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Breakout star Tony Revolori on checking into 'The Grand Budapest Hotel'

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TORONTO - When Tony Revolori flew to Paris to meet Wes Anderson, it marked the first time the teenager had been on a plane alone or travelled to Europe — to say nothing of meeting one of his filmmaking heroes.

"My mind was travelling at a million miles per hour," recalled Revolori, 18. "It was a bit scary. I was wondering the whole plane ride what he was going to be like and what was going to happen."

Revolori didn't know yet whether he had won the role of Zero Moustafa, a lobby boy who becomes the protege and confidant of legendary concierge Gustave H. in Anderson's film "The Grand Budapest Hotel."

Anderson had scoured the globe for the right young actor to play the part, initially holding auditions in Israel and Lebanon. But his search finally led him back to California, where he narrowed it down to two choices: Revolori, or his 19-year-old brother, Mario.

Some time after meeting the visionary director in Paris, Revolori was riding in his family car in Los Angeles when a new email flashed on his phone. Anderson was officially offering him the part.

"I actually jumped so high I hit my head and it hurt," said Revolori with a laugh. "It was fantastic. My brother was a little downtrodden, but he already knew that it was my role to take after I flew to Paris. He was very helpful and supportive."

"The Grand Budapest Hotel," out on DVD Tuesday, opened to rave reviews earlier this year. Critics have praised Revolori's warm, funny performance as Zero, the lobby boy so admiring of the civilized Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) that he draws on a pencil moustache every morning.

Revolori, who is of Guatemalan heritage and grew up in Anaheim, has been acting since he was two, bagging roles in TV series like "My Name is Earl" and "Entourage," and starring with his brother in a film about Little League baseball, "The Perfect Game."

But he was nervous when he first arrived on set in Germany, joining a top-tier cast including Fiennes, Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel, Edward Norton, Jude Law and many more. At Anderson's behest, the actors all stayed in one hotel and ate dinner together every night.

"Wes likes to create these family-type environments so everyone feels comfortable on set. You have me, who is kind of a newcomer to this whole huge, big world and I was obviously nervous, but when I'd go to dinner you'd hear these guys talking about things that me and my friends would talk about," said Revolori.

So he began to see the giants of cinema around him almost as family members. During weekly bowling excursions, Revolori learned that F. Murray Abraham, the 74-year-old Academy Award-winning actor who portrays the older Zero, easily had the best arm.

And then there was the time Bill Murray threatened to throw Revolori's dad in the pool.

"I guess he's had a run-in with bad stage parents, so he just looked at my dad after shaking his hand and said, 'I've thrown stage parents into the pool for being annoying. Please don't make me throw you into the pool,'" Revolori recalled.

"Mind you, this is Germany during the coldest winter they had and the pool is completely frozen, so I'm pretty sure my dad would break an arm or something. But luckily, by the end of the week, Bill came up to me and said, 'You have a really cool dad. I'm not going to throw him in the pool.'"

As for working with Fiennes — with whom he appears in nearly every scene of the film and has a natural, easy chemistry — Revolori said the British actor immediately put him at ease.

"I definitely was nervous meeting him because he plays such daunting characters in 'Schindler's List,' in 'Red Dragon' and even 'Harry Potter,'" he said.

"When I met him, he was nothing like that. He was the warmest, gentlest, nicest guy I could meet. It was just wonderful working with someone like that."

Anderson is known for his whimsical visual style and perfectly composed shots in films like "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "Moonrise Kingdom." "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is no exception — combining elaborate sets, miniatures and stop-motion animation to create the fictional Republic of Zubrowka where it is set.

Revolori said the director likes to do 30 or 40 takes of each scene — which worked against him one day when they were filming a scene where Zero is slapped by Keitel.

"Harvey Keitel slapped me about 42 times," he said, groaning. "And Harvey Keitel is an ex-marine so he doesn't play around. There's no fake slap or anything like that. It's a real hard slap. He'd do five push-ups before every take to get himself pumped."

Yet while Anderson is meticulous, he's also a calm and inspirational presence on set, elevating everyone around him to do better, Revolori said.

"It's amazing to step into his world. It really is," he said. "He is a very unique director, so it's very precise, and he is a bit of a perfectionist. But he also comes in very prepared. He had these storyboard animations to animate the entire film to see what it would look like, where the camera would go, how it would cut.

"Everyone worked 120 per cent for him. It's just amazing how you can see one man inspiring all these people to work hard like that."

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