Alright, Is ‘The French Dispatch’ Based on a True Story?

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Photo credit: Searchlight Pictures
Photo credit: Searchlight Pictures

Ladies and gentlemen, it's Wes Anderson time. In his first non-animated movie since 2015's The Grand Budapest Hotel, the director takes us all to a fictional town in France, which is pretty convenient considering it's very hard to travel abroad right now. The movie brings together a bunch of Anderson favorites: Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Frances McDormand, and literally too many others to name. Seriously, there are so many people in this movie. But while you are watching, you might be wondering whether the movie is based on a true story. Here's what we know.

The short answer: kinda.

The movie follows editors of The French Dispatch of the Liberty, Kansas Evening Sun. That paper doesn't actually exist. The real-life inspiration for it, though, is The New Yorker, which very much does. And the movie is split into a few parts, and those parts are loosely based on New Yorker stories or writers from the '50s and '60s. Key word here is loosely.

If you wanna be a real nerd about it, here are some of the real-life people who inspired the characters:

  • Bill Murray's Arthur Howitzer Jr. is based on Harold Ross, the co-founder of The New Yorker

  • Owen Wilson is Herbsaint Sazerac, loosely based on writer Joseph Mitchell

  • Adrien Brody plays an art dealer based on Lord Duveen, who was profiled in The New Yorker in 1952

  • Jeffrey Wright plays Roebuck Wright, who's supposed to be a mashup of James Baldwin and A.J. Liebling

And the two sections of the movie that most easily correlate to real New Yorker stories are:

But the movie is not really about the magazine.

The film has been described as a love letter to journalists, and Anderson put it this way: "The story is not easy to explain, [It's about an] American journalist based in France [who] creates his magazine. It is more a portrait of this man, of this journalist who fights to write what he wants to write. It's not a movie about freedom of the press, but when you talk about reporters you also talk about what's going on in the real world." Okay, so that answers that!

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