In a cast filled with heavyweights like Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Edward Norton, and Tilda Swinton, the two novice stars of Moonrise Kingdom more than manage to hold their own. Meet 13-year-old actors Jared Gilman and Kaya Hayward, who won their roles as the serious young lovers at the heart of the new Wes Anderson movie after an extensive casting search, and may be even more adorable and precocious in real life than they are onscreen. Vulture sat down with the two teenagers after their film’s Cannes premiere to see how they were holding up.
Have you seen Wes’s other films?
Gilman: By now, yeah, I’ve seen all of them. Before the movie, I saw Fantastic Mr. Fox, and I’d heard of the other movies.
Hayward: Before the film, I had seen The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Darjeeling Limited, and after I learned that I was going to meet the man who had made these films, that was an exciting feeling and I decided that I wanted to watch the rest of his movies. I saw The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, and I’m on the hunt right now to find Rushmore.
Gilman: Oh, I have that! I should have brought it.
Kara, I thought your character in this movie was like a spiritual sister to the character Gwyneth Paltrow played in Royal Tenenbaums.
Hayward: I do feel like there were definitely some similarities between Susie and Margot Tenenbaum … besides the eye makeup. The eye makeup was wonderful, though. [Laughs.] They’re both quiet and secretive, and people don’t quite understand them. They try to seclude themselves from their families, and no one can find the source of their troubles.
Who’s most like your character?
Hayward: We both have some small similarities.
Gilman: I think you’re probably closest. You both like animals.
Hayward: It’s possible. We’re both bookworms. And now we actually have the same kitten.
Hayward: I got to keep the kitten! So that’s definitely an additional bit, but otherwise, when it comes to her background and her story and simply most of her personality, we’re quite different, yes.
I’m sure you had an idea of how crazy the Cannes premiere would be, but did it exceed your expectations?
Hayward: Nothing could prepare us for this! It’s just a blessing and an honor to be here with all these talented people, and to see the movie get the recognition it deserves for being such a beautiful story. There’s nothing like it.
Were you freaked out to see yourself up there in the Grand Lumiere?
Hayward: No, I was too lost in the film to really even sit there and go, “Oh, what did I do in that scene?” Even for someone who’s read the script and knows what happened, the movie kept me emotional throughout.
Tell me about the after-party.
Gilman: The premiere was huge and awesome and amazing. I didn’t think to actually sleep that night because I was having so much fun. I met up with some of the Scouts and then Bill Murray took us onto the dance floor, and we danced to lots of disco songs and one Greek song. Tilda was there, and Bill, and some of the Khaki Scouts.
Are you a good dancer?
Gilman: If you’ve seen me dance in the movie, that’s kind of the level I’m at. [Laughs.]
Hayward: Apparently, Bill and Tilda are really good, though.
Gilman: Yeah, they’re amazing.
What’s your favorite scene in the film?
Gilman: There’s so many great moments in this movie, but I guess my favorite scene is the one where Sam and Susie first meet.
Hayward: There were many exquisite scenes in the film. Quite like you, Jared, I don’t really know which one I would call my favorite because they’re all vital to the story. But the one that I probably enjoyed making the most was this one scene between myself and Fran McDormand, where it’s a very touching mother-daughter scene that shows the two characters at their most vulnerable point. It was fun to film, and I think the scene turned out pretty well.
Wes has very specific musical tastes. Were you guys into any of the bands he put in the film?
Hayward: He does use very catchy tunes, such as “Ruby Tuesday” [in The Royal Tenenbaums]. I became obsessed with that song after hearing it. And now that Francoise Hardy song, “Le Temps de L’Amour”? I’ve fallen in love with it. It’s so beautiful.
Gilman: There’s another similarity, you and your character both love Francoise Hardy.
Hayward: There you go! I had never heard of her until I heard “Le Temps de L’Amour,” and I do enjoy that song quite a bit now. I think I’m going to have to go on a hunt for more Francoise Hardy.
Wes also has such exacting shot compositions. Can you give me a sense of how he directs you?
Hayward: Wes is brilliant in every way. He’s so kind and intelligent and protective of us. The way he can form an idea, write an amazing script with it, and then pull it together into a movie, it’s a talent that I think very few people possess in quite the way that Wes can do it. He’s amazing.
Gilman: He’s one of the few true artists out there.
Hayward: He likes the set to have a lot of details. It makes it feel more like a house and less like a set. Something like the rake leaning up against the garden, or any of those little details …
Gilman: Sometimes you forget you’re actually in a big warehouse full of different sets.
What happens for you guys now? Are the two of you going to continue acting after this?
Hayward: I have been presented with some opportunities for more movies, and all I know is that I do want to continue acting, but I want my next project to be special and beautiful, quite like this was.
Gilman: I’m still auditioning, and we’ll see what happens. I really do hope that the next script is as good as this was.