Wes Anderson & Roman Coppola Interview – THE DARJEELING LIMITED

     October 7, 2007

Just like most of you, I’m a huge fan of Wes Anderson. And while all of his films might not be perfect, I can find something to love in all of them. And if you’re one of the few whose not familiar with Wes Anderson… he made “Rushmore,” “Bottle Rocket,” “The Life Aquatic” and “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

His recent film, “The Darjeeling Limited,” is absolutely a return to form and another great film in a spectacular year of movies.

The movie is about three American brothers (played by Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, and Jason Schwartzman) who have not spoken to each other in a year. They set off on a train voyage across India with a plan to find themselves and bond with each other — to become brothers again like they used to be. Their “spiritual quest”, however, veers rapidly off-course (due to events involving over-the-counter pain killers, Indian cough syrup, and pepper spray), and they eventually find themselves stranded alone in the middle of the desert with eleven suitcases, a printer, and a laminating machine. At this moment, a new, unplanned journey suddenly begins.

Anyway, during our roundtable discussion both Roman (one of the writers and the producer) and Wes talked about making the film, India, writing in Paris, the new AT&T commercials, “The Fantastic Mr. Fox” and a lot more. If you’re a fan of Wes you’ll love the interview.

And while I was at the press junket I was also able to interview Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody and those will be posted later tonight.

As always, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the roundtable interview as an MP3 by clicking here. And if you missed the movie clips I posted a week or so ago….click here to watch them.

“The Darjeeling Limited” is currently playing in limited release and it’ll be expanding to more theaters next weekend.

Q: So where’s the wine and the face cream?

Roman Coppola: Oh, if I carried around all my props, it would be a problem.

Wes Anderson: What is that?

Q: An energy drink.

Wes Anderson: It looks like beer.

Q: It’s sort of but it tastes nothing like beer.

Wes Anderson: But it’s a beer type of design isn’t it. The can I mean.

Q: So did you have a great love for India in history reading back or is it just the movies that you’d seen that you sort of said oh God I’d love to do something there and then the 2nd part of that question is when you go there, when you see them on screen it’s one thing and you go to a country and it’s something totally different. You go wow, that’s not what I saw on screen. So could you answer either one?

Wes Anderson: Yeah, I’ll try to answer all of it. The way I became interested in India in the first place was my oldest friend is from what was Madras. So I grew up and I met him when I was 8 in Texas. I grew up learning about India from him and his family and that was my first exposure to the place. But I have memories from stories he told me from when I was a kid that were so alien to me—just concepts that didn’t exist for me. Then I read a book by a writer Ved Mada called the Photographs of Chachachi, which made a very strong impression on me and gave me a kind of portrait of India that was very interesting. In the meantime I was sort of watching Ray’s films… Satyajit Ray films which are quite varied. He made many films and I began to learn from that and I was also part of my inspiration to want to make movies, then I saw Louis Malle’s documentaries about India which are about India in 1968 to 72 whenever he was there—70 or something like that. Not unlike the India you see today. I mean, that stuff is the same. As much as India’s changed, it’s very much what you see in those documentaries because the culture is ancient and you know it can’t change just because the arrival of the internet and all that stuff, it’s not going to change that radically… anyway I’m no expert on any of that but what I see is something that there’s so much that runs so deep that I feel like there’s what will stay the same is going to be maybe more powerful than what’s changing. Then finally I saw this movie by Jean Renoir called The River and when I saw that it made such a strong impression on me that I kind of took all this together and said this is where I want to work next. Then I went and what I found was that all the things that I picked up over the years were there and were familiar to me and there was so much more and I fell in love with the place.

Q: Your writing of this was a little unconventional I think even for you in terms of the way you did it and also you didn’t actually go to India and do some writing until like until 8 months into the process of writing it, is that correct?

Wes Anderson: I don’t know. I don’t know how long it was but we had written…

Roman Coppola: It was not quite a year, but it was almost a year. We started writing in April and we went in March.

Wes Anderson: We went in March is that right?

Roman Coppola: Yeah.

