Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, Moonrise Kingdom is the charming, sweet and sometimes melancholy story of two 12-year-olds, named Sam (Jared Gilman) and Suzy (Kara Hayward), who fall in love and run away together into the wilderness. As various authorities try to hunt them down, a violent storm is heading in from off-shore, turning the peaceful island community and all of its quirky inhabitants upside down.
At the film’s press day, two-time Academy Award nominated filmmaker Wes Anderson spoke to Collider via Skype for this exclusive interview about the great response the film is already getting, what success is for him, the inherent style of all of his films, the challenge of finding the perfect young leads for Moonrise Kingdom, what kind of director he is on set, and what he enjoys about collaborating with Billy Murray. He also talked a bit about his next film, which is currently in the early stages of development, how he’s looking forward to working with Owen Wilson again, and how he’d love to make another stop-motion feature. Check out what he had to say after the jump.
Collider: Moonrise Kingdom is already getting a huge response in limited release. Does it feel rewarding to know that people still want to see a charming, quiet little movie that isn’t a huge 3D superhero blockbuster?
WES ANDERSON: I hope they will want to see this. Anytime I make a movie, I really have absolutely no idea how it’s going to go over. I’ve had the whole range of different kinds of reactions. But, I don’t think I’ve ever had a film that got quite as enthusiastic reviews as this one, which is great. It’s the kind of story where I feel like, if I had seen this as a 12-year-old, I would like to think that this might be a movie that would really grab me, at that age, and that maybe people can connect it to their own experiences of that age. Grown-ups could see something in their own past that might ring true, I would hope.
What is success for you, when it comes to your films? Do you care about box office numbers at all, or is personal satisfaction the most important for you?
ANDERSON: Well, when I make a movie, usually it’s a long process. For me, they’ve always been movies that I’ve made up, and it’s not like I come up with this thing and everybody in the world is just dying to hand me the keys to the car and say, “Take it out.” It’s something that I’ve had to force to have happen, one way or another, with a lot of help. And then, also, the experience of making a movie is quite emotional. It’s usually an inspiring experience. There are different days, along the way, and it takes a bit out of you, but I love doing it. That is the first thing, for me. It’s about the experience of doing the whole thing, all the way through to when it’s completely finished. And then, you just have no idea what’s going to happen. But, I’m always hoping that it’s going to find an audience because that’s what I need to do my next movie. What situation I find myself in, as I start the next one, is completely dictated by that.
Your films have such a look and feel all their own that people talk about easily being able to recognize your work. When you look at your films, do you see that you have that kind of a personal style, or is it just something you inherently bring to the work that you do?
ANDERSON: It’s not usually something I’m thinking about when I’m making the film, but I definitely know that I have ways I like to shoot things. My director of photography is very aware of what we do and don’t do. He and I have worked together for many, many years and he knows that there are certain kinds of angles that I’m not going to have, and there are certain ways that I want things set up that are the way I like it, which is just based on things I’ve liked that I’ve seen other people do and things I develop, along the way, for myself. Usually when I’m making a movie, what I have in mind first, for the visuals, is how we can stage the scenes to bring them more to life in the most interesting way, and then how we can make a world for the story that the audience hasn’t quite been in before. The things that are more my own style are something that I don’t really have to think about. The only time I have to think about them is if I want to force myself not to do it the way I do it.
This film really has the feeling of being the memory of a fantasy or an idealized version of first love. Was that something you intentionally wanted to bring to it, or do you feel that’s an accurate description?
ANDERSON: Yes, it is. The memory of a fantasy is what somebody said to me in Cannes, last week, and that is what it is. I remember this feeling, from when I was that age and from when I was in fifth grade, but nothing really happened. I just experienced the period of dreaming about what might happen, when I was at that age. I feel like the movie could really be something that was envisioned by one of these characters.
How big of a challenge was it to find your two young leads, for the roles of Sam and Suzy, and did everything else rely on you finding the perfect actors?
ANDERSON: Yes. I definitely did not have the feeling that we really could make the movie until we found them, but at the same time, we had to commit to doing it anyway. All the wheels were in motion, even though I was like, “I hope this works out because there’s no movie, if we don’t find the perfect kids.” But, we did set aside quite a lot of time to search for them. I worked with my casting director, who I’ve worked with for many years, and we were just lucky that they sort of appeared.
How do you know when you have the right actors? Is it just an instinctual feeling that you go with?
ANDERSON: Yeah. I certainly didn’t have any preconception of what they ought to look like or sound like. When I did Rushmore, many years ago, I did have an idea of what I was looking for, and the person that I found, which was Jason Schwartzman, was absolutely nothing like what I had pictured, but yet he was clearly the one when he did show up. That’s the thing. With this, I just knew that I couldn’t conjure up something. I had to just see what I found.
Because your films have such a specific visual style, do you feel that it’s crucial for you to be involved as the writer, director and producer, so that your vision is what’s on the screen?
ANDERSON: Mainly, that’s just what I like to do. I want to work on all the different aspects of the movie just because I’m interested in all of them and I feel like each aspect of a movie – the script, the dialogue, the performances, the sound, the music and the images – are opportunities for me to try to make something. That’s what I’m trying to do. As I enter into each of these areas of it, I want to see what I can come up with that’s a different way to do it, or that brings something else into it.
What kind of a director are you on set? Are you able to remain really calm? Do you enjoy collaborating with your actors?
ANDERSON: I love working with actors. That’s what the set really is, for me. It’s my time with the actors. With this movie, we had these young people who had no experience, but they were very devoted to doing the movie and they had practiced a lot. We worked a lot together before the movie. And then, we had these actors who are all powerhouse actors, and it’s very exciting just to have them together. I’m usually quite comfortable on the set. I sometimes get a little anxious. I sometimes feel a little embarrassed on the set because there’s so many people around and often people are looking to me. But, I feel comfortable doing the job of it and I very much enjoy working with actors, so I’m usually in a pretty good mood on the set. On the other hand, in my experience with movies, it’s always so up and down. One day is a good day, and one day is filled with so many challenges and things that go wrong, and you have to figure out how to get around that. But, mostly, I enjoy it.
What can you say about your next film, and how far along are you, in the process of developing that?
ANDERSON: That is so early that I don’t really have much to say. I’m starting on something, but it’s just so early. I will say that I’ve just finished the script for it and it’s set in Europe. It’s a euro-movie.
ANDERSON: It might not even be either. Sometimes you read one thing and it leads you to another thing. I’ve been on a train of thought, through various books over the last three years or so, that I can trace. The thing that I’ve written is not really one thing or another, but I can see what it’s drawing on from this whole series of books, where one led to another.
Are you excited about being able to reunite with Owen Wilson again for that, and was it weird not to have him around for Moonrise Kingdom?
ANDERSON: It’s not weird to not have him around because there is so much going on and we had such a strong group of people. But, at the same time, I love working with Owen. He had read the script and given me some advice about the script, along the way, and he saw various cuts of the movie, so I had his voice in the mix. This is the first movie I’ve ever made that he does not have a credit on, in one way or another, and often in more than one way. I don’t expect that’s likely to happen very many times.
With so many people having loved Fantastic Mr. Fox, do you think you might ever do another stop-motion film again?
ANDERSON: I would like to, yeah. I loved doing that. It was a great experience for me. I did do a TV commercial recently that’s stop-motion and I worked with a lot of the same people who worked on Fantastic Mr. Fox, and I had a great time doing that. I would like to do another whole stop-motion movie because I love that medium.
What have you enjoyed most about working and collaborating with Bill Murray?
ANDERSON: I got to know him, in the first place, because I admired him and loved him, as an actor. Now, we’ve maybe done six movies together, with him in bigger or smaller roles, and he’s somebody who I always hope to have involved, like Owen and like Jason Schwartzman. On a movie set, there are few people who as valuable as he can be, not just as a great actor, but also as somebody who lifts the morale of the whole crew. He’s somebody who can speak to a mob, and the mob will listen. That’s a rare quality.