Cannes: Meet the Real-Life Concierges Behind 'The Grand Budapest Hotel's' Secret Society

Fox Searchligh; Arthur Mola/Invision/AP
Ralph Fiennes in "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and a Cannes concierge's lapel

Cannes concierges discuss the Society of Golden Keys, which inspired the fictional secret society featured in Wes Anderson's hit film.

It turns out that the fictional Society of the Crossed Keys, a guild of top concierges whose deep connections in Wes Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel help save the life of Ralph Fiennes' suave Gustave H., was inspired by the Society of the Golden Keys, first started as a French-only affair in 1929 before going global in 1952.

"The [international announcement] ceremony took place in our Grand Salon," says Maxime, the concierge at Cannes historic Carlton, who also happens to be the treasurer of the society's French Riviera division (one of the most densely populated, with 100 members from around 3,000 worldwide).

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The two groups share the same crossed-key lapel insignia, the same sense of interhotel collegiality and the same sense of discretion (none would offer their full names for publication). Maxime, who admits to being a fan of the film, says Anderson's Crossed Keys is "almost, but not quite" the same as the real-life society, which requires members to be nominated by at least two others and pass a rigorous exam proving their cultural expertise.

"It's of a time when being a concierge was different to how it is now," adds Geoffrey, a Golden Key concierge at the Majestic, noting that "in the past, they would go into the kitchens or bedrooms, but not anymore." Observes Gilles, a Golden Key member posted at the Martinez, "Of course, it's a fantasy, but what the concierge sometimes does is often a fantasy."