Bottle Rocket may be an essential work in the Wes Anderson canon but his debut faced tough audiences early on.

Bottle Rocket

Test screenings are always (yes, always!) stressful, but especially so when it’s your first film. And while most of us all love the entire oeuvre of Wes Anderson, his debut, 1996’s Bottle Rocket, was far from being perceived as the classic it is today. As Kumar would say, Wes Anderson blew it, man.

Speaking at the Lumière Film Festival, Wes Anderson recalled the confidence that came along with being green in the movie industry – although it may have played a role in the initial public reaction of Bottle Rocket. “I had an idea of what I wanted to do, and no one could convince me that we shouldn’t do it, my confidence was the highest, then. When we finally made it and showed it to an audience, they hated it. I was so shocked, it was a disaster.”

Still, that fateful Bottle Rocket screening proved to be a pivotal moment for Wes Anderson. “But that changed me: Had I known that before, I probably wouldn’t have made that movie, and I’m glad of that, because the blind confidence you have when you’re young, you need it!” Nearly 30 years on, Bottle Rocket stands out as one of the best debuts of the 1990s; hey, even Martin Scorsese says so!

Bottle Rocket was based on Anderson’s own 1994 short, which screened at the Sundance Film Festival, in turn helping the director get necessary financing to turn it into a feature. Interestingly, Anderson didn’t return to short form movies until 2007’s The Darjeeling Limited companion Hotel Chevalier but is now quite familiar with, churning out a collection of Roald Dahl adaptations for Netflix.

Wes Anderson co-wrote Bottle Rocket with star Owen Wilson, a writing partnership that would extend to Anderson’s sophomore effort Rushmore and 2001’s The Royal Tenenbaums, which earned an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Anderson has earned two additional Best Screenplay nods, for Moonrise Kingdom (with Roman Coppola) and The Grand Budapest Hotel (solo).

Are you a fan of Bottle Rocket? Where do you rank it in the list of best Wes Anderson movies? Let us know in the comments below!

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