Harvey Keitel’s Awesome Tattoos in The Grand Budapest Hotel

There is a lot to love about The Grand Budapest Hotel, but one of our favorite aspects of the movie is the awesome tattoos that are sported by Harvey Keitel.

The Wes Anderson film is considered a modern classic with Keitel joining a stellar cast including top names like Ralph Fiennes, F. Murray Abraham, Adrien Brody and Jeff Goldblum.

Celebrity tattoos always catch the eye, but what is the story behind the tattoos on Keitel’s body as he plays the character of Ludwig in The Grand Budapest Hotel?

Fiction, but based on a real hotel

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a fictional film, but a real location sparked Anderson into deciding to create the movie, which was released back in 2014, though it seems timeless.

The Grandhotel Pupp was the inspiration behind the fictional Grand Budapest, together with some other movie gems such as Bond’s Casino Royale.

Dating back to the early 18th century, the hotel was popular with celebrities of the era such as Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Richard Wagner.

Located in Karlovy Vary, the hotel remains open to this day and it is popular with fans of The Grand Budapest Hotel, as well as those who just want to enjoy views of the Tepla River.

Filming did not actually take place at the Grandhotel Pupp but its exterior was used as the inspiration for the building in The Grand Budapest Hotel.

As the set designer Adam Stockhausen told National Geographic: “There were some interesting interior details of the hotel that we liked, such as the wide corridors with carpet running down the center and windows that shone light into the hallways.”

The Hotel Börse in Görlitz, Germany, was actually used for most of the filming, with the cast and crew all staying at the site during the production process, which must have been interesting.

We can only imagine the conversations between Keitel and Bill Murray over breakfast.

What do Keitel’s tattoos mean in The Grand Budapest Hotel?

Tattoos do not always have to mean something, of course. But that has not stopped repeat viewers of The Grand Budapest Hotel trying to decipher Keitel’s tattoos in the movie.

The actor’s body is covered in his key scene, with one particular tattoo standing out more than most. On his left arm are the letters MAV, which has sparked a huge amount of speculation.

In this case, MAV is thought to be short for a French expression, “mort aux vaches”, which translates to English as “death to the pigs” – an anarchist slogan.

The tattoos on Keitel’s body are said to be inspired by L’Atalante and the old film’s character of Pere Jules. If you check it out, you will see their tattoos are almost exactly the same.

Fans of The Grand Budapest Hotel have worked hard to try to decipher the tattoos, but it is thought that most of them are actually quite meaningless.

But it is thought they are badly drawn on purpose, in order to look like classic prison tattoos. That the tattoos look like they have been drawn on Keitel’s body in pen is part of the humour.

What is for sure is that Keitel looks in great shape for his age, having had to appear topless.

Did you know?

Anderson is known for being a very exact film-maker, which was bad news for Tony Revolori, who played the role of Zero.

In The Grand Budapest Hotel, Keitel’s character Ludwig slaps Zero across the face. The scene was not faked, with Ludwig actually striking Revolori, which is why it looks so real in the film.

But Anderson insisted on dozens of takes until he got one which he was happy to use for the movie. That means Revolori got hit by Keitel more than 40 times for that brief scene.

Something to tell the grandchildren about, at least…

Links with Pulp Fiction

Anderson usually puts a lot of Easter eggs in his films for his fans to try to spot and The Grand Budapest Hotel is no different.

This is why the movie is so rewarding to watch time and time again – most people will see something new every time they watch it.

In the film, one of Ludwig’s cellmates in the prison is given the name of Wolf. This is a reference to Pulp Fiction, the classic Quentin Tarantino movie in which Ludwig plays… Wolf.

Mind blown!