The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) Poster


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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.
Seu Jorge translated the David Bowie songs into Portuguese and arranged them for guitar himself.
The score that plays on the soundtrack when Steve Zissou gives the tour of his boat is actually a theme from The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) being played in reverse.
During filming, Bill Murray became a certified diver, logging over 40 hours.
When he learned of Cate Blanchett's real life pregnancy, Wes Anderson jokingly accused her of taking method acting too far.
Alistair Hennessey (Jeff Goldblum) wears composer Mark Mothersbaugh's custom designed glasses. Without them, Mothersbaugh is legally blind.
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.
Matthew Gray Gubler who plays Intern Number One was also Wes Anderson's intern in real life.
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.
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 fusball table to keep everyone entertained.
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 contributes his bad luck to having worn matching socks that particular day for the first time in several years.
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 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.
Steve Zissou was written with Bill Murray in mind and according to Wes Anderson, it "could have been no one else."
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.
A 50-year-old minesweeper vessel bought and towed from South Africa served as the Belafonte.
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.
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.
At $50 million, this was Wes Anderson's biggest budgeted film.
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.
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).
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".
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.
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.
The DVD commentary was recorded in the same New York diner where Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach actually wrote the film.
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.
In the scene where 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.
Jacques-Yves Cousteau's boat, the Calypso, was an old British minesweeper. The Belafonte was also an old minesweeper.
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.
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.
In the scene where 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 the original Bottle Rocket (1994) short.
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.
The ailment acquired by Steve, hydrogen psychosis (or "crazy-eye") is a play on an actual diving malady known as nitrogen narcosis.
The shot of Bill Murray feeding a fish to a killer whale, which appears during a montage on Zissou's island, was also in the script for Anderson's earlier film Rushmore (1998) (where it was written into a montage when Murray's character is looking at fish specimens for his new aquarium)
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.
Most the parts were written with the actors in mind who ultimately played the characters, such as Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston and Bud Cort.
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 actually pregnant.
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.
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An eel, dubbed the Hermes Eel, is patterned after an Hermes scarf.
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.
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The space suit in the Adventurers' Club is from another Touchstone movie, Mission to Mars (2000).
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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).
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For the five month shoot, Matthew Gray Gubler had to get his hair permed three times.
Michael Gambon's character's glasses were modeled after those of Ennio Morricone.
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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.
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Film debut of Matthew Gray Gubler.
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The character Vladimir Wolodarsky was named after Wallace Wolodarsky who played Brendan in Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited (2007).
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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.
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Owen Wilson's Southern accent is based on that of Will Patton.
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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. I say the evidence is on his side.
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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.


The trivia item below may give away important plot points.

The movie is dedicated to Jacques-Yves Cousteau. Cousteau's son Philippe died in a seaplane crash. In the movie, Ned who (most supposedly) is Steve's son dies after a sea helicopter crash.

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