CATEGORIES On the Scene

'Bottle Rocket' may have been a box-office failure, but it established Wes Anderson and the Wilson brothers as exciting new voices in American cinema. While the film holds up today, and Martin Scorsese included it in his top-ten favorite movies of the 1990s, in hindsight a viewer can see Anderson was still struggling to define the distinctive voice his films are known for today.

After setting their debut against a realistic Texas background, the Anderson and Owen Wilson writing duo wanted 'Rushmore' to have a "slightly heightened reality, like a Roald Dahl children's book." That is why Rushmore Academy has the feel of a blissful British prep school meets 'Dead Poets Society.'

To achieve this unique and elite feel, Anderson returned to his high school alma mater, St. John's School in Houston, Texas.
'Bottle Rocket' may have been a box-office failure, but it established Wes Anderson and the Wilson brothers (Owen and Luke) as exciting new voices in American cinema. While the film holds up today -- Martin Scorsese included it in his top-10 favorite movies of the 1990s -- in hindsight one can see Anderson struggling to define the distinctive voice his films are known for today.

After setting their debut against a realistic Texas background, the writing duo of Anderson and Owen Wilson wanted their second film, 'Rushmore,' to have a "slightly heightened reality, like a Roald Dahl children's book." That's why Rushmore Academy has the feel of a blissful British-prep-school-meets-'Dead Poets Society.'

To achieve this unique and elite feel, Anderson returned to his high school alma mater, St. John's School in Houston.

Location as Character: St. John's picturesque grounds help the viewer relate to why the protagonist of the film, Max Fischer (Jason Swartzman), considers it his utopia, especially when contrasted with the paltry house he shares with his father and the public Grover Cleveland High School. Anderson used St. John's neighboring public school, Lamar High School, to depict Grover Cleveland -- making shooting logistics easier.

The familiar setting no doubt continued to inspire Anderson during the production of his most autobiographical film. Just like Max, the would-be film auteur staged numerous epic plays at St. John's with titles like 'The Five Maseratis' and 'The Battle of the Alamo.' The teenage Anderson also shared Max's heightened ambition, lack of academic ability, and had a crush on an older woman.

Historical Significance:
'Rushmore' is important in today's cinema landscape for numerous reasons. It established Anderson's aesthetic: slightly heightened reality, methodical cinematography, mostly primary colors, and a soundtrack built with classic British folk and rock music by Mark Mothersbaugh. Also, it launched Jason Schwartzman's career and put Bill Murray on a new path as a respected actor of independent cinema. Without this film, it is unlikely that 'Lost in Translation,' 'The Royal Tenenbaums,' 'I Heart Huckabees' or 'The Darjeeling Limited' would look the way they do.

Fun Facts: Owen Wilson attended St. Mark's School of Texas in Dallas -- St. John's rival school in the Southwest Preparatory Conference. Just like Max, Wilson was expelled. However, it wasn't for low grades and planning to build an aquarium, it was for stealing a teacher's textbook to help him cheat on his homework. His parents sent him to New Mexico Military Institute after that.

Directions: St. John's School is on the corner of Buffalo Speedway and Westheimer Road at 2401 Claremont Lane, Houston. Head due south to Alabama Street to see Lamar High School.

Visitor Info:
According to the school's website (SJS.org), prospective students can tour the campus during the fall when St. John's has Open Houses for Lower, Middle, and Upper Schools. Visitors can also call the office and request an individual tour.