Ninety percent of the train scenes were shot on a movable set that consisted of a 10-car Indian North Western Railway train crafted by production designer Mark Friedberg and his team. “The train had to be a fully functional filming facility,” Friedberg explains. Each one of the compartments, from the brothers’ room to the dining area, was its own car with built-in lighting, gel-ready windows and hinged walls. Even the train corridor was hanging, to be pulled and moved quickly for varied takes. Director Wes Anderson wanted “to keep it as docu-real as possible, meaning that he wanted the actors to stay in character and on set, and not have them go away for each setup,” Friedberg says.
During the nine-week train shoot, the rolling studio made a daily 12-hour run. Negotiating access to a dedicated train track and cars was no small feat, but once secured, the production made full use of Rajasthan’s varied desert terrain and local craftsmen who hand-painted the cars’ intricate interiors and exterior signage.