Wes Anderson: So that’s what it was. I know that we had written most of the train part of the movie before we went on the train and so our train journey ended up being us sort of acting out what we’d written as much as it was us writing…researching what that ought to be like, but I think everything we experienced found its was into the story one way or another. Primarily I think India went from being a backdrop for the story to the subject matter on some level.

Q: And you brought your printer along with you I understand.

Wes Anderson: Yeah, we had a printer on the train.

Q: Which he had some problems with right?

Wes Anderson: Oh yeah. You can tell that. It wasn’t my fault really.

Roman Coppola: Yeah, we had a little adapter confusion and we plugged it into the wrong outlet and it blew up.

Wes Anderson: I mean Roman knew you were supposed to plug it into the one for the shavers but I didn’t know that. How could I know that? I don’t understand electricity like that.

Q: Did you guys talk about how can you kind of cooperate that process to write 3 people write one script? How do you make it?

Roman Coppola: Can I take this one?

Wes Anderson: Sure.

Roman Coppola: It started out just us. We kind of had a sense of what the spirit of the movie was. We all kind of understood it and then we just started to tell stories and throw out ideas and we didn’t really get the typewriter out until quite a while into it. We’d take notes and you know basically make each other laugh and see if the ideas we presented felt appropriate for this thing and it was only after week after week and then keeping notes as soon as we’d kind of get something that felt solid like that we’d start to actually write it out and then it was just sort of a process of over time just looking to our experiences that was sort of our credo to make the movie with personal material. So pretty much every element of the script had some basis of an experience that one of us had or had heard about directly or something that affected us. So that was always the well that we kind of drew from. Then it slowly started to build up and we’d have sessions. Wes was kind of the stenographer of the group and he would type things out and we’d start to block it in but basically it was just a long process of slowly hovering over this territory that we felt we knew but we’re trying to find it again.

Q: Did you have a love affair with India before like Wes did?

Roman Coppola: Not really. I’d never been there so part of the appeal was a sense of curiosity. What is this place and I’d traveled a bunch and I thought oh, I’ll see what India is like and then we went and it was very impressive. It’s such a vastly different culture from any other place I’d been and it was very thrilling to experience it.

Q: Can you guys talk about how the short film germinated and you know creating that?

Wes Anderson: Yeah, well let’s see. First we had the very beginning of the movie—just the first scenes of the movie where Bill Murray and then Adrien and then…you know that part of the movie was written. And then I wrote the short sort of separately. Initially not meaning it to be part of that just that it was something else. Then after I kind of had a scene I thought well somewhere along the way I started thinking Jason is going to play the same guy in these and then as we continued to work on the script for the feature movie, we started to link them more and more and more. And before long they sort of depended on each other. They were companion pieces. Then we went ahead and shot the short. When we were maybe halfway through the script of the feature I shot the short and then eventually we had them both. Then I had to figure out well, how do I want to present these? At one point I thought I’d put the short in front of the movie but then I also felt the opening of the movie had been written as an opening scene. It’s supposed to be the first thing. You meet Bill Murray. You don’t know who he is and then you lose him and you go with Adrienne and you don’t know who he is and then you meet the other guy and you don’t know who they are and you’re slowly learning what’s going on in the story. Eventually what I decided was I’d release the movie by itself. Release the short on iTunes and then at a certain point in the process we’ll re-introduce the short into the theatres and add it onto the prints of the movie and then we’ll have it on the DVD and it’ll come out with the movie in Europe and so on.

Music plays a huge part of your movies. When do you know you’ve found the right song for one of your projects?

Wes Anderson: Well, you know the right song is just whatever I think, whatever we think is the right song and for one person it’s the right song and for somebody else maybe it’s the wrong song but you know it’s just all in kind of your instincts. I don’t know that I could pinpoint when you know it. But I’ll say this for instance, one the song that’s in the short was sort of the inspiration for the short. I’d heard this song and I’d never heard it before and it made a strong impression on me and I related it to this scene I had in my mind and I kind of wrote it to the music. The 2nd thing was Satyajit Ray’s music—the music he wrote for his own movies—that while we were writing, I started playing some of that and by the time we were shooting the movie, we had it in our vehicles as we went to the set and we played it everyday. It was like our soundtrack to the making of the movie. That’s a couple of examples of that.

