The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) Poster


For the five month shoot, Matthew Gray Gubler had to get his hair permed three times.
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While being fitted for her pregnancy prosthetic - which involved being wrapped in a full body cast - Cate Blanchett fainted. The actress was rather surprised by this as she had never fainted before and learned in the next few days that she actually was pregnant.
The red woolen caps worn by the characters are a reference to Jacques-Yves Cousteau, famed underwater film-maker and co-inventor of the modern aqualung.
Matthew Gray Gubler who plays Intern Number One was also Wes Anderson's intern in real life.
Cate Blanchett never rehearsed with the crew and hadn't even met most of them before filming the nighttime electric jellyfish scene in which she first appears in the movie to add spontaneity to the scene.
Seu Jorge translated the David Bowie songs into Portuguese and arranged them for guitar himself.
During filming, Bill Murray became a certified diver, logging over 40 hours.
The cross section of the Belafonte - in which we see all the interior rooms and the people within it - was 140 feet long and 40 feet high.
The film is dedicated to Jacques-Yves Cousteau; Cousteau's ship was the Calypso. Zissou's ship is called the Belafonte; Harry Belafonte became famous singing commercialized calypso songs. In the beginning sequence, when Zissou is first introduced to the Italian audience, the model of the Belafonte on his desk is actually a model of the Calypso, painted blue instead of black.
Writers Noah Baumbach and Wes Anderson named several of the places and crew members in the film spontaneously after things and people they saw around them at the Italian restaurant where they held many of their meetings about the film. Pescespada Island, for instance, was named for one of the dishes on the menu. Some of the characters' names are named after waiters and patrons at the restaurant.
When he learned of Cate Blanchett's real life pregnancy, Wes Anderson jokingly accused her of taking method acting too far.
Steve Zissou was written with Bill Murray in mind and according to Wes Anderson, it "could have been no one else."
Matthew Gray Gubler (Intern #1) sprained his ankle while filming a scene where the interns are exercising (the take where he falls made it into the final cut of the film). Gubler always wears mismatched socks and attributes his bad luck to having worn matching socks that particular day for the first time in several years.
Wes Anderson's first film co-written with Noah Baumbach. Anderson's usual writing partner was Owen Wilson but he was becoming more popular as an actor and was unavailable.
One fish dubbed the Hydronicus Inverticus was left at the cutting-room floor because it was deemed too ridiculous. It is a fish that can turn itself inside-out.
Wes Anderson watched many films set on the ocean to see how the sea movement was simulated. He found that in The Black Stallion (1979) there was only one scene set in a hallway that had the camera rocking, and so he decided to have just one rocking hallway scene in "The Life Aquatic".
The original script called for the pirates to be Indonesians, but since there wasn't enough of an Indonesian population in Italy where the film was shot, it was changed to Filipinos.
Bill Murray would serenade the cast and crew in moments of downtime to stave off boredom. Murray, however, is not noted for his musical abilities so Owen Wilson bought a football table to keep everyone entertained.
Wes Anderson has stated the walking sequence in the final credits is an homage to The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984), also starring Jeff Goldblum.
At 50 million dollars, this was Wes Anderson's biggest budgeted film, which failed to make money, earning back only 34.8 million dollars worldwide.
Bill Murray had to temporarily leave the production to fly to Los Angeles for the Golden Globe awards where he won for Best Actor in a Comedy for his performance in Lost in Translation (2003).
Alistair Hennessey wears composer Mark Mothersbaugh's custom designed glasses. Without them, Mothersbaugh is legally blind.
The ailment acquired by Steve, hydrogen psychosis (or "crazy-eye") is a play on an actual diving malady known as nitrogen narcosis.
The DVD commentary was recorded in the same New York diner where Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach actually wrote the film.
As a pilot, early in the film, Ned Plimpton wears a Rolex GMT Master. This watch is popular with airline pilots for calculating time zones. By the end of the film, he has given up the GMT and plumped for a Rolex Submariner, for obvious reasons.
Gwyneth Paltrow was originally set to play Jane Winslett-Richardson, but couldn't because of schedule conflicts. Nicole Kidman expressed interest and Wes Anderson hired her. Kidman was forced to bow out due to other commitments, and Julianne Moore requested the role. However, it eventually went to Cate Blanchett. Anderson admitted the character name was inspired by actress Kate Winslet. Blanchett played the part while pregnant.
A 50-year-old minesweeper vessel bought and towed from South Africa served as the Belafonte.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau's boat, the Calypso, was an old British minesweeper. The Belafonte was also an old minesweeper.
Wes Anderson claimed to be going through an Italian phase during the time of making the film. That's one of the reasons why it was shot in Rome at the Cinecitta Studios.
The shot of Steve Zissou feeding a fish to a killer whale, which appears during a montage on Zissou's island, was also in the script for Wes Anderson's earlier film Rushmore (1998) (where it was written into a montage when Bill Murray's character is looking at fish specimens for his new aquarium)
One of the only songs not included in the soundtrack album is "Starálfur" by Sigur Rós which was used in the underwater scene where Steve Zissou confronts the Jaguar Shark for the second time.
Although he doesn't have an extensive part in the film, Noah Taylor proved invaluable onset in coaching all the non-professionals in how to act for the camera.
Most the parts were written with the actors in mind who ultimately played the characters, such as Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston and Bud Cort.
Seu Jorge's character's name, Pelé dos Santos, comes from famous footballer (soccer player) Pelé and the only club he played for in his home country of Brazil, Santos.
Bill Murray couldn't accept his BAFTA Award for his performance in Lost in Translation (2003) personally because he was in Italy filming this movie.
The space suit in the Adventurers' Club is from another Touchstone movie, Mission to Mars (2000).
Michael Gambon's character's glasses were modeled after those of Ennio Morricone.
In the DVD commentary, any reference made to Jacques Cousteau and his family is bleeped out.
Alaister Hennessy's ship is modeled after the Keldysh, the biggest and most modern oceanographic research ship in the world, and property of the Russian Academy of Science.
The character of Wolodarsky was named after director Wes Anderson's close friend Wallace Wolodarsky, probably best-known as a writer on The Simpsons (1989).
The "Hermes Eel" is patterned after an Hermes scarf.
In Wes Anderson's earlier film, Rushmore (1998), there is a shot of Max Fisher on his go-kart which is a direct homage to a Jacques Henri Lartigue photograph. The man in this photo, as well as others taken by Lartigue is named Zissou.
During filming the Chicago Cubs made a deep run into the Major League playoffs, mounting a 3-1 lead in the NLCS. Bill Murray, a native of the Chicago area, had it written in to his contract that he receive a live feed of all the Cubs' games. The Cubs eventually lost the series to the Florida Marlins, prolonging its World Series drought to 95 years.
Though most initial reviews were negative, critics can't seem to agree on The Life Aquatic. Even Rotten Tomatoes's 'Critics Consensus' doesn't reach a consensus: 'The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou is getting soaked by many critics, who call it smug, ironic and artificial (as if that were an insult instead of a plot point). Still, others have praised the movie's sheer uniqueness, eccentricity and whimsy.' Critic Matt Zoller Seitz explained this by calling the movie 'as immense yet clearly personal as Jacques Tati's "Playtime", Steven Spielberg's "1941", Martin Scorsese's "New York, New York", and Francis Ford Coppola's "One from the Heart" - all box office flops whose reputations grew with time.'
Film debut of Matthew Gray Gubler.
Owen Wilson's Southern accent is based on that of Will Patton.
The film cast includes two Oscar winners: Anjelica Huston, Cate Blanchett; and six Oscar nominees: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Jeff Goldblum, Willem Dafoe, Seymour Cassel and Noah Baumbach.
There is a direct Star Wars reference at around 01:06:30 as the Belafonte comes into Port Au Patois. The seaman on the crows nest is looking through a white pair of binoculars which look very similar to the macrobinoculars that Luke Skywalker uses on Hoth in Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980). The following cut shows the view of Willem Dafoe through these binoculars as he is yelling "Port Au Patois" to the crew. This shot, seen from the POV of these binoculars, is almost identical to the look of Luke's macrobinoculars in Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) as he views the Tusken Raiders from the cliff top. So really, two Star Wars references.
Matthew Gray Gubler really twisted his ankle, and it made it into the final cut. He states that it is one of the things he either laughs about, or despairs, depending on his mood. He blames it on the fact he wore matching socks, as he superstitiously believes odd socks are good luck, after his grandmother told him matching ones were bad luck. Every day before and after he wore odd socks, and that was the only time something like that went wrong, when he wore matching ones.
When Ned is piloting the whirly bird towards the end of the movie, there is a label on his helmet with the name "J. Vincenzo". This could be in reference to Jan Vincent, an actor who starred in a TV show, Airwolf, in which he piloted a helicopter.
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First film in which Waris Ahluwalia portays a character named Vikram. His character in Inside Man (2006) was Vikram Walia.
The espresso machine that Steve Zissou's crew steals from the Hennessey lab is a Saeco Incanto Digital SUP021YDR.
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Director Trademark 

