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Wes Anderson on Moonrise Kingdom, Halloween Costumes, and Summer Movie Surprises

Wes Anderson
Wes Anderson. Photo: Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

It’s hard to believe that Wes Anderson is a newcomer to the Cannes Film Festival, since his deadpan verve and Tati-influenced comic tableaus seem tailor-made for fine French sensibilities. Still, better late than never, as Anderson has finally made it to the fest with his latest film Moonrise Kingdom, a starry comedy about two 12-year-olds who fall in love and run away together (with a motley crew of concerned parents and peeved scouting troops in hot pursuit). Vulture sat down with the ivory-suited Anderson on the Croisette today to discuss the making of the movie, the legacy of The Royal Tenenbaums, and the blockbuster movie he’s only just heard of.

It’s unusual to get a movie from you outside of the fall-winter movie season. Are you becoming a summer movie auteur?
[Laughs.] Yes! That’s why it’s my first time at Cannes, actually. I’ve never had the chance to even try to get a movie here before because it’s always been ready at the wrong time. Have you been here many times?

No, this is my first time.
It’s interesting, isn’t it? You really feel they have a way of doing things here. They have a lot of rituals in place here, at least when you present a movie.

How so?
There’s a whole choreography to the opening night, a whole manner of moving, stopping, and turning, and I never knew exactly what was going on. I walked into the theater, I was being led by a cameraman, and as I entered I realized I was being projected onto the screen, gigantically, and then I realized that 2,000 people had been watching me in the auditorium the whole time while I was videoing things with my phone. Anyway!

You’ve spent some time over the last few years living in France. Do you think it’s had an effect on your filmmaking?
Well, I think I got more of the French sensibility in my work from watching French movies, probably, than living in France. But there’s actually a script I’m working on now that’s a European story and it kind of [draws from] my own experience here, in the details that are finding their way into it.

Are you writing your next screenplay on your own?
I’ve already written the script, but the story I made up with a friend.

Can you tell me who?
You wouldn’t know him. [Laughs.] He’s not involved with the movie business, he’s just an old friend. And in fact, he’s an old friend who’s very bright and funny and talented, but we also have a mutual friend who’s the inspiration for one of the main characters. So we’ve partly used our shared experiences to kind of build that character.

Might I know that friend?
You don’t know him either. [Laughs.] No, they’re not in the public realm. It would be a matter of coincidence.

You’ve collaborated with people like Owen Wilson, Noah Baumbach, and Jason Schwartzman on your previous screenplays, and you co-wrote Moonrise Kingdom with Roman Coppola. How do the two of you work together?
I had spent about a year trying to write this script, and at the end of it I had about fourteen pages and I was really stuck. I had a lot of notes and ideas, but I didn’t have any story. And I asked Roman to come help me, and he read everything I had, and he very quickly suggested that I was missing a sort of flashback for these two children [falling in love], and that opened up the next big section of the movie for me. And we spent another month working on it, and at the end of the month, the script was done. So, for me, it was a help I desperately needed, and he knew exactly how to provide it.

Do your friends ever send you any of these Wes Anderson viral videos that go around? Recently, there was a supercut of every shot you’ve filmed from above …
Oh, I did see that one, yeah.

… and another video that imagines Battleship as if you had directed it.
Battleship? What’s Battleship?

Wes, you need to brush up on your competition if you’re going to be a summer movie auteur! Battleship is this $200 million action movie that’s about to come out. And it’s based on the board game.
It’s based on the board game?!

It’s based on the board game.
Wow. But yeah, the “shot from above” video, I watched that and all I could see was how many hours of setup time went into all of those shots. It was like a documentary of how much time I’ve spent on movie sets.

Is that what it’s like when you watch some of your films, that you can’t help but remember all the preparation?
When I’m actually seeing the whole movie, I’m seeing problems that didn’t get solved, I guess. You know, sometimes what happens is you see the end of the movie over and over, because you only show up for the Q&A at the end. But it’s been a while. And you know, they had a screening for the Royal Tenenbaums in New York recently …

And you watched the whole thing?
I just saw the end. So, um, yeah, I’m not even sure why I brought it up. But I had a chance to see the whole movie then, and I missed it. I could tell it was playing a lot better then than it did at the time it came out, though! I was sitting in the same room where we had first shown the movie, and I remember it was an okay screening the first time. But that screening ten years later, it was playing very well.

Do you ever see groups of people dressed as the Tenenbaums for Halloween?
You know, I don’t think I get out much on Halloween, so I don’t usually see trick-or-treaters. What do I do on Halloween? I don’t even know. I don’t think I ever go to a Halloween party! I’m usually at restaurants.

Wes Anderson on Moonrise Kingdom at Cannes