Q: Hadn’t you originally wanted to use some Beatles tunes?

Wes Anderson: I don’t remember that do you? No, not really.

Q: When you say we meaning we decided what the songs were going to be, is that you and Roman, is that you talking to the actor saying hey, what should we put in or how do you determine that?

Wes Anderson: No, not me talking to the actors saying hey, what should we put in? But Jason and Roman and I were collaborators in a more central way than just writers. We were writing together but Roman was the producer of the movie. Roman was on the set every…unless Roman was shooting something else on the movie, he was on the set and we were all in it together. We spent a lot of time together in the cutting room, etc., so it was a process we went through together. Also, there are other collaborators like our editor, Andy Weissblum or our music supervisor Randy Poster, Jeremy Dawson who’s another one of our team. You know, there’s a whole kind of company of people who are all involved in helping to see what else can we do to make it better.

Q: What’s really interesting is people think of you as such a visionary film-maker that they would expect that you just came in and said “I want this song, this song and this song” because your films have such a distinct look, it’s sort of surprising that you would be so…not that you wouldn’t be collaborative but so collaborative in what would be in your movies, how do you think that esthetic comes about in such a collaborative way? Is it the people you bring around you?

Wes Anderson: I don’t know. What do you think on that one?

Roman Coppola: Well, I mean, I can’t speak for the music but for the writing of the text of the story, Wes’ first choice as the author of this movie is I want to bring these 2 guys in and so that decision and choice was the beginning of the story making.

Wes Anderson: Shapes the whole thing. It’s a bit of casting almost, you know. So we mixed a different voices in the process, I guess.

Continued on page 2 ———>


Q: I would imagine that you wrote 2 of the characters for Owen and for Jason, I’m not sure if that’s true…

Wes Anderson: …and Adrien.

Q: And Adrien? Oh, okay. I was wondering where he fit into the mix?

Wes Anderson: Yeah, no we wrote that for him. I had been a fan of his for a long time and that was yeah in fact long before I ever met Adrien I had their names written on a piece of paper. It’s one of the very first ideas. We had an inspiration in the movie Husband’s and we had this cast in mind and we knew we were going to go on a train to India and that was sort of like the 1st page of the notebook of you know, what are we going to do next?

Q: I wanted to know if you could tell us where you are right now with The Fantastic Mr. Fox?

Wes Anderson: Yes, well Noah Baumbach and I made a script for it and George Clooney is going to play Mr. Fox and we’re working in England. We have a team there and we’re building the puppets and designing the sets and it’s in its earliest stages of production.

Q: And have you…so the scripts all done and this is definitely the next project?

Wes Anderson: Oh yeah, we’ve already started, so yes. The script’s done and we’re in full swing over there.

Q: How long will it take you to shoot? What’s the estimate?

Wes Anderson: Two years from now is the schedule. It’s supposed to come out in November of 2009, I believe if I have that right.

Q: So you recently made some AT&T commercials. What attracted you to that project? How did that all come together?

Wes Anderson: Oh, I don’t know. That’s not really a project. That’s a commercial. They just hire you to do a commercial and you try to do your best.

Q: I mean it’s clearly your work and it’s very well done.

Wes Anderson: Well that’s nice of you to say that. I don’t feel that it’s my work though. I feel like it’s their…you know I mean…I know that when you think somebody else would have done it differently and I can definitely recognize that but it not my…it’s not expressing anything. There’s nothing that I’m dying to say. But we had fun doing those commercials. We had a great time. I liked the people we worked with, but I kind of feel like commercials you know, you’re supposed to be kind of anonymous when you do a commercial and then I feel funny like should I be out there talking about the commercial? The commercial is just supposed to be…I don’t exist in that.

Q: That Oasis song in the AT&T commercials—it’s driving me crazy.

Wes Anderson: I don’t know that. What is that?

Q: All around the world, you know?

Q: The American Express commercial is a little more personal though because it was you know?

