former U.S. ambassador to the Czech Republic, helped director Wes Anderson do research for “Grand Budapest Hotel”— and wound up as a source of inspiration for the character played by Jeff Goldblum.

Eisen acted as a kind of overqualified tour guide and chauffeur for Anderson on his visits to the Czech capital. Prague was one of the muses for the film’s setting, the fictional Republic of Zubrowa — according to an account published in the Czech newspaper Hospidárske Noviny, and helpfully translated into English and posted here on the Web site of the Brookings Institution, where Eisen is now a fellow.

The director began sending actors and crew members to meet Eisen in Prague, too, and the ambassador and Goldblum struck up a friendship, according to the story. Goldblum played a lawyer who wound up bearing more than a passing resemblance to Eisen, a longtime attorney who was the Obama administration’s ethics czar. Quite literally: As part of his “method acting,” Goldblum swiped one of Eisen’s lawyerly jackets.

In a post on the Brookings site, Eisen praised the flick for calling attention to the Nazi regime’s treatment of minorities. “Congrats to Wes and all the gang on this well-deserved tribute, and on their film’s funny and touching contribution to the ongoing discussion about governance, good and bad,” he wrote. 

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