He's renowned for his distinctive angular depictions of famous names, not to mention being the esteemed artist behind The New Yorker's staff portraits. Now Manchester illustrator Stanley Chow is paying homage to Wes Anderson's The French Dispatch by illustrating the lead cast of the fictional magazine.
The much-anticipated film, which releases in the UK this weekend, is pitched as a love letter to journalists everywhere, as it's set in an outpost of The French Dispatch, an American magazine in the fictional 20th-century French town of Ennui-Sur-Blasé. Written and directed by Wes Anderson, its plot follows three different storylines as the publication creates its final issue. It features an all-star cast ripe for Stan Chow's magic, including Benicio del Toro, Frances McDormand, Jeffrey Wright, Adrien Brody, Timothée Chalamet, Léa Seydoux, Tilda Swinton, Mathieu Amalric, Lyna Khoudri, Stephan Park, Owen Wilson, and Bill Murray.
Like much of the creative community, the Manchester illustrator has a soft spot for the American filmmaker and his eccentric films that always feature a pleasing use of colour and symmetry, alongside a unique visual style and quirky narrative. "I created this piece during the very first lockdown," Stan tells Creative Boom. "I would've shown this series sooner, only the film's release got delayed due to the pandemic, so I decided to hold on posting my illustrations, too."
Of course, Arthur Howitzer Jr., the editor of The French Dispatch, is played by Bill Murray, who has appeared in all of Anderson's movies, except for Bottle Rocket. It's endearing to see the actor feature again, alongside so many great names. It offers Stan plenty to work with for a fictional publication that clearly takes inspiration from The New Yorker itself. Does Stan have any firm favourites? "Benicio del Toro is my favourite because he looks like a bear," he says. "He's a bit gruff. So that's interesting. Plus I've never drawn him before. I've illustrated most of the other actors. Some of these latest artworks are updates from older versions."
Without seeing the movie, Stan admits he only had the trailer to play off when creating the digital portraits. He took what he could from the official trailer. "Wes Anderson's cinematography really suits my illustrations, as every character has something distinctive about them. It's easy for me to work out how to illustrate because of his style."
Of all the Wes Anderson movies, The Royal Tenenbaums is Stan's favourite. For that film release in 2001, Stan paid tribute to Margot Tenenbaum, played by Gwyneth Paltrow. "That movie also inspired my love of wearing tracksuits," Stan admits.
Right now, Stanley is finishing a series of children's books with author Lisbeth Kaiser, which are due to be released in the coming months. Who Was Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most recent titles, which teaches youngsters about the civil rights activist's life and achievements. This month also sees the launch of David Chang and Priya Krishna's new cookbook, Cooking at Home, of which Stan designed and illustrated the cover and provided lots of illustrations throughout its pages. "It's my first cookbook," he says. "It's definitely been the highlight of my year."