Wes Anderson: That’s different. Basically these people came to me and said write what you want to write. Here’s a space for you to work in. I worked with my own collaborators in every way and I wrote the thing, I didn’t write these other things, I kind of adapted them into something but they had a thing to sell… phones I guess? Like Roman’s in the AT&T commercial. Jason’s in it.

Q: The AmEx commercial.

Q: Is there any moment or some joke or humor or some line from your actual experience?

Wes Anderson: Almost everything comes one way or another from our experience. Pick a part and I’ll tell you if it has a real thing. Say one. Just pick something in the movie and I’ll tell you if it came from real life.

Q: The snake?

Wes Anderson: The snake. Where did we get the snake?

Q: Because I didn’t understand why he took that snake. I didn’t understand why…?

Wes Anderson: Why he bought it?

Q: Yes, because it doesn’t seem a part of his personality to me.

Wes Anderson: Hmmm. Well, that’s interesting. You’re reaction…whatever your reaction is right. It’s how it felt to you.

Q: So did you do that anyway—we were asking what…

Wes Anderson: That was you know…I mean…the I think that was…

Roman Coppola: That was a scorpion originally.

Wes Anderson: That was a scorpion originally and it’s about its a little kind of like childish thing. I don’t want to name any names but you know a person might travel to a foreign country and want to buy an exotic animal. It’s not…it’s more expressing more recklessness than interest in this culture or anything else.

Q: So that was nothing that you 3 did which goes back to her question about was there anything….?

Wes Anderson: We didn’t do that, somebody else did. But it wasn’t me.

Q: You’ve directed and worked with a lot of really cool bands in the past like Phoenix. Do you have any new discoveries and who are you directing?

Roman Coppola: Bands wise?

Q: Yeah.

Roman Coppola: I’ve been a little out of the loop of working with bands right now. I think Coconut Records is an exciting band. Do you know about them?

Q: A little bit. Our music editor—I write for a college publication—so our music editor says you have to listen to this.

Roman Coppola: See, you have to listen to Coconut Records. I might…I just spoke with one of the guys from The Artic Monkeys today. That’s a possibility, but I’m not so in tune with music videos right now just because we’ve been working on this film for so long.

Q: Can you guys talk about writing in cafes of Paris at night and what that experience was like?

Wes Anderson: Well, it ends up sounding like a kind of a …like what it wasn’t. I mean, we ended up…we started writing in Paris because we all happened to be there together and we all like Paris and feel kind of inspired in Paris but most of the time when we worked in Paris we worked in my apartment. Roman likes to sit on the floor and Jason sits on the sofa and I pace around a lot. Then sometimes we would go— we gotta get out of the house to reset a little bit and get some air, and then we had one café where we’d go if we were going to talk about what are we trying to figure out about our story and our characters. We had a different café we would go if we wanted to talk about how many days do we want to shoot and who do we want to hire to work in this technical capacity—the business of making the movie. That way we kept different energies in the different cafes.

Q: I’m going to bring up the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

Wes Anderson: Don’t.

Q: No, I just wanted to ask about his look in the film and coming up with the look and if you could say anything about how he’s doing?

Wes Anderson: Well, I mean the thing is I don’t like to talk about how he’s doing because I’ve answered that question 2 billion times and the real story is when Owen speaks for himself. All I can do is repeat myself. The look for the movie, that’s a part of the …that’s just something we had to imagine and invent for this character that’s been in this accident. For me it’s fun to kind of create something like that. We had Frances Hannon our make up artist who helped me to design that and it was partly inspired by a guy that I saw in St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome about 3 years ago who’d clearly been in a bad motorcycle accident and my feeling was this guy had come straight from the hospital to this church…this sort of spectacular church in Rome. And that was the look he had. He was on the verge of tears as he darted around the place and listened to a priest over here and prayed over there and lit a candle over in another place and I was very caught off-guard by him and I imagined what could have happened to this guy and it seemed like he’d obviously been in a near-death experience and then also I got the feeling that maybe there was somebody else involved and so that was just part of the inspiration for this character was just our kind of imagination of what might be behind somebody like that.

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