Wes Anderson: [mid-shot speed change] The last scene (before the ending credits) changes from normal speed to slow-motion.
Wes Anderson: [mid-shot speed change] When Steve Zissou smokes a joint alone at the bow of the ship after first meeting Ned, the film shifts from normal speed to slow-motion.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

Seymour Cassel has a brief role as Esteban, the friend of Steve Zissou who is eaten by the Jaguar shark. According to Roger Ebert, Cassel once told him in an interview many years previously that he had always wanted to be eaten by a shark in a movie.
The jaguar shark is one of the largest stop-motion puppets ever constructed. It measured eight feet in length and required five hand-cranked controls for the swimming action.
The movie is dedicated to Jacques-Yves Cousteau, whose son Philippe Cousteau Sr. died in a seaplane crash. In the movie, Ned who (most supposedly) is Steve's son dies after a sea helicopter crash.
When Steve discovers the pirates playing cards, Hennessey wears a t-shirt with "I'm a Pepper" written on it. This is the same t-shirt worn by the gun seller in Wes Anderson's original Bottle Rocket (1994) short.
When Steve Zissou stumbles on the kidnappers playing cards, one of the kidnappers can be seen wearing a hat featuring the Longhorn logo of the University of Texas. Wes Anderson graduated from the University of Texas at Austin.
When Bill Ubell is kidnapped by pirates, Bud Cort felt that his character should lost 50 pounds, a decision that made Wes Anderson nervous. Cort proceeded to go through with it and despite getting ill during the process, he lost 50 pounds.
When Steve Zissou carries Ned out of the water, it resembles the Pieta statue of Michelangelo of Mother Mary carrying Christ. Thus, Steve mourns Ned as a son.

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