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Wes Anderson

A World Explorer

Jun 04, 2012 Wes Anderson Bookmark and Share

While asserting that each one of his seven films has a unique fingerprint, writer/director Wes Anderson likes to entertain the thought that, in some small way, all the fictional creations he’s brought to life over his eighteen year career might somehow be interconnected. “I always thought that the characters from any movie that I’ve done could enter into another movie that I’ve done,” he says, pondering the idea that in some alternate universe might exist where Rushmore’s precocious high school student Max Fischer might have penned The Life Aquatic, or The Royal Tenenbaums’ morose playwright Margot could have found love on The Darjeeling Limited. “There’s sort of a tone of voice about these characters, they might fit together…There’s sort of a single universe, even though each of these movies, my goal is to make them each have their own kind of world. I have a feeling they’re connected together just by the limitations of my own imagination.”

For his newest project, Anderson’s imagination took him to a rural island off the New England coast in the year 1965. That date, initially included on a whim, turned out to dramatically alter the film’s focus. The story of a young boy and girl who fall in love and run away on a camping trip populated with rogue Boy Scouts, lonely rangers, and unconventional family units, Moonrise Kingdom is set in an America that has long since come and gone. Anderson sees its tone—which shares DNA with the likes of classic coming-of-age films such as 400 Blows and Stand By Me—as a direct reflection of the time period. “When these kids are eighteen, it’s going to be a very different time in our country,” he says, alluding to political and social upheaval that came with the end of the decade. “The end of their childhood, the end of the summer, the end of all these different things at once.”

To bring his fractured Norman Rockwell vision to life, Anderson called on Edward Norton, Bruce Willis, Tilda Swinton, Frances McDormand, and—making their fourth and six appearances in a Wes Anderson film—Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman. However, two unknowns were needed for the roles of the star-crossed child lovers. A lengthy search ended with Kara Hayward and Jared Gilman, whose guileless performances brought the story to life. Now thirteen, both actors look back on their first director fondly. “He was so kind and so brilliant,” says Hayward of Anderson, “He’s an amazing person.”

It’s an observation echoed by veteran character actor Bob Balaban, who plays the film’s narrator. A task that could fluster even the most seasoned of directors, Balaban recalls that Anderson never lost his cool—even when dealing with the intense chaos that comes with wrangling a set full of children. “In every moment, under every circumstance, difficult, easy, otherwise, with children, with forty kids in canoes who had to land at the exact moment before we lost the light…I was watching how many ways he was able to get through situations, and always be himself,” says Balaban. “If he had to be tough sometimes, he could be tough. He was never mean, never angry, never exerted any more energy than was necessary to deal with that situation.”

Perhaps even more daunting than a bevy of pre-teens was writing the script—an element that became one of the more difficult aspects of production. Finding himself stuck after ten pages, Anderson called on Roman Coppola, his collaborator on 2007’s Darjeeling Limited. The writers found that their repartee overrode any potential to lean towards the maudlin or sappy, and within three weeks the pair had a polished script.

When it came to the kids’ dialogue, walking the line between overly cute and unnaturally mature turned out to be easier than either of them had anticipated. “With Wes, there’s very little discussion of ideas like ‘Oh, we can’t make them sound too adult,’” says Coppola. “It’s very intuitive. Often things are acted out, like, ‘Hey, if you put a pebble in your mouth it helps slack your thirst…’ I don’t recall ever working on something and thinking, ‘That doesn’t sound like a kid, that sounds fake!’ You’re in a state where you channel it.”

A fan that counts 2009’s Fantastic Mr. Fox among his favorite films, Balaban praises the enduring power of Anderson’s work and worldview—the gestalt of which creates a humanity not often found in overtly stylized film. “He is the combination of an auteur, a very detail-oriented director, in a low budget movie,” he says. “The DNA is carried in every piece. You chip anything off in this movie, and you get a satisfying experience from someone who has saturated every frame of it with his blood, sweat, tears, and love.”

Having recently finished a script that takes place in Europe, Anderson is currently in preproduction on his next project. He’s hesitant to say more, other than the fact he’s once again exploring a new world…even his hallmarks—from casting choices, to color pallet, to camera moves—will most likely be recognizable. “I sort of have to realize that it’s my personality,” he says sheepishly. “I could force myself to change my handwriting, but short of that, this is the way I do it. This is my version of this world.”


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