Wes Anderson makes quirky commercial with ’Moonrise Kingdom’
For fans of the films of Wes Anderson, there's a sense of excitement that comes when hearing there's "a new Wes Anderson film is coming out." With a list of titles like "Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "The Fantastic Mr. Fox," Anderson's quirky, yet relatable style of filmmaking is back in full force with his latest release, "Moonrise Kingdom."
In this film, the romance between two twelve-year olds (superbly played by newcomers Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward) is explored on a remote New England island in the mid 1960s. The film also stars regulars to Anderson's films, Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman, as well as Bruce Willis, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton and Edward Norton - Anderson first-timers.
The film is being slowly rolled out to theaters, which means that it is not appearing on as many screens as the major summer blockbusters. Yet industry pundits have dubbed "Moonrise Kingdom" as this year’s "Midnight In Paris" in terms of being the small movie that does big business.
Released last summer in a similar way, "Midnight In Paris" became director Woody Allen’s highest grossing film of his career with some $57 million in domestic gross at a cost of $17 million. "Moonrise Kingdom" cost $16 million, and as of July 4, has grossed nearly $22 million in 884 venues. What surprised some was that when the film opened in New York and Los Angeles over Memorial Day, it broke the record for the best per-theater-average for a non-animated movie by grossing $523,006 - leading to a location average of $130,752 - over the three-day weekend.
Middle school to acting school
At a recent press day for the film, Anderson talked about how he thinks of audience expectations when making any of his films. "I don’t think about the reaction I want from the audience at all," he said. "In the case of this movie, I did have a sort of emotion that I felt we were trying to recreate, a sort of feeling of that age, something I remember feeling at that age."
Of course, the biggest roles of the film were the two pre-teens who drive the plot and emotion of "Moonrise Kingdom." Anderson said of the casting of the important roles, "I really didn’t have any preconception as to what these kids ought to be like. I was just sort of waiting for the moment when the perfect ones walk in the door and I felt like in each of their cases that happened for me."
Anderson also marveled when talking about Gilmore and Hayward, who are both newbies to the film business and, also, shared their first-ever kiss in the film. He was well aware of the change the kids were going through. "These kids are going straight from middle school to being professional actors," he said, "and have to show up for work everyday so there’s a big change in their lives. So having the process of them getting used to doing that and having to be workers rather than students."
Working with pros
Thankfully, Anderson said that he may have hired two fairly inexperienced actors but what he got were two pros. "These kids knew the script better than anyone else on the movie," he shared. "They knew the whole thing, they knew it better than the script supervisor, better than anybody!"
Of the rest of his cast, film fans almost expect to see Murray and Schwartzman in all his works but what was it about popular actors like Willis, Swinton and Norton that had him cast them for the first time? "Edward and I had exchanged some letters over the years and I saw him in a play, ’Burn This,’ in New York, in which he was pretty spectacular in. I’ve just been a fan for a long time... Edward, to me, looks like he could’ve been painted by Norman Rockwell and he seemed to connect to the period.
"Tilda, I had exchanged emails with but I first saw her in ’Orlando,’ which was at Sundance with my first short film in 1992 or 1993 or something, so I’d admired Tilda for twenty years. And Bruce, I particularly loved Bruce in the M. Night Shyamalan movies, but in the case of this part, I thought this character is kind of lonely and insecure and sad... but I thought he ought to have the authority of the real police and so, to me, casting Bruce Willis is almost like casting a real policeman and we definitely believe he can do that."
’The year was 1965’
"Moonrise Kingdom" is set in 1965 and Anderson admitted that he didn’t have a big agenda with that period of time going into the project but the idea of what that time meant formed more organically.
"I sort of just wrote the sentence, ’the year was 1965’ and then I started thinking why do we want to do this in the 60s?
"I said that I think that it ought to be set in an America that doesn’t really exist anymore and in an America that is about to radically change. When these kids are 18, it’s going to be a very different time in our country." He added that that time also marked the end of a lot of things in our world. "The end of their childhood, the end of the summer, the end of all these different things at once," he said.
The filmmaker also said that while he is aware that his films are perceived a certain way, he doesn’t necessarily approach them with any intention of connecting them.
"The way I see it," he described, "I think with each movie I have a world I want to create and it’s just that movie that I hope is sort of a place where the audience has not been before and it feels different from my other movies."
That said, he is aware that his ’handwriting’ is what it is so there is a similarity to his collective works.
"I also have certain things that are just the way that I always do it, which are not about building that world but I think is more like my handwriting as a director and the way I like to move the camera and the shots and staging that I get excited about and that aspect of it is not something I really contemplate when making a movie."
For more on "Moonrise Kingdom" and to see where it’s playing in your area, visit the film’s website.
Watch the trailer to Moonrise Kingdom: