Interview: Director Wes Anderson of 'Moonrise Kingdom'
'Usually I want to make a comedy, and as it goes along it gets more and more sad …'
From his debut film "Bottle Rocket," Wes Anderson has made movies with a feel and a flair that's undeniably his; his latest, "Moonrise Kingdom," continues his work, with a few new faces in the mix -- Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton and more. It's the story of two young lovers (Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward), whose decision to run away in the summer of 1965 throws their families -- and their island town of Penzance -- into the kind of sweet chaos that defines Anderson's work. We spoke with Anderson in Cannes, where "Moonrise Kingdom" opened the festival last Wednesday.
MSN Movies: This is film is a really nice tentative romance between these two twelve year old kids, but also it's a portrait of a community. The island's name is Penzance; was that attempt to shoot for a light opera feeling, like a Gilbert and Sullivan touch, very deliberate?
Wes Anderson: Yes; there is a sort of opera that is performed in the film, a Benjamin Britten Noah's Ark story. Maybe there is a connection with it; also, as much as naming it for "Pirates of Penzance," there is also the real Penzance that is sort of thought of. It’s a kind of summer destination that we've fictionalized.
How hard was it to do the location scouting to find the exact right places to shoot it? I know you shot primarily in Rhode Island. Was that location tricky in terms of getting stuff you needed?
Not tricky ... It was a very long process about figuring out where to make the movie, because it was really open to a lot of different possibilities. The thing I had not really experienced before is the scenes where the set is a rock and tree. Where I've just got a find place out there to do the scene. But I need to feel like I'm making a scene somehow, so I spent a great deal of time just wandering around. My director of photography and my production designer went through the same woods over and over again, and we did test shots, and we sort of searched for How are we going to make this come to life? It was a very different (kind of) location scouting than I've done before.
Looking at your films, if I were to try to put a through line through all of them, it would be that these are very, very funny movies all about grief and sadness. Would you agree with that? Is that something you feel like you're exploring in your work?
Yeah, I think so. That sounds about right. Usually I want to make a comedy; as it goes along it becomes more and more sad. That's sort of been the pattern.
All of your films have had this very warm sort of feel, almost like an alternate universe. Was the period piece setting of this an important part of it ,to create this separate universe?
Yes, I think so. I think that somewhere along the way I started thinking of a Norman Rockwell period, a part of America that doesn't really exist in the same way anymore, and then sort of making a fable version of that. The movie is in 1965; by the time these characters are eighteen, it's going to be a very different culture that they're apart of.
I think they're going to be rock and roll kids.
("Moonrise Kingdom" opens this Friday.)